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It’s Time to Decolonise Aid

Illustration created for Peace Direct's Time to Decolonise Aid report, by Nash Weerasekera // The Jacky Winter Group.

Structural racism reinforces colonial dynamics in global development, according to our new report out today.

  • Published

    10 May 2021
  • Written by

    Peace Direct

We are calling on international aid organisations to decolonise aid and tackle structural racism head-on, in our new report, Time to Decolonise Aid.

The report is a study into the colonial legacy of the aid system. It outlines the steps needed to transform power relations towards greater equity.

As part of the research, we 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).

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

Read the report here

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 will we start to see the global change needed to achieve sustainable peace and development”

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

Join our launch event on Friday 14th May at 9am EDT.

Get your tickets

Editor’s notes:

For high-quality, bespoke illustrations and also interview requests please contact:

Rachel Samuel
Slack Communications

[email protected]

+44 7399 447705 


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