Back to Search Results

How can aid be decolonized and localized in the Pacific? Yielding and wielding power

Theresa Meki, Jope Tarai

2023 Australia, Pasifika

Motivation: The colonial legacies of aid and development in the Pacific continue to be at the centre of policy debate. The ideal is to decolonize and localize the practice of aid and development. However, decolonization and localization have become highly contested in their definition and proposed practical approaches. We call decolonization and localization “decolocalization.”

Purpose: This article aims to explore perspectives and proposals for decolocalization in the Pacific Islands.

Methods and approach: We talked to five key informants, all local to their islands, all with considerable development experience; we held a focus group; and we combined these insights and learnings with our own experience as Pacific Islanders engaged with development. Our analysis is reflexive.

Findings: Development practice in the Pacific Islands typically over-values external Euro-centric knowledge and undervalues local knowl-edge. Most aid and development discourse has stressed financial figures, charts, and statistical assertions overwhelmingly from a donor perspective; Pacific non-statistical, human, and embodied contextual realities are overlooked or discounted. Hierarchies are created that privilege outsiders and discriminate against islanders. A practical operationalization of decolocalization can begin with the recognition and practice of outsiders yielding and insiders wielding power.

Policy implications: We recommend decolocalization as a framework for studying and analysing colonial vestiges in Pacific aid and development. Decolocalization can be practised by outsiders yielding and insiders wielding power in aid and development. Decolocalization is not an ultimate solution to a highly complex issue, but it offers a conceptual position; one that allows Pacific Islander scholars, thought leaders, and aid and development practitioners to further unpack the nuances and issues around aid and development from a Pacific Islander perspective.

Aid, decolonization, development, localization, power