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Why it’s time for international development to put people first

It is high time for international development actors to shift their approach from defining problems and identifying interventions towards developing the agency and leadership of people in developing contexts. Such a change enables affected communities to define their own problems, identify solutions and continuously improve over time.

Systems Don’t Have Agency: Putting People First in 2021

By all accounts, 2020 was a watershed year for the term “systemic inequity.” It burst onto the scene amidst pandemic and protest, showing up in public conversations across a range of sectors. This is a very welcome development for those of us who have long been beating the drum for the messy, complex work that is systems change.

Apartheid in the World Bank and the IMF

Most people assume that inequality between the global South and the global North (the United States, Western Europe, Japan, Canada and Australia) has been declining over the past few decades. After all, colonialism is behind us, and surely poorer countries are gradually “catching up” to richer ones. But, oddly enough, exactly the opposite has happened. The per capita income gap between the South and the… Read More »Apartheid in the World Bank and the IMF

Why Fighting Inequality Is at the Heart of Oxfam’s New Global 10-Year Strategy

Just imagine, looking back to a time when COVID-19 brought us together. Leaders who united to overcome a health crisis also gained the courage to avert climate catastrophe. The unstoppable global movements of #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #NiUnaMenos, climate strikers, workers, more, realized their calling. As they inevitably always would. Poverty fell. Ceasefires held. Politics became a process for dialogue not division. Out of the ashes of neoliberalism a… Read More »Why Fighting Inequality Is at the Heart of Oxfam’s New Global 10-Year Strategy

Sustainable Development Requires a “People-first” Approach

Wherever we have seen community resilience in the face of the public health, economic, and education crises of 2020, we find strong local leadership at work. However, rather than supporting local people to strengthen their own capabilities to identify, prioritize, and solve their own problems as the path to sustainable development, the world’s current development paradigm prioritizes working on behalf of local people to define… Read More »Sustainable Development Requires a “People-first” Approach

In Times of Crisis and Beyond, Local Leaders Are the Ones We Need

“What would it look like if we decided to find and fund local organizations applying themselves to bringing value to their communities?” It was a sunny summer day in 2012, and the question came from American philanthropist Andy Bryant, executive director of Segal Family Foundation. He was visiting the Population Services International office in Bujumbura where I worked, looking for organizations to whom his foundation could… Read More »In Times of Crisis and Beyond, Local Leaders Are the Ones We Need

Closing the race gap in philanthropy demands radical candour

I was in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, when I heard about the shooting of another black man, Jacob Blake, by US police. Close by is a mural of George Floyd, painted on a wall near where I grew up, a reminder that the current upheaval surrounding race in the US has global repercussions. Just as calls for racial justice echo in American and European streets, government offices and… Read More »Closing the race gap in philanthropy demands radical candour

The aid sector must do more to tackle its white supremacy problem

As events unfold in the US and across the world, colleagues in the aid sector are closely watching, and sharing their solidarity. After all they are allies and educators of human rights. Yet as various institutions grapple with their failure to address discrimination, there has been a disappointing lack of self-reflection in our sector. If we understand that racism is embedded in structures, that it… Read More »The aid sector must do more to tackle its white supremacy problem

Dismantling Racism Might Require Philanthropy to Dismantle Itself (Dispatches)

Who would have thought Americans would be nostalgic for a week ago? Today I woke wishing that all we were managing was a global pandemic, more than 100,000 deaths in the United States, and a deepening economic crisis. I did not think that the constant fear we were carrying could have gotten this much worse, this quickly. Over the past week, along with other colleagues… Read More »Dismantling Racism Might Require Philanthropy to Dismantle Itself (Dispatches)