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MPs warn of racist practices in international aid sector

This news post is 7 months old

The report, Racism in the aid sector, said the very structure of international aid still reflects the power relationships of colonialism.

A committee of MPs at Westminster has called on the development aid sector to recognise and tackle racism in its practices.

In a report published on Thursday, the International Development Committee called on the sector to address various issues which have been identified in charity work abroad. 

Research by the MPs has uncovered that pay scales can see UK aid staff paid ten times as much as “local” counterparts, while fundraising publicity often portrays aid recipients as helpless and in need of “saving”. 

Staffing is not as diverse as it should be, especially at leadership levels, they added. 

The report, Racism in the aid sector, said the very structure of international aid still reflects the power relationships of colonialism, with the main decision-making remaining in richer nations.

The report called on international aid organisations and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which finances some of them, to shift decision making power and resources to the communities they work with.

It said recent cuts to the UK aid budget – from 0.7 per cent of gross national income to 0.5 per cent - took place with little or no consultation with partners in low and middle-income countries. 

This, the report said, sent a harmful message that the UK does not care about the people affected – many of whom are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.

The report made a series of recommendations, including that he FCDO should facilitate sector-wide initiatives on improving diversity, equity and inclusion as well as undertake a full audit of pay structures in its own aid contracts. 

The authors also said aid organisations should ban all-White recruitment boards and implement other policies to build inclusive cultures and encourage diverse talent to apply for senior roles. 

Fundraising publicity should stop using pictures of degrading stereotypes, they added. Instead of simply seeking donations, publicity should also tell realistic stories which educate audiences about the drivers of poverty.

The Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP, said: “The aid sector exists to help those in need. But it cannot do that effectively until it addresses the fundamental power imbalances that exist within its structures that allow racist practices to perpetuate.

“The vast majority of people working in development have honourable intentions and do great

work, but they need to be aware of the risks of complacency. I ask the sector to listen to the

voices in our report. Racism is real; it must be challenged at every level.”



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Dominic Notarangelo
7 months ago

Happens here too in the third sector as anyone who has had to defend their organisation's CEO at a tribunal will know. Not an easy furrow to plough.