Who pays the piper? A synthesis of decolonizing aid conversations
CivSource Africa is a feminist Pan African organization that occupies the delicate space between philanthropy and civil society organizing. By virtue of its placement, CivSource has provided advisory services to donors (local and international) that are desirous of supporting civil society organizations in Uganda. Additionally, CivSource has occupied the position of a funder applying feminist principles through its grantmaking arm, CivFund. From these positions, CivSource has been exposed to the issues of structural inequities, biases and racism within the international development aid sector which manifest as rigid conditionalities and short-term funding, that plague aid earmarked for the African continent. These manifestations are underscored by traditional funding models which not only inhibit local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from addressing, meaningfully, the social gaps that they wish to, but also, strip local NGOs of their dignity by having their integrity and ability to manage funds questioned long before they are entrusted with any resources. The power imbalances exhibited between funders and local partners trickles down to the communities that are usually the end beneficiaries of these programmes. CivSource has witnessed the myriad ways in which colonial systems continue to manifest in civil society practice and organizing, a case of the one paying the piper calling the tune.
It is against this backdrop that, over 2022, CivSource curated conversations with local NGOs and INGOs working in Uganda in an introspection and soul searching exercise. This intervention targeted local and foreign civil society actors undertaking various social justice issues like land governance, women’s rights and natural resource rights. The conversations focused on the need to interrogate oppressive aid systems and reimagine different ways of undertaking aid. The general consensus among the participants was that the aid system as is, is an impediment to realizing significant social change in the communities that are the so-called “benefactors” of aid. This report is a synthesis of the six conversations that took place. It is CivSource’s aspiration to continue to use the space it occupies to have critical conversations about how it can transform donor-civil society relations and civil society organizing in ways that do not perpetuate unhealthy power relationships. CivSource hopes to create tools to help the social justice field to (re)humanize and decolonize the sector and its work.
Published by: CivSource Africa
Published: February 2023