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Future Brief: Decolonisation of the development sector

This series is about the present and future of a (de)colonised development sector. It aims to support development practitioners in their quest to decolonise the sector. We developed this series with The Broker.

The Future Brief series is a follow-up to the dialogue series on ‘decolonisation of aid’, organised by Partos, Kuno and the Institute of Social Studies (ISS). The outcomes of this dialogue series are brought together in this publication. Every Future Brief in this series is available in Dutch, English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Please feel free to share the documents and your thoughts!

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

This first Future Brief on the decolonisation of the development sector takes a historical approach. We will uncover how the colonial project was intimately connected to the origins of development cooperation by tracing the interlinkages between colonialism and development. In doing so, this brief lays the historical foundations necessary to understand the present and move towards a decolonised future.


Part 2: Colonial remnants in contemporary development cooperation

In the second part, we tackle the present by building on the historical perspective of the first brief. As a result, it shows how the colonial elements have worked their way through our past into the present, affecting the development sector in complex ways. In this brief, we employ the ‘iceberg model’ to explore what lies underneath, sustaining the ties between colonialism and development cooperation.


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 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 tip of the iceberg. As such, we first zoom in on the ‘deep structures’ to give organisations and practitioners a starting point for a reflexive journey to decolonise mindsets, attitudes and values. The second section focuses on four dimensions of development cooperation:

  1. Communication
  2. Resource mobilisation and grant-making
  3. Planning, monitoring, evaluation and learning (PMEL)
  4. Diversity, equity and inclusion, to provide inspiring examples of decolonial initiatives and distil good practices.

We hope to inspire action by discussing specific initiatives rather than providing a definitive ‘how to’ guide. Ultimately, every development practitioner and organisation will have their unique trajectory towards decolonisation.


Every Future Brief is available in 5 languages

A French, Spanish, Arabic, English and Dutch version of the Future Brief are available.

  • نسخة عربية من هذا المنتج متاحة
  • Une version française de ce produit est disponible
  • Una versión en español de este producto está disponible
  • Een Nederlandse versie van dit product is beschikbaar


Image source: The French Colonies, Cover of a school notebook by Georges Dascher, circa 1900