Future Brief series: Decolonisation of development cooperation

Decolonization of international development,Magazine21 Nov 2022Martha Kapazoglou

In May 2022, and following the impactful dialogue series on the ‘decolonisation of aid’, Partos and The Broker joined forces once again, this time to create a timely three-part series about the present and future of a (de)colonised development sector. In developing the Future Brief Series: Decolonisation of development cooperation, we have conducted a scan of relevant literature, including a diverse range of sources and forms of knowledge. Most importantly, the authors have engaged in challenging yet constructive and reflective conversations with each other, the project’s reference group of experts on the topic, and our colleagues at Partos. Our hope is that these publications will inspire similar conversations on the decolonisation of the sector within and across organisations and individuals.

Part 1: Tracing the colonial roots of development cooperation: a brief history

The first Future Brief in this series takes a historical approach to explore the interlinkages between the colonial project and the origins of development cooperation. In doing so, this brief lays the historical foundations necessary to understand the present status of the sector and move towards a decolonised future.

Part 2: Colonial remnants in contemporary development cooperation

The second Future Brief in the trilogy series tackles the present by building on the historical perspective of the first brief. It illustrates how colonial elements have worked their way through our past into the present, affecting the development sector in insidious ways. This brief employs the ‘iceberg model’ to explore what lies underneath—our mindsets, attitudes, and values—sustaining the ties between colonialism and development cooperation. The brief goes a step further by looking at how these mindsets, attitudes, and values translate into concrete practices across four dimensions of development cooperation: 1) communications; 2) funding and grant-making; 3) planning, monitoring and evaluation; and 4) diversity, equity and inclusion.

Part 3: The future is now: actionable pathways towards a decolonised development sector

To conclude the trilogy on the decolonisation of development cooperation, this third Future Brief adopts a future-oriented perspective to explore actionable pathways towards a decolonised sector. Building on the ‘iceberg model’ employed in the second brief, it shows that we need a two-pronged approach to tackle colonial remnants in 1) dominant mindsets, attitudes and values that make up the ‘deep structures’ of development cooperation, and 2) visible behaviours, practices and policies, situated at the top of the iceberg. Our hope with this final publication is to inspire action by discussing promising decolonising initiatives rather than providing a definitive ‘how to’ guide. Ultimately, every development practitioner and organisation will have their own unique trajectory towards decolonisation.


The briefs are also available in Dutch, English, French, and Spanish on the Partos website