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:
- The west was built on racism. It’s time we faced that (video): A 2-min Op-Ed video published in The Guardian by Black studies professor Kehinde Andrews, author of New Age of Empire: How racism and colonialism still rule the world.
- What Does it Mean to Decolonize the Future?: A 3-min read by The Futures Centre on what decolonising the future is and isn’t.
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:
- Aid agencies report progress on diversity and racial justice, but do aid workers agree?: The results of a survey of aid agencies by The New Humanitarian on diversity, equity, and inclusion (also discussed in this podcast episode).
- Institutional racism in the aid sector up close: An intimate testimonial by Arnab Majumdar on his experiences within Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), including being accused of “reverse racism”, published in The New Humanitarian.
- How to be Anti-Racist in Aid (video): An hour-long conversation between Stephanie Kimou, Marie-Rose Romain Murphy, Naomi Tulay-Solanke, and Arbie Baguios organised by Aid Re-Imagined.
- Anti-Racism in Development and Aid: A list of resources compiled by María Faciolince for greater understanding on dismantling institutional racism, published in Oxfam GB’s From Poverty to Power blog.
- Power & solidarity in humanitarian governance - what aid workers really think: Michael Barnett, Alexandra Vandermoss-Peeler, and Smruti Patel analyse the results of a survey conducted by the CHS Alliance.
- Racism, power and truth: Experiences of people of colour in development: A report by Bond with recommendations that include setting quotas for representation of people of colour and ensuring that boards consider anti-racism as a leadership responsibility for which CEOs should be held accountable.
- Shifting Power in Humanitarian Nonprofits: A Review of 15 NGO Governing Boards: Research on the composition of governing boards by Rose Warden and Patrick Saez at the Center for Global Development, finding that fewer than two percent of board members had experience as a refugee or had been otherwise impacted by a humanitarian crisis
- Board for All?: A report by Global Health 50/50 finding that of 2,014 board seats across 146 global health organisations, fewer than one percent are occupied by women in low-income countries.
- From the ground up: Inside the push to reshape aid: A series of feature stories showcasing locally led humanitarian action, published in The New Humanitarian.
- Interrogating the evidence base on humanitarian localisation: A literature study by the Overseas Development Institute’s Humanitarian Policy Group finding that the prevailing discourse on localisation is perceived as counterproductive to meaningful change, and that there’s very little evidence to test assumptions that localisation will improve the quality and impact of humanitarian responses.
- 10 things we learned about community-led philanthropy: A blog post sharing the results of participatory research by Global Giving and the Global Fund for Community Foundations on the concept of “community-led” change (full report on the research here).
- Localisation re-imagined: Fertilising the soil of state-led solutions: A five-part series on locally led humanitarian action by Arbie Baguios, published in ALNAP.
- Localisation and local humanitarian action: The May 2021 edition of the Humanitarian Practice Network’s “Humanitarian Exchange” magazine, with articles on more effective approaches to “capacity-building” and lessons learned from attempts at localisation in Haiti, Lebanon, Myanmar, and beyond.
On visions for the future:
- Visions for the future of humanitarian aid: Views curated by The New Humanitarian from various perspectives on the humanitarianism of tomorrow.
- Disaster response 2.0: What aid may look like in 30 years time: A fictional account by Malka Older, published in The New Humanitarian, of the more locally rooted aid system of the future (or listen to an audio-read of the story).
- Moving on from 2020, what does a humanitarian reset look like?: Visions from Nasra Ismail, Hugo Slim, and Ben Ramalingam, published in the Overseas Development Institute.
- Shaping a Post-Colonial INGO: Anu Kumar on what a decolonised aid organisation looks like. Also, check out this piece on how her organisation, IPAS, is changing the way it operates.
- Transformational solidarity: the journey towards decolonising development cooperation: A summary of one of the conversations organised by KUNO, Partos, and the International Institute for Social Studies, with warnings not to throw the proverbial ‘baby’ (global solidarity) out with the bathwater in the effort to decolonise aid.
- RINGO Project: An initiative by Rights CoLab that is reimagining the role of international NGOs in global civil society, with prototypes of different funding and accountability models. Look out for its “learning festival” from 31 October to 3 November 2022.
To add material to this list, tweet us at @NewHumanitarian or add to this crowd-sourced, open database.