Addressing power asymmetries in global health: Imperatives in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.25 June 2021
Summary points The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Black Lives Matter and Women in Global Health movements, and ongoing calls to decolonise global health have all created space for uncomfortable but important conversations that reveal serious asymmetries of power and privilege that permeate all aspects of global health. In this article, we, a diverse, gender-balanced group of public (global) health researchers and practitioners (most currently living in the so-called global South), outline what we see as imperatives for change in a post-pandemic world. At the individual level (including and especially ourselves), we emphasise the need to emancipate and decolonise our own minds (from the colonial conditionings of our education), straddle and use our privilege responsibly (to empower others and avoid elite capture), and build “Southern” networks (to affirm our ownership of global health). At the organisational level, we call for global health organisations to practice real diversity and inclusion (in ways that go beyond the cosmetic), to localise their funding decisions (with people on the ground in the driving seat), and to progressively self-decentralise (and so, divest themselves of financial, epistemic, and political power). And at both the individual and organisational level, we emphasise the need to hold ourselves, our governments, and global health organisations accountable to these goals, and especially for governance structures and processes that reflect a commitment to real change. By putting a spotlight on coloniality and existing inequalities, the COVID-19 pandemic inspires calls for a more equitable world and for a decolonised and decentralised approach to global health research and practice, one that moves beyond tokenistic box ticking about diversity and inclusion into real and accountable commitments to transformative change.