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Decolonising Aid: A reading and resource list

A repository for all things decolonisation and aid.

Kylee Pedersen/TNH

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In the last couple of years, “decolonising aid” has become a buzz term in the sector, and much has been written and said about the topic. 

Here is a list of articles, podcasts, videos, and other resources that can help you make sense of the term and how it is being applied, with some thought-provoking perspectives that may challenge some assumptions. 

This list, compiled by The New Humanitarian and the Center for Transformational Change, is not exhaustive. To add to it, tweet us at @NewHumanitarian or contribute to this open database

On decolonisation in general: 

On the coloniality of aid in particular: 

  • When the West Falls Into Crisis (video): A 2-hour public event hosted by The New Humanitarian on how recent crises in Western countries have exposed the hypocrisies and structural problems that have long underpinned international aid (or read the write-up of the event here).
  • Decolonising Aid (podcast): Guest Tammam Aloudat outlines the basics of the concept on The New Humanitarian’s Rethinking Humanitarianism podcast. 
  • Decolonizing wealth (book): Indigenous author Edgar Villanueva draws on native traditions to answer the question: How can we shift philanthropy toward social reconciliation and healing if the cornerstones are exploitation, extraction, and control?
  • Reparations as Philanthropy: Radically Rethinking 'Giving' in Africa: A speech given by Nigerian-American writer Uzodinma Iweala at the Rethinking Philanthropy conference in Geneva in 2017. 
  • Apartheid in the World Bank and the IMF: An Op-Ed published in Al Jazeera arguing that international financial institutions were designed with colonial principles in mind, and remain largely colonial in character to this day.
  • Time to Decolonise Aid: A report by Peace Direct, Adeso, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security with insights and lessons from a global consultation (executive summary here).
  • Decolonising Humanitarianism or Humanitarian Aid?: Tammam Aloudat and Themrise Khan write in PLOS about the distinction between humanitarianism – the active belief in the equal value of all human life and the action to assist others, protect their rights, and accept and promote their agency and worldview – and the current form of humanitarian aid, with “its historical entanglements with colonialism and politics, its engagement with power, and its complicity in extending disasters”. 
  • Black Lives Matter is also a reckoning for foreign aid and international NGOs: Degan Ali and Marie-Rose Romain Murphy write in openDemocracy on how to ensure the response to this watershed moment ignites a reckoning for the aid sector, rather than becoming yet another technocratic exercise with more ineffective, top-down monitoring. 
  • Decolonisation is a comfortable buzzword for the aid sector: An opinion piece by Themrise Khan published by openDemocracy on why decolonisation is a misused term.
  • The climate transition must not mean global energy redlining for Africa: An opinion piece by Uzodinma Iweala on “environmental racism” and why Africans should not be expected to “carbon finance” the lifestyles of whiter, wealthier countries.
  • The Start Network’s Anti-Racist and Decolonial Framework: A set of principles to help organisations find the balance between “doing the right things” and “doing things the right way”. 
  • Whose Aid?: Findings of a dialogue series on decolonising aid organised by Partos, KUNO, and the International Institute for Social Studies. It includes ethical frameworks and principles that can guide the journey towards decolonisation (you’ll find the recordings of those conversations on KUNO’s YouTube page).

On racism and diversity within the aid sector: 

On localisation:

On visions for the future: 

To add material to this list, tweet us at @NewHumanitarian or add to this crowd-sourced, open database

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