Convened by UNU-IIGH, Wilton Park & Development Reimagined
There have been an increasing number of voices – both individual and institutional – that have called for a reassessment of global health and greater recognition of its colonial heritage. This series brings together diverse groups of stakeholders – especially under-represented voices – to provide a safe space for an open and honest discussion about shifting power in global health, with the aim of moving from problematising coloniality to catalysing decoloniality.
COVID-19 has exacerbated and entrenched health inequities throughout the world and further highlighted the failures of the current global health architecture. In recent years, there have been increasingly loud and frequent calls from organisations and individuals to address the power asymmetries in global health and move towards a more decentralised and equitable approach to research and practice. The ‘decolonising global health’ agenda has gained pace as a collection of activist movements that seek to transition from the theoretical to the practical. However, many highly influential organisations are yet to engage, whilst others have actively expressed scepticism towards this agenda. To effect change, a global cross-sectoral set of actors will need to be mobilised with the opportunity to share thoughts on objectives and practical next steps to achieve them.
The first dialogue generated more questions than answers, opening up further avenues of discussion and debate for the remainder of the series. What does it mean to decolonise global health, what do these movements call for, and how can they lead to fundamental changes in key mechanisms such as decision-making and accountability?
The second dialogue explored some of these ideas by focusing on the role of South-South collaborations and contributions, and established that the onus is on academia as a latecomer to this conversation to catch up to and connect with those who are fighting for the same cause in different spaces and through different ways, expanding this conversation to embrace the plurality of decolonisation efforts.
The third dialogue attempted to engage with some of these broader perspectives by focusing on funding mechanisms, which are often determined by factors beyond the narrow confines of global health. It sought to identify core principles for decolonisation that unify the wide variety of organisations and individuals in both the global North and South working towards decolonisation by highlighting existing connections and commonalities.
The synthesis report presents five key takeaways and some potential paths forward that emerged from the three dialogues. It also offers brief reflections on the organising team’s experiences of working in a decolonial way.