“The very notion of ‘charity’ erases a global history of slavery and oppression”. Asad Rehman applauds Labour’s ambition to overhaul neo-colonial development policy
In 1792, pioneering British feminist and social justice activist Mary Wollstonecroft wrote in her seminal book The Rights of Women, ‘It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world.’ Two centuries later, the shadow international development minister, Kate Osamor, a black feminist with a background in social justice activism, has anchored that fundamental truth in Labour’s vision for international development, ‘A World For the Many, Not The Few’. In doing so, she has committed the Labour Party to putting social justice at the heart of its international agenda and listening to the voices of those facing the greatest injustices: women in the global south.
For too long, politicians and, to their shame, many in the development sector have ignored the key driver of global poverty: neoliberal capitalism, a failed economic system whose rules are stacked in favour of corporate elites. They have stayed silent on the culpability of Britain in promoting unfair trade rules, creating new debt burdens, forcing privatisations and entrenching oppressive neo-colonial power dynamics on the international stage.
The new colonialism
The idea of ‘international development’ was constructed in the post-war era to cover up the deliberate ‘underdevelopment’ of the global south. During colonialism, Britain and the other industrial powerhouses had enriched themselves by extracting resources and slave labour from their colonies. They deliberately impoverished the south and, in the process, killed countless millions across Latin America, Africa and Asia. It is estimated that the UK extracted £600 trillion during its colonisation of India alone, reducing India’s pre-colonial share of the global economy from 27 per cent to just 3 per cent by the time the British left.
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