Shifting power for Palestine – it’s more than just power

09 Feb 2024

This blog originally appeared in Alliance magazine’s special feature on the #ShiftThePower Global Summit.


It is impossible to hold a gathering of almost 700 people from all over the world and not talk about the ongoing genocide in Palestine.

Themrise Khan, an independent practitioner & policy specialist

That is why it was an honour and a pleasure to hear Soheir Assad from Rawa Creative Palestinian Communities Fund, speak on the second day of the #ShiftThePower Global Summit in Bogotá.

In a fiery and brutally honest talk which needed to be had, Soheir tore apart the glossy veneer of solidarity and community in detailing the impact of Israeli occupation and aggression on Palestinians in Gaza since the events of 7 October. An aggression that as we speak, has killed over 20,000 people, the majority of them women and children and forcibly displaced millions, with an open threat to ethnically cleanse over 2.5 million people. Every day, the attacks on innocent civilians in Gaza grow more and more barbaric and every day the world stands by and watches in complicity, as Soheir rightly pointed out.

I would add that this includes all of us at the Summit. This is because by virtue of our positionality as flag bearers for our communities, fighting for our own autonomy and independence from Western donors, we all have an obligation to rally in support of the oppressed. This is what shifting power really means. This is what global solidarity really means.

Shifting the power isn’t just about the soft power of global financing for development and humanitarianism, as this growing movement of community organizations signifies. It’s about the hardcore realities of how communities are literally being wiped off the face of the earth and that if we don’t do anything about it, we may just be next. It’s about the reality of political power growing in one part of the world and diminishing in another part, as a direct result. What is the point of any power shift if the communities we support may one day not even exist because a Western, capitalist system of power is hell bent on destroying them? There was a lot of talk at the Summit about the shrinking space for civil society in many countries which reflects this exactly.

This is why the world needs to come together to end geopolitical domination and power. We are wasting our precious and limited time on peripheries like aid, decolonization, humanitarianism, climate, gender, racial discrimination, migration, etc. Despite the immense relevance and importance of all these sectors, these are all by-products of what we need to actually focus on – the military control of the Western world over the non-Western world through wars and prolonged conflict. And not via a romanticized notion of (just) community philanthropy or peacebuilding that we are seeing. But by hardcore political activism endless dissent and personal sacrifice and struggle.

Soheir herself very powerfully articulated the need to dismantle philanthropy, rather than endorse it. Because what is the point of philanthropy or even aid when it is actually supporting war crimes by remaining silent or neutral? This completely negates the objective that we are supposedly fighting for – an end to post-colonial practices and power.

This is my vision of #ShiftThePower. Palestine, Afghanistan, Congo, Yemen, Sudan and many, many, other countries, including my own, that are currently facing internal and external strife, are glaring examples of the power we actually need to shift. Shifting power to communities is not the answer if the overarching geopolitical powers remain the same. I would have loved to see and have more conversations on these issues given the representation of so many countries at the Summit.

We must work together to end occupation and political control in our respective countries to be able to exercise our basic human rights. Soheir’s interventions and call for solidarity and support to the Palestinians must be carried forward into action if we truly want to #ShiftThePower. And we must follow through not just for Palestine, but for all the nations that remain under oppressive regimes and are at the risk of losing their lives.


By: Themrise Khan, an independent practitioner and policy specialist based in Pakistan. She is also the co-editor of White Saviorism in International Development (Daraja Press, 2023)

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