Opinion: War is not African! – A shift from colonial development aid approach to global a solidarity

By Siyane Aniley @EthioPhenomenal

Addis Abeba – Solidarity has become a global buzzword in the development sector and even more in the recent context of global pandemic. However, Solidarity is not a new way of doing things in Africa.

In Africa, we have a philosophy called Ubuntu; meaning, ‘I am, Because We are’.

Ubuntu is not just an African philosophy, but a spirituality and an ethic, a powerful tradition demonstrating the need for solidarity at all levels. It expresses compassion, dignity, harmony and humanity in the interests of building and maintaining community with justice and solidarity.

In this increasingly globalized world we live in, our interdependence, and the interconnectedness of the challenges we face collectively makes global solidarity a precondition for our survival and well-being more than ever.

Global solidarity is not limited to aid, charity or humanitarian assistance; it is a broader concept that includes sustainability in economic relations, peaceful coexistence, equal partnerships, and equitable sharing of benefits and burdens.

Global solidarity does not seek to homogenize (unlike the old-fashioned development aid approach) but rather to be the bridge across differences, connecting diverse people and countries with their heterogeneous interests, in a mutually respectful, and equitable manner.

But global solidarity to whom?

As James Baldwin (1972) stated, “if one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the police, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected… and listens to their testimony.”

In this case, if we want to show solidarity, it is for the most unprotected.

Human rights-based approach to Global solidarity is meant to be universal, regardless of where one come from, regardless of skin color, religion, and political stands. However, as it was a common practice in the development aid approach, we must not associate the vulnerable groups to the crisis they are facing. This is to the extent that crisis looks like the identity of the global south, as if agony is innate and natural to these groups.

For example, the attitudes towards Africa, where war crimes against civilians in countries far from the West have become almost acceptable.

On the other hand, the war in a Western County is perceived as unnatural and alarming where refugees are welcomed with open arms, even at household level.

War is not African! The pain of women and children is not African!

We must change this world view. Global solidarity must acknowledge and address crisis as a fixable socio-politically manufactured phenomenon, wherever the location is.

Yes, there must be a shift from the old and colonial approach to development aid:

  • Where donors tag Africans with their logo and t-shirts
  • Where the poverty of women and children is romanticized with undignified photographs in media and project reports
  • Where the southern perspectives and experiences are pushed to the periphery and Africa is only the site of primarily of data collection in policy development and knowledge production
  • Where aid is tied to expectations to policy convergence and homogeneity at the cost of the recipient’s autonomy, rather than a virtue of only human solidarity

What is a shift to a good global solidarity?

Global solidarity fundamentally needs democratization of knowledge and development cooperation. As Raewyn Connell (2007) argued that democratization of knowledge is to utilize the potential of the southern intellectuals to produce new knowledge and new theories that are relevant for their context.

In the development cooperation, it is important to end tied-aid approach where partners stand on mutual respect and dignity. Dismantling the systems of sexism, racism and classism against the oppressive structures is possible through a good global solidarity for all.

It is important to build Intersectional, democratic, and feminist global solidarity approach against all forms of oppression and marginalization, regardless of where one come from.

When this happens, we can all one day say Ubuntu – ‘I am, Because We are’. AS


Editor’s Note: Siyane Aniley is a doctoral researcher at the department of comparative and international education, Addis Abeba University. She is a feminist researcher focusing on adolescent SRHR. Currently, Siyane is working at the Center for International Reproductive Health Training (CIRHT) as research and advocacy officer. She tweets at @EthioPhenomenal

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