In the last few years, the issue of race and decolonisation in international development discourse has rightly come to the fore, building on the years of work already conducted on these topics.
The conversation on race and intersectionality within the aid sector has been ongoing for many years. However, new thinking in this area owes much to the current wave of grassroots organisations who are doing vital work in using today’s platforms to widen the discussion and call on us all to reflect on the ways in which we interact with racism, unconscious bias and power imbalance in our work. They are encouraging the discussion to be accessed by a broader audience, giving us the language, tools and courage to bring up issues to our leaders and organisations, and to hold them to account. In the UK, the discussion of racism in the aid sector has reached the International Development Committee, with evidence provided to MPs by relevant organisations and activists. A recent Bond report highlighted people’s experiences of racism in the development sector, centred on the voices of those affected.
Here are just some of the organisations that have been helping inform the work of Agulhas’ Unlearning team, which seeks to support Agulhas in a process of relearning what we know about racism, inequality and decolonisation. While everyone and every organisation is at their own stage of the journey, we look to organisations like these to inspire and support our unlearning and provide guidance for our difficult but necessary reflections, conversations and actions:
Racial Equity Index
Across the global development sector, philanthropists and global development actors, organisations and institutions are rarely, if ever, expected to assess how they themselves are upholding and perpetuating racial inequity both internally and externally of their institution.
In direct response to this gap in the field, the Racial Equity Index is producing an index and a range of advocacy tools that will allow greater accountability for racial equity within and across the global development sector. Their week-long anniversary event provided a platform to discuss what is needed to dismantle structural racism and create a more equitable system and culture, with justice and dignity at its core.
Charity So White
Within the charity sector, organisations like Charity So White are leading the charge on championing the discourse of racial justice. Led by people of colour, the campaign group tackles institutional racism within the charity sector. They speak about ‘power and privilege’, institutional structures and the importance of lived experience, through their content on charity boards, policy recommendations and holding specific charities to account. The group show how a movement can be galvanised through platforms like Twitter, with the #CharitySoWhite hashtag revealing real and live examples of racism in the charity sector.
GADN is the Gender & Development Network of UK-based NGOs and experts advocating for women’s rights and priorities to be at the centre of international policies and programmes. Through their briefing paper on Decolonising Aid, GADN have focused on why UK aid must be decolonised and the unspoken legacies of empire that have led to our current development infrastructure, while offering bold, constructive next steps for the UK Government and International NGOs to consider.
Co-Founded by Agulhas Technical Manager Sanum Jain, the REDI Collective is a network for people of colour in the UK’s international development sector. They hold safe spaces for those involved in inclusion work to share challenges, celebrate wins and take learnings to their own firms. The REDI Collective focus on supporting the practical work that is happening within organisations by meeting them where they are at and acknowledging that their incremental progress can lead to long lasting change.
Our Generation for Inclusive Peace (OGIP), co-founded by Agulhas Technical Manager Ellie Sugden, is a feminist organisation that strives to make current structures, policies and practices in peace and security spaces more inclusive, intersectional and decolonialised through a three pillared approach; research, advocacy and partnerships. Engaging with Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and the Youth, Peace and Security Agendas (YPS), OGIP amplifies the experiences and perspectives of young and diverse groups of people to challenge exclusive spaces and push these agendas further. By integrating young and diverse voices into peace and security conversations, they develop responsive and relevant agendas.
The Equity Index is a UK social enterprise advocating for greater equity across the international development sector. The index aims to “measure and track the multiple dimensions of equity in the internal and external workings of UK development organisations to influence meaningful change in their policies, practices, and partnerships”. Agulhas was pleased to support the small team at the Equity Index to map comparator indices and datasets. This informed the development of the Equity Index pilot indicator assessment framework, with internal and external equity indicators.