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IDC report on racism in the international development sector

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A member blog post by

Frances Guy, CEO

Scotland's International Development Alliance

On 23rd June, the International Development Committee of the UK parliament published its first report of the 22-23 session on Racism in the Aid Sector.  This report is the result of a sub-enquiry that is part of the umbrella enquiry launched in February 2021 into the Philosophy and Culture of Aid. The full text of the sub-enquiry can be found here.

As our colleagues in BOND have noted, this report has not had much press coverage but it makes some key observations and recommendations that deserve more attention. The sub-enquiry was overshadowed at the time it was conducted by the impact of cuts to the Aid budget and the lack of consultation with partners in country – an important manifestation itself of prevailing attitudes and failures to consult.

The report makes points that the Alliance and our members have made before about the need for direct funding to organisations in-country and the importance of challenging assumptions about risk involved in such funding. It calls on the FCDO to publish its own diversity data, and to insist that all organisations employing more than 50 people do so too. It also challenges the notion of who is an expert. Crucial in-country expertise is often overlooked as a result of the legacies of colonial attitudes.

The report calls for an end to unpaid internships and for commitments to pay the living wage to help undermine barriers to entry in the sector. It also calls out the extreme disparities between pay for ‘international’ and ‘national’ experts.

Perhaps more crucially the report states clearly that:

“Racism manifests in the very structure of international aid; the sector still reflects the power relationships of colonialism”. 

And recommends that: 

“The aid sector needs to have difficult conversations about how power imbalances, racial injustice and poverty came about and how it can help to address these underlying factors. “ 

Thanks go to all our members who participated in this enquiry.  

The Alliance is committed to promoting these difficult conversations and to continue our work to promote anti-racism and decolonisation in the sector.  We should note that the language used in this report also reflects the predominance of colonial views in the sector; namely the use of the word ‘aid’ when colleagues in the Global South (such as the Kampala Initiative) have argued for the use of the term ‘global redistribution’.

Please join us and the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights at the Festival of Politics in Holyrood, on Friday 12 August to explore “Scotland, Racism and the legacy of a transatlantic slavery trade” 

And those interested might also like to listen to this podcast from the LSE on revising history: Why does it matter how we talk about Empire?

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