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Accepted Paper:

Leave No One Behind: The politics of performing “good” inclusion in development practice in Ghana  
Miriam Hird-Younger (Carleton University)

Paper short abstract:

The global agenda of “leave no one behind” guides expectations of “good” inclusive participation in development. Because inclusion is translated into techniques that are legible to donors, organisations are labelled as successful while the participation of the most marginalized remains unchanged.

Paper long abstract:

While participation of “the poor” has been a dominant approach in development for decades, current participatory approaches to aid center around including the most marginalized. This inclusivity agenda is referred to as “leave no one behind” under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The “leave no one behind” agenda frames participation in increasingly stringent moral terms where participation of “the poor” is insufficient, as the “right” kind of participation will reach “the most” marginalized. Based on ethnographic research with national Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that are implementing the SDGs in Ghana, I ask: how are NGOs fulfilling, navigating, and negotiating increasing expectations for “good inclusivity”? I argue that the top-down governance of NGOs through technical audit mechanisms results in a performativity of “good” inclusion for donors that is often exclusionary in practice and can hinder the systemic participation of the most vulnerable. The successful demonstration of the moral imperative that NGOs have “good” inclusion entails meeting the technical auditing processes of inviting women, people with disabilities, and youth to events and having disaggregated data to enumerate their involvement. This technical focus occludes a more bottom-up attention to the needs and voices of those deemed “marginalized.” Because NGOs are deemed successful at implementing inclusion if they meet the technical requirements, there is very little incentive to go further than reports, spreadsheets, and lists in order to transform development practice to be more accessible and create platforms for meaningful participation of these groups. The donor-centered performance of inclusivity by NGOs is, therefore, often exclusionary.

Panel Irre11
Humanitarian and development intervention: ethics and responsibility
  Session 1 Tuesday 30 March, 2021, -