Response to International Development Committee sub-inquiry on racism in the aid sector

Plan International UK, April 2021

Plan International UK welcomes this inquiry from the IDC as an important opportunity to reflect on the impact of racism and the legacy of colonialism in the international development and humanitarian sector, how this affects the impact of the sector’s work, and how we can take action to address it. We hope this will help drive further momentum for urgent change.

About Plan International UK: Plan International UK is a global children’s organisation, working for children’s rights and equality for girls through international development and humanitarian action. We work with children growing up in some of the world’s poorest communities, making sure they have access to the education, health care, clean water and future opportunities they need to thrive. Working as part of the global Plan International family, we operate in more than 50 countries around the world across Africa, Asia and the Americas, as well as here in the UK. 



Section 1: Structure of the aid sector

1.1 What are the historical processes that have led to countries and organisations from the global north dominating the international aid sector?
1.2 What are the practical implications of the concentration of funding and resources in donors and international aid organisations from the global north?

Section 2: Racism in the aid sector

2.1 Why do we need to have a discussion about racism in the aid sector?
2.2 What are the practical implications of racism in the aid sector?

2.3 How can aid actors be actively anti-racist?

2.4 How does the language used by aid actors relate to discussions around racism and power dynamics?

2.5 What steps should the UK Government take to address racism in the aid sector?

2.6 How could a systematic approach to tackling racism help to strengthen relations between aid delivery organisations and the communities where programmes are delivered?


Section 3: Diversity and inclusion

3.1 How diverse is staffing within international aid organisations? Does this change at different levels of seniority?


3.2 What actions have international aid organisations taken to promote diversity and inclusion and what impact have these had?

-          Adoption of an Anti-Racism Action Plan (June 2020), Anti-Racism and Equity Principles and Vision with structural mechanisms to support their ongoing implementation and further development. These include:

-          In late 2020, Our Global Secretariat was restructured in order to start to address some of the issues of power imbalance. The leadership of the organisation was de-centralised moving significant functions historically managed in the secretarial in higher income countries to our Regional Leaders, who were also made a core part of the Global Leadership team.  The aim of this was to move decision-making power closer to the point of delivery, and help diversify the Leadership Team.

-          Plan International started delivering internal workshops on ‘Exploring Power, Privilege and Bias’ in 2016, led by our Safeguarding Unit in order to support the ongoing development of a safe culture and environment for all staff, programme participants, partners and communities in which we work. The rollout of these workshops has been further stepped up in the last year; specific anti-racism sessions are currently being piloted and will be developed to address other identities. A Courageous Conversations About Race Toolkit has been developed on challenging microaggressions and initiating discussions on Anti-Racism work.

-          Ongoing prioritisation of embedding Safe Programming and Influencing safeguarding measures ensuring protection of children, young people and adult programme participants in all their diversity.

-          A new section was included in 2020 in our Global Employee Engagement Survey (Sept 2020) on gender, equality, diversity and inclusion, to help us better understand racism and its impact in our organisation.

-          We are embedding anti-racism and equity principles in the current development of Plan International’s next Global Strategy (2022-27).

-          An anti-racist language glossary and recommendations for our wider communications are being developed.

-          In relation to our work with partners, we have for example committed that at least 25% of our own humanitarian funding will be passed to national and local NGOs by the end of our next Global Strategy period, and that we will budget for and fairly fund our partners’ organisational support costs and capacity building, as well as a number of other commitments to support, and enhance the visibility of, local and national organisations including youth-led organisations and those focused on girls’ rights. We are taking part in regular conversations at senior leadership level in the sector to consider how we as organisations can take more transformative action for change.

-          Adoption of a new People and Culture framework (2021) to transform our culture, focusing on the themes of inclusion, empowerment, wellbeing, agility, building trust and promoting accountability and compliance. This includes a set of interlocking pillars among them Diversity and Inclusion, Safeguarding & Building a Safer Culture, Embedding our values and Value-Based Leadership based on feminist leadership principles.

-          We are developing a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan setting out a three year programme for achieving long-term sustainable change for a more diverse workforce and inclusive culture.

-          Staff have established a new equality working group to champion change.

-          Developing anti-racist and decolonising language guidelines and brand principles, drawing on the work being done in Plan International globally, as well as on discussions and guidelines developed within the UK-based international development sector coordinated by Bond.

-          Consideration and development of plans for taking an anti-racist and decolonising approach in other areas of our work such as policy and advocacy.


3.3 What actions do international aid organisations still need to take to promote diversity and inclusion?

3.4 What actions should donors such as the FCDO take to promote diversity and inclusion in the organisations they fund?


For further information please contact:
Ngaire Reynolds, Public Affairs Officer,

[1] Rodney, W. (2012). How Europe underdeveloped Africa. Fahamu/Pambazuka

[2] The Humanitarian Global Color Line’: Michael Barnett, University Professor of International Affairs and Political Science George Washington University (accessed 26.04.21)




[6] Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2020,



[9] For example:



[12] It showed only 3% of CEOs are people of colour, 54% of staff who are people of colour have experienced racism at work, and Black workers with degrees earn on average 23.1% less than White workers.