Reimagining solidarity – Let’s move beyond the “aid” narrative.
On by Natalie Sharples
Colonial occupation of the Majority world might have ended over half a century ago, but the shadow it cast on colonies is not lost to anyone interested in the origins of global poverty.
Together with its progeny the neo-liberal economic system –colonial legacies are at the heart of global poverty, inequalities and suffering. For instance, according to a report by Oxfam, corporate tax dodging alone costs poor countries at least $100 billion every year –enough to provide an education to 124 million children and prevent the deaths of almost eight million mothers and children each year.
Despite this, analysis of the root-causes is absent in many interventions about poverty. Something which must change. At our recent consultation process to find alternatives to the language of “aid”, organized by the Track Changing subgroup of the Kampala Initiative, this failure to highlight the root causes was the reason the term, “Global Redistribution” (alongside other options) was selected as an appropriate alternative to the misleading word “aid”
As proof of its potential, the alternative words have so far received overwhelming support from within the sector, with 100 organizations and individuals pledging to stop using the word “aid” in their communications, whenever possible and instead use “Global Redistribution” or one of the alternatives. This is thrilling but not surprising because from the start, we knew the process of developing alternative language would not be a walk in the park, but rather a journey whose every stride must be taken jointly with a wide range of stakeholders and most importantly with people whose lives are being impacted by the wrong narrative.
It all started in 2019 when a civil society workshop was convened in Kampala to discuss how to advance cooperation and solidarity within and beyond “aid”. One of its conclusions was that the way the INGO sector talks about issues of poverty, poor health and inequality was damaging and undermining the cause. Following the birth of the Kampala Initiative, the Track Changing working group was set up to discuss, address and find alternatives to the misleading “aid “narratives.
In October and November 2021, the subgroup embarked on a consultation process to rename “aid”, as illustrative of just one of the problematic words used to describe the financial relationship between the Minority and Majority worlds. Through an online survey and a series of webinars, profiling speakers from Uganda, Nigeria Benin and as well as a global webinar, views spanning thirteen countries were reviewed and the term “Global redistribution” selected as an appropriate alternative.
Depending on the context, other alternative words chosen by the group include: Global Solidarity, Global Equalization, Global Equity Gap and Global Collaboration. Depending on the context the words “fund” or “finance” or “budget” can be attached at the end.
So what can we achieve by replacing “aid” with these alternatives? Overall, they contribute towards a transformative narrative that redefines poverty – not as a failing of the poor but rather a systemic and created injustice, that requires something fundamental to change. The term “Global redistribution” for example, brings into perspective the structural causes of global inequalities such as geopolitics, historical legacies and current injustices in trade, and climate change policies.
Secondly, the new terms direct attention towards supporting our demands that corporates must pay their fair share of taxes; aid institutions must change their mandate to that of addressing global inequalities; and governments must rethink debt conditions, climate change policies and insecurity – because these are the real drivers of global poverty, poor health and inequities.
For fundraisers within the sector, we know much of the public in the Minority world are skeptical of “aid” – with rates of giving falling sharply. Yet evidence shows when people understand the context in which aid is spent they are more likely to be supportive of it.
The time to ditch this damaging word “aid” and replace it with more appropriate alternatives is now. Whereas “aid” makes us feel pity for people living in poverty, terms such as “Global redistribution” should make us feel angry instead – at unjust debt conditions, unfair policies on climate change and international trade and the many schemes governments and corporates in the Minority world use to prey on the Majority world.
Join organizations from over twenty countries who have committed to exposing the root causes of poverty by replacing the word “aid” with “Global redistribution” or another alternative in your public communications.
Sign the pledge – HERE