“Peace is a verb, not a noun”: why modernizing global cooperation and aid must start with reframing language

Dissecting the language within the global cooperation and aid sector that is keeping colonialism alive

Why It Matters

Words like decolonization are not made for the global south. If the global cooperation and aid sector fails to use language that is meaningful, inclusive and accessible to everyone, conversations on advancing the sector’s future will remain one-sided.

This story is in partnership with Cooperation Canada. See our editorial ethics and standards here.

Decolonization is lost in translation.

Though it’s become somewhat of a blanket term in the social impact world, the word decolonize originally comes from when a colonizing power leaves the country or state that it was formerly colonizing. The act does not automatically undo the wrongs of colonialism – but in fact, these intergenerational effects are often very much alive for many populations.

In the last few years, calls to action such as “decolonize the workplace” or “decolonize healthcare” are more and more common. But what are they really encouraging? And more importantly, who do these calls to action speak to?

Several formerly colonized cultures


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