“Time To Decolonize Aid”: WCAPS Contributes to New Report

A powerful report, “Time to Decolonize Aid,” which calls on international aid organizations to decolonize aid and tackle structural racism head-on was published on May 10, 2021. Channel grantee partner, Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS),  joined with Peace Direct, African Development Solutions (Adeso), and the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) in November 2020 to host a global online consultation as research for the newly published report.

The “Time to Decolonize Aid” report is a study into the colonial legacy of the aid system. It presents the findings and recommendations from the three-day online consultation during which 158 activists, decision-makers, academics, journalists, and practitioners across the globe “exchanged insights and local experiences on the current power dynamics and imbalances that exist within the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding sectors.” Importantly, they “discussed how structural racism manifests itself in their work, and how they envision a decolonized system that is truly inclusive and responds to their needs.” Additionally, the report outlines the steps needed to transform power relations towards greater equity.

Among the key findings of the report: 

  • Most organizations and donors in the Global North are reluctant to acknowledge that current practices and attitudes in the aid system are derived from the colonial era and certain modern-day practices and norms reinforce colonial dynamics and beliefs such as the ‘White savior’ ideology. 
  • The influence of structural racism is so deeply embedded in the everyday culture and working practice of those in the sector that it has affected the way local staff regard their own communities and how they engage with INGOs.
  • Some of the language used in the aid system reinforces discriminatory and racist perceptions of non-White populations. The phrase ‘capacity building’ was cited as one example that suggests that local communities and organizations lack skills, while other terms, such as ‘field expert’ perpetuate images of the Global South as ‘uncivilized.’
  • Structural racism benefits organizations in the Global North and also those from the Global South who know how to ‘play’ the system.  
  • Program and research design are rooted in Western values and knowledge systems meaning that many programs inadvertently create a standard based on the West that communities in the Global South are required to meet. Local knowledge is, by default, devalued.
  • The challenges faced by individual practitioners of color are amplified if they belong to other marginalised groups, including women, the LGBTQ community, the disabled community, the non-Anglophone community.
  • The report shares a variety of recommendations to effectively ensure inclusion of marginalized communities. From encouraging conversations about power, investing in indigenous knowledge, and making changes in recruitment, fundraising, communications and research. 

CEO at Peace Direct, Dylan Mathews said: “We believe that local communities are key to preventing, resolving and healing conflicts but in order for them to play their vital role, the sector that funds, facilitates and empowers their work, needs to decolonize. Only when this happens will we start to see the global change needed to achieve sustainable peace and development.” 

The report is available in Arabic, English, French, German, Hindi, Urdu, Portuguese, Spanish and Swahili and can be downloaded here.