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Racism doesn’t just exist within aid. It’s the structure the sector is built on | Themrise Khan

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There have been many studies published recently on the prevalence of racism in the international aid sector.

They have ranged from definitions of racial equity within global development, to the experiences of black, indigenous and other people of colour working in the sector, to the British government’s delayed sub-inquiry into racism as part of a larger inquiry into the culture and philosophy of UK aid.

I know all too well that racism is real. As a longtime aid practitioner, I also know that we in the global south do not relate to these studies, because they focus almost entirely on the internal struggles and structures of aid institutions and their staff in the north. This completely omits a southern perspective of racism in aid, which is surely vital in bridging the gap between giver and receiver.

While concerns over racism against staff are undoubtedly genuine, they do not acknowledge the reality that the aid sector is itself a racist tool, embedded in colonial structures and power inequalities, that looks down on countries based on their wealth, history and global positioning. By default, those who control these power structures – donors, international NGOs, charities, private foundations – all perpetuate racism towards their southern counterparts.

For the global south, racism in international development comes from anyone associated with northern agencies – white, black or brown – by virtue of their location in the north and position within the sector as funders, implementers and intermediaries. Those who consider themselves marginalised in the north are as much the power brokers in the south as their white counterparts.

We see and experience racism differently in the south, because our history of racism is markedly different from the identity politics of the north. We perceive and perpetuate racism based on historical notions of class, caste, religion and ethnicity, within and between our various societies, whereas the north views racism as white against non-white.

The fact that the sector misses these perspectives is a red flag. It ignores the racist attitudes the northern sector perpetuates against its southern counterparts, and instead, centres only itself in the discussion.

We in the south must push back against the racism we face to centre ourselves.

There is great potential for collaboration between countries of the south in economic and social resource exchange, some of which is already visible through new emerging donors such as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa. Given the similarities in culture, history and religion, there is reduced space for racism in these new relationships.

The northern myth that everyone is a beneficiary in the south must be challenged, as must the narrative of “localisation”. No one in the south is a “local”. We are natives of our own countries and aid professionals of the south must push back as being viewed as such by their northern counterparts.

We must also oppose the practice of the northern aid industry to consistently place themselves as the managers, implementers, intermediaries and monitors of aid, whether white or people of colour. This practice plays on the racist assumption that countries of the south do not have the ability to manage external resources. We must be in control of and accountable for the aid we receive and make these positions redundant in the north.

We must, during this pushback, also look at our own histories of racism and find ways in which to develop our credibility in areas of religious tolerance, gender equality, ethnic diversity and minority rights. Otherwise, our behaviour may end up being no different from that of our northern counterparts.

Racism in aid cannot just be about people of colour in the north. It must be about ending the vast inequalities between north and south.

Themrise Khan is an independent international development professional specialising in aid effectiveness, gender and global migration

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[Ticker] US to lift Covid travel-ban on EU tourists

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Fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and the UK will be let back into the US from “early November” onward, the White House said on Monday, ending an 18-month ban and prompting airline firms’ shares to climb. “This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans … safe,” a US spokesman said. The EU recently recommended increased restrictions on US visitors, amid anger at lack of US reciprocity.

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Ten women and girls killed every day in Mexico, Amnesty report says | Global development

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At least 10 women and girls are murdered every day in Mexico, according to a new report that says victims’ families are often left to carry out their own homicide investigations.

The scathing report, released on Monday by Amnesty International, documents both the scale of the violence and the disturbing lack of interest on the part of Mexican authorities to prevent or solve the murders.

“Mexico is continuing to fail to fulfil its duty to investigate and, therefore, its duty to guarantee the rights to life and personal integrity of the victims as well as to prevent violence against women,” says the report, Justice on Trial.

“Feminicidal violence and the failings in investigation and prevention in northern Mexico are not anecdotal, but rather form part of a broader reality in the country,” the report adds.

Femicide has been rife in Mexico for decades – most notoriously in an epidemic of murders which claimed the life of some 400 women in the border city Ciudad Juárez during the 1990s. In recent years, a growing feminist movement has held massive street protests against the violence, but authorities have proved unwilling to take action to stop the killing.

“It’s always a question of political will,” said Maricruz Ocampo, a women’s activist in the state of Querétaro.

Ocampo has been part of teams lobbying state governors to issue an alert when femicides reach scandalously high levels – a move to raise awareness and mobilise resources. But officials often resist such moves, she said, as governors worry about their states’ images and investment.

“They refuse to recognise there is a problem,” she said.

The president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has also downplayed the problem. He branded the women protesting on 8 March, International Women’s Day, as “conservatives” and alleged a dark hand manipulating the demonstrations.

When asked last year about rising violence against women, he responded, “Tell all the women of Mexico that they are protected and represented, that we’re doing everything possible to guarantee peace and quiet and that I understand that our adversaries are looking for ways to confront us.”

Mexico recorded the murders of 3,723 women in 2020. Some 940 of those murders were investigated as femicides.

The Amnesty report focused on Mexico state, a vast collection of gritty suburbs surrounding Mexico City on three sides. It has become notorious for femicides over the past decade – and for the way the former president, Enrique Peña Nieto, a former Mexico state governor, ignored the problem.

The report found cases of families carrying out their own detective work, which were ignored by investigators. In many cases, authorities contaminated crime scenes or mishandled evidence. They often did not even pursue leads such as geolocation information from victims’ mobile phones.

In the case of Julia Sosa, whose children believe she was killed by her partner, two daughters found her body buried on the suspect’s property – but had to wait hours for police to arrive and process the crime scene. One of her daughters recalled the subsequent interview process, in which “the police officer was falling asleep”.

Sosa’s partner hanged himself, prompting police to close the case, even though family members said there were more leads to pursue.

In states rife with drug cartel violence, activists say cases of femicides go uninvestigated as impunity is commonplace.

“The authorities say it’s organised crime and that’s it,” said Yolotzin Jaimes, a women’s rights campaigner in the southern state of Guerrero. “Many of these aggressors find protection under the excuse of organised crime.”

The persistence of femicides is a stark contrast to recent gains by the women’s movement in Mexico. The country’s supreme court decriminalised abortion earlier this month. A new congress recently sworn in has gender parity and seven female governors will be installed by the end of year – up from just two before last June’s election’s

The decriminalisation of abortion “let off some steam” from the pressure driving the protests “because part of the demands was over the right to choose,” Ocampo said. “But when it comes to violence, we still see it everywhere.”

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US official urges EU to speed up enlargement

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Gabriel Escobar, the US’ newly-appointed acting deputy secretary of state for South Central Europe, has urged Europe to speed up Western Balkans enlargement. “To return 20 years later and see that there hasn’t been much progress on that front was a little disappointing,” he told the RFE/RL news agency Friday, referring to his last post in Europe in 2001. “We would like to see a more rapid integration,” he said.

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