At ADD International we welcome the House of Commons International Development Committee’s Racism in the aid sector report.
Whilst many of the key recommendations in the report are for FCDO specifically, the vast majority of them impact INGOs like ours as well.
The report confirms what we have known for some time and indeed what many people of colour in the aid and development sector have been continuing to experience – namely that the aid sector operates based on racial hierarchies rooted in the UK’s colonial legacy.
Our commitment at ADD International through the Transformation process we are currently moving through has explicitly been to move more resources and decision-making to the disabled people whose liberation we exist to support. To enable this, we are redesigning the way we work, thinking more deliberately about how and by whom decisions are made, seeking to share information more transparently, identifying concrete ways to value indigenous knowledge and experiences, putting in place a participatory grant making model and developing mechanisms for ensuring that our decision-making is led and informed by disabled people in future.
We acknowledge that we have for too long over valued expertise from outside those communities and perpetuated the narrative that their ‘capacity’ needs to be built and that sharing adequate resources with them is ‘high risk’.
Meanwhile we know that the root causes of the lack of resources in many of the places where we work can be traced back to processes of wealth extraction during colonisation that have starved these communities of the wealth that is rightfully theirs. And so our work in this sector should, we believe, predominantly be work of reparation, seeking to bring justice by redressing those imbalances that are still in place today. We believe that recognition and acknowledgement are the first steps in rooting out racism and a commitment to redressing these imbalances. This needs to be followed up with clear actions and accountability. At ADD this is what action currently looks like for us:
- Ensuring that we transfer significant resources to organisations that are led and managed by Disabled People in the countries where we work through a new participatory grant making model that will be in place by the end of 2023. This model will also ensure that disabled people will lead decision-making about where our money goes. Committing to developing and reviewing this model with disabled people in the countries where we work and to continuing to learn and iterate it based on their experience of it.
- Seeking ways to ensure that the resources we transfer are flexible and long term through funding partnerships with donors who understand the need for justice-based financing of initiatives led by those with lived experience.
- Re-committing to ensuring that our workforce adequately reflects the communities we serve and thereby practice what we preach. We have started by more effectively collecting data about this and will commit to publishing it in 2023.
- Reviewing our Pay, Benefits and HR policies across the six countries where we work and ensuring that we put in place, by the end of 2022 a transparent and equitable approach to these that all staff can see and understand.
- Reviewing how we understand and use the concept of risk in our decision-making and building practices where we deliberately take risks in order to move towards redressing injustices.
- Working both internally and externally to build both anti-racist and anti-ableist practice. Ensuring we have systems in place to tackle and address racism as it manifests anywhere in our work.
- Working to ensure that our fundraising campaigns use local filmmakers and photographers and depict positive and realistic stories, including in our current UK Aid Match appeal. Ensuring we have full and specific consent for the images we use.
- Committing to review and update the language that we use both internally and externally ensuring that it is framed in a justice and equity lens. This will also include a commitment to use a greater range of spoken and written languages to communicate as much as is practical, translating documents, using locally used sign language and ensuring that we focus on making our communications accessible for as many people as possible.
- Ensuring that all staff and board members have adequate learning and reflection opportunities to help them engage with and build anti-racist practice.
- Participating where we can in sector-wide initiatives, such as those led by Bond, that aim to help shift the harmful attitudes and practices in our sector.
- Ensure that all employees, and BIPOC employees in particular, have adequate access to appropriate support from those with relevant lived experience.
- Committing to make space for the difficult conversations that we need to have as a sector about racism and how it continues to manifest.
- Taking steps to ensure that the leadership of our organisation is both more racially diverse and better reflects the communities of disabled people in Africa and Asia whom we aim to serve.
ADD International accepts wholeheartedly that it is time for change. We are not there yet and many of these things are a work in progress but ADD International is committed both to these actions and to sharing our commitment, learning and experience with others in the sector. We are ready to work with FCDO, and other funders and partners to ensure that we tackle the racism that perpetuates in our sector and is so clearly described in the report.