Action is needed in the fight against systemic racism

June 11, 2020

This week, George Floyd’s funeral service was held in Houston, in the United States. The videos of his killing at the hands of police officers have ignited worldwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. From Cape Town to Minneapolis and from Sao Paolo to Amsterdam.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expressing their anger, rage, sadness and defiance as they demand justice for George Floyd and repeat that one phrase that is at the core of this citizen’s movement: Black Lives Matter. Racism continues to kill people and poison societies around the world, and change comes agonizingly slow – if at all. We have to acknowledge systemic racism and we have to take action to stop it – each and every one of us.

People Unlimited

Hivos fights all injustice, including racism, exclusion and marginalization. The struggle is never-ending. We stood with citizen movements in the past. And we continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with black communities, LGBTI communities, women and Indigenous Peoples in their fight against exclusion and the violence it too often leads to. As Ely Menendez, a black woman activist from Honduras has put it, “We don’t have to be the same to fight the good fight”.

We see that the mechanisms behind exclusion are eerily similar around the world and that they have devastating effects on people and societies. Everyone wants a better future for themselves and their children, but the chances society gives us are vastly unequal.

When we say “Hivos, People Unlimited” we share our conviction that all people are filled with potential and that human life in its many forms is valuable. Our individual differences lead to vibrant and resilient communities. Hivos continues to work towards fair, free and sustainable societies as we push to remove barriers to equal opportunities. We see it as our duty to share knowledge on the fight against exclusion across the globe. Nobody should be systemically excluded just because of the color of their skin.

Looking at ourselves

But despite our history and the tempting thought that Hivos sufficiently addresses racism, this moment calls for us to look at ourselves. As an international development organization, we aim our arrows at the countries where we work, but we tend to forget to voice our opinion in the fight against discrimination in Europe and the Netherlands, where we were founded. From now on, we will do this more often.

Hivos itself consists of an inspiring group of people in and from different countries and regions across the globe; from different backgrounds and convictions. And while we all share similar beliefs, we have to make sure we listen to all voices. We must ask ourselves: “Are we aware of the structures and mechanisms that cause marginalization within our own organization? Do we address them sufficiently internally and in our relations with the institutions and organizations we work with?” We have to answer those questions and we commit to scrutinizing our policies and practices.

There’s a momentum in society to fight racism and celebrate diversity and it prompts us to take action to assure equality, equity and justice.

We hope this moment will prove to be a defining one. We are optimistic when we see so many young people from all walks of life join forces and collectively raise their voices to say: Black Lives Matter – systemic racism needs to end.