Decolonizing Aid

Peace Direct’s 2020 consultation, Time to Decolonise Aid, reinforces that many current practices and structures within foreign assistance are the legacies of colonialism. Specifically, aid often flows between former colonial powers and their former colonies; funding and decision-making power lay primarily in the Global North; language used in the sector inherently upholds existing unequal power dynamics; and standards set for program design, research, and monitoring and evaluation are created by organizations based in and informed by the same powers in the Global North and their preconceived notions of what defines program “success.”

Below are some of the recommendations and resources compiled by our community on the topic of decolonizing aid.


  1. Confront and unpack the different ways in which the sector perpetuates unequal power dynamics: Organizations must recognize and value local perspectives and other ways of gaining and disseminating knowledge.
  2. Acknowledge the history of colonialism, imperialism, and exploitation as a cause of current development challenges: International non-governmental organizations (INGOs) should acknowledge this shared history and its implications for the projects they implement abroad, including through trainings.
    • As part of this acknowledgment, organizations must also explicitly identify underlying structural racial and unequal power dynamics between Global North/South actors and policies that contribute to the cycle of poverty and dependency on foreign aid.
  3. Elevate human-centered design in all aspects of the aid sector: Organizations should prioritize participatory grantmaking and program design by making time and creating spaces for collaboration with local actors—including historically marginalized populations—on program designs and approaches.