Dan Banik speaks with Degan Ali on global governance and the politics of aid and humanitarian response.
Many have highlighted the need for equity and justice in the field of foreign aid and humanitarian assistance. Local civil society organizations (CSOs) or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the frontline workers, risking their lives to access areas that well-funded international NGOs or even UN agencies cannot access. However, critics of the current system claim that the local NGO is often the sub-contractor and not a real partner that is allowed to contribute to the design of the project. If something goes wrong in the process, that local NGO is blacklisted, not the UN agency or the international NGO that received the funding.
There are also other concerns. For example, the local NGO rarely receives a decent overhead rate or adequate funds to cover operational expenses. Local NGO staff are also often poached by multilateral institutions and international NGOs. All of this, some claim, results in a serious and systematic erosion of capacity in the Global South. And local knowledge and organizational capacity are often undervalued.
Degan Ali has for long spoken out against systematic racism – the systemic structure of power, money, and decision-making that goes into the design of the international humanitarian and aid architectures. She has campaigned for a more just and dignified aid system that allows recipient countries to take back power. In a recent op-ed, she argued that “Talking about racism is not enough” and that “We can’t afford another 50 years of apathy in the international system.”
Degan Ali is the Executive Director of Adeso, an organization that has been a leader globally and in Somalia for its work on cash transfers and environmental justice. She has been a passionate advocate at the global level on the mainstreaming of cash as the primary response mechanism to humanitarian crises
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