Degan Ali joins Solomé Lemma, Tim Hanstad, Don Steinberg, and Abby Maxman in a Discussion about Decolonising Aid & Reworking the Global Humanitarian and Development System

(Nairobi, Kenya) – Adeso co-hosted a roundtable discussion with the Chandler Foundation, entitled Systems Change in Action: Decolonising Aid & Philanthropy on Tuesday, May 10 as part of. participated in Catalyst 2030’s Catalysing Change Week, the world’s largest event led by social innovators and entrepreneurs to share knowledge, exchange ideas, and accelerate collaborative and equitable systems change.

This discussion convened global leaders in the humanitarian aid and development space, including Adeso’s Executive Director, Degan Ali; Tim Hanstad, Chief Executive Officer of the Chandler Foundation; Solomé Lemma, Executive Director of Thousand Currents; Abby Maxman, President and CEO of Oxfam-America; and Amb. Don Steinberg (ret.), Senior Advisor to the Administrator of USAID.

The current model of foreign aid perpetuates inequality by reinforcing colonial power dynamics and creating an inefficient system that results in fewer dollars going into the hands of local, affected communities. 

“Decolonizing Aid” is a worldwide movement to raise awareness and ultimately dismantle discriminatory practices and policies in foreign aid, and Degan Ali and the team at Adeso choose to use this phrase instead of the term, “Localization”. 

“The localization terminology became a term that was used to describe our movement for equality and justice in this space. It was imposed on us… Why is it that when we are in the South we are local, and when people are in DC they are international?  We are all local in our respective locations and we are all internationals when we cross borders…For us, it was really important to recapture the narrative and talk about decolonization and recognize the root causes of why this inequity exists,” explains Degan Ali.

As speakers noted during the roundtable discussion, changing the current global aid system will require engaging stakeholders at every level, including but not limited to philanthropic foundations, bilateral and multilateral donors, and International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), and national and local actors. 

“Although bilateral donors have yet to meet the Grand Bargain target to give 25 percent of global humanitarian funding to local and national responders by 2020, the commitment remains valid and significant because it represents the growing ambition to give more funds directly to indigenous and proximate organizations,” said Degan Ali. “If we are truly committed to being more equitable as a society, it should also be reflected in our foreign policy and how humanitarian aid and other resources are distributed in the Global South.”

Successful efforts to decolonize the humanitarian aid and development system must tackle the problems from different levels and with different approaches. Several key challenges remain:


  1. There are barriers to change that are political and these require focused and strategic efforts at influencing both bi-lateral donors and philanthropy.
  2. There are barriers related to political knowledge and education on the part of the citizenry, across the globe, in order to genuinely manifest systems change.
  3. There are barriers related to infrastructure which require practical solutions that support donors, both governments and foundations, in moving their investments to be more directed to local organizations.

Adeso is working towards eliminating these barriers, through advocacy in systems change and concrete solutions to facilitate more direct funding to local civil society organizations in the Global South. 

For more information, please visit


About Adeso
Adeso is an African-led humanitarian and development organization that was founded in 1991 and is changing the way people think about and deliver aid. Headquartered in Nairobi with offices in Somalia, Adeso strongly believes that development must come from within and not outside of African communities, and aims to transform the global humanitarian and development infrastructure by addressing inequalities and resource deficits impacting civil society from the Global South. Adeso’s vision is of a world that is not dependent on but independent from aid and which relies on the resourcefulness and capabilities of its people. Adeso works at the roots of communities to create environments in which people can thrive.