10:00—11:30 AM Washington DC time

Who Represents Whom? Decolonizing Humanitarian Governance

Read more on our paperShifting Power in Humanitarian Nonprofits: A Review of 15 NGO Governing Boards and blog: Decolonizing the Humanitarian Nonprofit Sector: Why Governing Boards Are Key


  • Patrick Saez, Senior Policy Fellow, Center for Global Development


  • Rose Worden, Research Associate, Center for Global Development
  • Ratna Omidvar, Independent Senator for Ontario
  • Degan Ali, Executive Director, Adeso
  • Dylan Mathews, CEO, Peace Direct
  • Lena Bheeroo, Engagement and Equity Manager, Bond


  • Christine Sow, CEO, Humentum


The Black Lives Matter movement, #AidToo and the failure to support locally-led responses during Covid-19 have shone a spotlight on power imbalances in the humanitarian sector. Whether between large NGOs and local organizations, or crisis-affected populations themselves, there are limited ways for people to participate in decisions that affect them. Particularly for those on the frontline.

As part of a volunteer coalition, Humentum, a global nonprofit, has worked to establish a DEI benchmarking survey of US-based organizations across the humanitarian and development sector. The BRIDGE survey has captured a snapshot of diversity in US-based headquarters focused on the staff, leadership, head organization and board levels, as well as DEI policies and practices being undertaken in the sector.

The Center for Global Development (CGD) analyzes one aspect of this problem: membership of humanitarian NGO governing boards. Only 2 percent of board members of large international NGOs surveyed have lived experience in a humanitarian context. There is also a striking lack of inclusion in ethnicity and geographic diversity.

CGD and Humentum will bring together representatives from humanitarian NGOs, advisory groups, and the Canadian Government in this co-hosted event to share experiences and lessons learned as to why diversity and representation at governance level matter, and how to improve them. It will take stock of humanitarian governance today, signs of progress in the sector to improve representation and ideas for future reform.

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