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MPs say aid sector must address racism

23 June 2022

MPs on the International Development Committee have called on the development aid sector to recognise and tackle racism in its practices.

In a report published today, the Committee called on the sector to address various issues, including:

  • pay scales that can see UK aid staff paid ten times as much as ‘local’ counterparts;
  • fundraising publicity that portrays aid recipients as helpless and in need of ‘saving’; and
  • staffing that is not as diverse as it should be, especially at leadership levels.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% of gross national income to 0.5% - 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.

Report recommendations

The report made a series of recommendations, including:

  • the 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;
  • 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; and
  • fundraising publicity should stop using pictures of degrading stereotypes. 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.”

Further information

Image: Crown Copyright