Winnie Byanyima (born 13 January 1959), is a Ugandan aeronautical engineer, politician, human rights activist, feminist and diplomat. She is the executive director of UNAIDS, effective November 2019. From May 2013 until November 2019, she served as the executive director of Oxfam International. She led the establishment of the African Union Commission’s Directorate of Gender and Development and also served as Director of Gender and Development at the United Nations Development Programme. She founded the Forum for Women in Democracy, an influential Ugandan nongovernmental organization, and has been deeply involved in building global and African coalitions on social justice issues. A global leader on inequality, Ms Byanyima has co-chaired the World Economic Forum and served on the World Bank’s Advisory Council on Gender and Development, the International Labour Organization’s Global Commission on the Future of Work and the Global Commission on Adaptation. Ms Byanyima is a recipient of several awards, including honorary doctorates from the University of the Free State, South Africa; University of Manchester, United Kingdom; and Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada. She was awarded the 2018 Human Rights and Solidarity among Peoples Prize by the Latin American Council of Social Sciences.
What do you think are the current challenges in the cooperation sector?
The world is facing multiple crises. The climate crisis which is threatening our existence on the planet. Extreme inequality. And the two are related, they are [….] Through which a few have become very rich and have captured political power and taken away the voice of people, crushing the democracy that existed.
We are also faced with intractable conflicts that cannot be resolved by the tools that exist within the United Nations. We are on the verge of a nuclear calamity with the use of weapons of mass destruction. This is a real possibility, whether by accident of by intent.
These crises cannot be resolved by any one country, they need global solutions. International NGOs were created at a time when international solidarity was focused on reducing poverty in the South, promoting democracy in the South and in the poor countries and later on to stop […] local efforts such as decolonisation and so on. But the model has remained that of a ritual delving [?], if I may say, a poor South. This model cannot work anymore.
First of all, the United Nations, which brings all nations together, is dysfunctional today, reflecting the world order of the post-Second World War, is unable to resolve problems and citizens united through the international NGOs cannot do much to change those structural faults within the global systems of governance. So, those are the challenges that we must address, that international agencies must address; they must transform themselves in order to call an influential transformation of the global system.
How to Address those challenges:
First, as I said, global international NGOs must transform themselves in order to challenge and influence the global system of governance. That transformation is about changing, shifting the power within the […] NGOs. That to me is also questioning how they raise their money. It will be very important for international NGOs to face the question of power inequalities between the North and the South. It is important that supporters from the North and the South come together in equality to challenge an unjust global system. That means that international NGOs must wean themselves off aid money, because aid is colonial and resources […]. International NGOs must seek to raise funding from the North and the South from people committed to transforming the global system of governance and […]. Also international NGOs must focus on the question of reforming the United Nations, because that is all we have. There is at least one body that bring all countries togethers in equality to challenge or to create the world of equality. The United Nations’ declaration on Human Rights binds us together to be equal in rights. We must defend that through a system of governance that puts that as a principle, whether it’s in economic management, climate management or management of crises, of conflicts. It is important that international NGOs position themselves as the voice of citizens, the legitimate voice of citizens, calling for the reform of global governance, strengthening global governance and making it work for all States in equality.