Racism in Aid: Structural racism reinforces colonial structural dynamics in global development

An international peacebuilding charity is calling on international aid organisations to decolonise aid and tackle structural racism head-on, in a report [1], published today (Monday, 10th May 2021).

Source: Racism in Aid: Structural racism reinforces colonial structural dynamics in global development – The Zimbabwean

Time to Decolonise Aid: Insights and lessons from a global consultation is a study by Peace Direct, [2] about the colonial legacy of the aid system. It outlines the steps needed to transform power relations towards greater equality.

As part of its research, the NGO, which works with grassroots peacebuilding organisations in conflict regions, hosted a global online consultation, in November 2020, in partnership with African Development Solutions (Adeso), the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS).

Among the key findings of the report:

  • Most organisations 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 saviour’ 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 organisations lack skills, while other terms, such as ‘field expert’ perpetuate images of the Global South as ‘uncivilised.’
  • Structural racism benefits organisations in the Global North and also those from the Global South who know how to ‘play’ the system.
  • Programme and research design are rooted in Western values and knowledge systems meaning that many programmes 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 colour 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 marginalised 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 decolonise. Only when this happens, through greater equality, will we start to see the global change needed to achieve conflict resolution.”

“We call on all international aid organisations to tackle the issue of structural racism head-on,” Mathews added.