Home Envisioning an alternative ecosystem for global development and humanitarianism

Recently, the terms ‘decolonisation’ and ‘localisation’ have been the stand-out jargon within the global development and humanitarian sectors. Framed as a way to ‘shift the power’, these phrases cover a number of extremely controversial and historical processes.

This concept paper challenges these terms and their usage in the development and humanitarian discourse by taking a more radical view:

  • Firstly, by turning the focus on countries themselves, rather than on specific centres of financial and political power as the key drivers of development and change; and
  • Secondly, by considering that it is not a ‘reimagining’ of aid that is necessary, but rather the end of the ‘traditional’ aid system.

"There is a need to completely move away from the current models of what we call aid and development, towards independent nations meeting their own development needs and generating their own systems of financial and technical support."

Themrise Khan

This concept paper presents a ‘map’ of an ecosystem that constructs a new identity that not only equalises power between ‘North’ and ‘South’, but ends the distinction altogether. It creates a structure that is based in different geographical locations and hence inhabits different perceptions of power and wealth.

The high-level goal of this ecosystem is to create not just equality between nations, but also to do so in an ethical way. The ecosystem proposes to achieve this goal in three key ways:

  1. Remove the distinctions between governments, donors, INGOs, NGOs etc. to view all the participants of global development and humanitarianism as ‘State and Civil Society Entities’ or SCSEs.
  2. Remove ‘international’ from the vocabulary and view all countries as equal and global in scale.
  3. Remove the distinction between the so-called ‘Global North’ and so-called ‘Global South’ to move to a more regional perspective.

Ultimately, the end result would be a more equitable and ethical system which allows each country to participate based on its own ability to make decisions and utilise its own resources as much as possible.

This concept paper expands upon Themrise Khan’s keynote presentation at the 2023 Humanitarian Leadership Conference.

Academic contributors


  • Envisioning an alternative ecosystem for global development and humanitarianism
  • Figure 1: An alternate system for global development and humanitarianism

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