Sign On Letter for Local and Community-Based Organizations from the Majority World to Bilateral and Multilateral Funders and Foundations

Starting in November 2023, Majority World actors signed on to a letter outlining recommendations on how convening spaces on Locally-led Development (LLD) should be organized. MCLD, Civicus and Peace Direct facilitated the process. Below is the letter in English. If you are a Majority World network, organization or actor, and believe in these recommendations, you can add your name and/or organization to the sign-on letter here.

Dear Bilateral and Multilateral funders and foundations,

We, local and community-based organizations from the Majority World (typically referred to as the Global South), our networks and allies, are delighted that you have recognized the imperative to shift power and resources to become more locally-led and centred in your approaches. We appreciate the efforts you are undertaking, individually, and collectively, in this direction, including the donor statement on locally-led development and the 2021 OECD-DAC recommendations on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Assistance.  We stand in solidarity with you as you attempt to change your internal systems, policies and practices. We understand that including local actors in Minority World (typically referred to as the Global North)  policy spaces in the spirit of true partnership is new and there is opportunity for improvement. We offer five suggestions to guide your attempts to include us, local organizations and networks from the Majority World, at international convenings, conferences and in-person convenings:

A)      Ensure local actors are at the table: No event or policy that impacts Majority World countries and its inhabitants should be drafted without local actors, proximate leaders and people with lived experience. Locally-led development means that local and community-based organizations, our networks and our governments (where possible) are equally represented at the policy and decision-making tables, moving beyond a few token representatives from the Majority World. We are the majority of the world’s population, and you cannot take decisions that affect us without us.

B)      Ensure we have access to the table: To ensure we are at the table in equal numbers we need to have access to the table. Current visa rules in many countries bar a majority of us from attending events held there. For instance, holding the recent People Power Conference and the conference on supporting local actors in the HDP nexus in Copenhagen, meant that people from most countries in Africa had to either travel to a third country at immense personal cost (time and financial) to get a visa or could not attend. There are many Majority World countries that have the infrastructure and the access that are necessary for us to participate in an event. Hold events about us in places where we can attend them without being subjected to the abject humiliation that many of us undergo while attempting to get a visa to the US or most countries in Europe.

C)      Respect our participation: We want to be equal partners and support you as you seek to transform the current colonial systems that underpin the development, humanitarian and peacebuilding sectors. But this starts with respecting the time, experience and expertise we are sharing. Remember the current discriminatory systems mean that we do not always have the resources to attend these events. Sponsorship to events should include all costs- visa, travel, accommodation, per diem, meals, insurance and entry fee, if any. Costs should also be met upfront to the extent possible. Local organizations often do not have resources to wait for reimbursements. Most importantly, we need adequate notice to rework our schedules, get the visa and plan the trip. Let us know when the event is being planned and do not add us to the agenda at the last minute to tick a box. 

D)      Speak in a language that we understand: To fully benefit from our participation and our knowledge, you need to ensure language access for us. Simultaneous translation in different languages, along with sign language interpretation and physical access for people with disabilities at these events are necessary but not sufficient. If we have to provide input on a policy, it has to be available in a language and context we can understand. And we need to be able to share in languages we are most comfortable with. Similarly, your slide decks, conference materials and agenda need to be accessible to ensure our full participation.  

E)       Set the agenda with us: Equitable partnership means that you not just invite us to the table but we co-design the agenda for the table. Work with us and our networks to determine the agenda for policy events. Ensure we have equal representation, visibility and voice in the agenda. One way of doing this would be to invite Majority World networks and organizations as co-hosts for these events (with compensation for our time and energy). 

True locally-led development requires that you don’t just invite a handful of local actors to your tables. It necessitates a re-setting of this table with local actors to design a system that works for all of us. We believe that by operationalizing these five steps in events that you organize you will be able to enter into truer partnerships with local and community-based organizations. These steps will allow us to work together to transform this system and move towards a more resilient and peaceful world. We believe in your intent and stand in solidarity with you as you undertake these steps.