Who holds the power? Local Faith Actors in the Humanitarian and Development Sector
Local communities are central agents in their own liberation, yet they continue to be marginalised in decision-making and excluded from equitable resource allocation by the international humanitarian and development sector. Racist and colonial mindsets continue to permeate aid agencies and systems globally. One symptom is underestimating the capacities and expertise of local faith actors.
With the support of KAICIID, the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI) is launching its Fair and Equitable Dialogues with its first webinar on the role of local faith actors in the humanitarian and development sector. The series consists of regular interactive public learning events that seek to examine how faith actors can, should, and do challenge unequal power dynamics in the international humanitarian and development sector. It aims to create space for challenging debate and prioritizing new voices by examining some of the context and terminology often used in these debates, from “decolonization” to “localization”, as well as the history and context behind international and local-faith partnerships.
Our webinar will be the first one to be held as part of the series and at a time when localisation and power dynamics between northern and southern organizations are widely discussed. It hopes to critically engage with these issues by motivating a space for a bold discussion that challenges power dynamics in the humanitarian and development sector and shifts power, resources, and leadership to local, national, and regional levels.
Confronting asymmetries of power is uncomfortable and requires northern organizations to be willing to give up privilege and share power. Speakers from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, the UK and USA will discuss together the role of local faith actors in the humanitarian and development sector and how they are challenging power dynamics in their partnerships with international organisations. They will also reflect on what decolonization in the humanitarian and development sector means to them on both personal and professional levels.
We want these dialogues to be led and shaped by local communities. We invite you to join us on this journey and critically engage with the discussion, reflect on the raised issues in your own context, and share your thoughts directly with us. Throughout the webinar, there will be interactive polls to capture your ideas on the raised questions, in addition to any priority areas and topics that you’d like us to address in upcoming dialogues.
Note: The Fair and Equitable Dialogues is a part of JLI’s Fair and Equitable Initiative that works through different approaches to address issues such as a lack of acknowledgment of colonial legacies, the dominance of Western approaches, the marginalization of indigenous knowledge, capacities, and beliefs, complicity in broader racist structures in aid and development, and inequity between local and international actors. With the support of an active network of local actors, the initiative is preparing the ground to launch regional joint learning hubs—in the MENA and East Africa regions—and to address power dynamics in knowledge production through compiling a decolonized and community-oriented evidence base on the contributions of local faith actors in the humanitarian and development sector.