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Peace Direct releases guide to decolonising partnerships in humanitarian, development and peacebuilding sector

  • Published

    21 September 2023

LONDON, 27 September 2023 – Peace Direct, a leading peacebuilding charity dedicated to shifting power and resources to local practitioners, has published a new operational guide to decolonising partnerships in the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding sectors.

Transforming Partnerships in International Cooperation provides a clear, practical guide for civil society, donors, international NGOs and intermediaries in the sector. Based on consultations with 200 participants from 70 countries, the research offers comprehensive recommendations to transform every aspect of partnerships between entities in the Global South and North.

The guide highlights the major problems plaguing partnerships in their current form: too often, they are exploitative and transactional, undermining local actors’ value, agency and dignity and reinforcing colonial power imbalances. Not only does this impact Global South practitioners, but it undermines the sustainability of peacebuilding, development and humanitarian efforts.

Transforming Partnerships offers a credible way forward: an approach to building partnerships that are equitable and transformative for everyone involved. The guide emphasises the need to shift power and resources to local practitioners, and to rebuild partnerships with trust, humility, respect and mutuality. It finds that the future of partnerships in this sector depends on trust-building, open communication, flexible funding and the prioritisation of local ownership.

“Right now everyone is talking about equitable partnerships and yet no-one seems to know how to get there or what the essential components of equitable transformed partnerships might look like. Our report helps answers these questions. The local activists and groups who took part in our consultations on partnerships were very clear what they wanted, as well as what is not working right now. This, I hope, will be a wake up call to all of us.” – Dylan Mathews, CEO of Peace Direct

These findings build on Peace Direct’s previous reports, Time to Decolonise Aid and Race, Power and Peacebuilding, which were published in 2021 and 2022 respectively. These reports highlighted the prevalence of systemic racism across the wider humanitarian, development and peacebuilding sector. In the years since their release, the sector has seen a significant increase in conversation about decolonisation, but not enough action.

Despite the numerous practical recommendations provided in the previous reports, some international NGOs and donors have complained of a lack of clarity on how to practically decolonise their work. Transforming Partnerships in International Cooperation has been created to ensure every organisation can find a path towards decolonisation.


Notes for editors:

  • The guide and its executive summary are available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish here:
  • Peace Direct is an international charity dedicated to creating a world free from violent conflict. We work in partnership with local people to end violence, shifting power and resources to help them build sustainable peace. Visit our website at
  • The report will be released by Peace Direct on 26 September 2023.
  • Peace Direct has multiple experts available for interviews and speaking events on this report and the topics it covers. Please see the list of speakers below and get in touch to set up interviews and events.


Jennifer Venis, Senior Communications Officer at Peace Direct:
[email protected]



Dylan Mathews, CEO of Peace Direct and co-author of Transforming Partnerships in International Cooperation.

Dylan has been Peace Direct’s CEO since 2015, but has been involved with the organisation since its inception. His commitment to supporting local organisations in the global south spans almost twenty years, during which time he has worked for a range of peacebuilding, international development and humanitarian organisations.

While working for the peacebuilding think tank Oxford Research Group, he authored ‘War Prevention Works’ which profiled the role of non-state actors in conflict prevention and resolution – a publication that helped launch Peace Direct in 2004. He is the editor of ‘Working with Conflict 2’ a practical toolkit for local peacebuilders, published in 2020. Dylan is the Vice Chair of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, a global peacebuilding network based in Washington DC.

Raaval Bains, Research Officer and co-author of Transforming Partnerships in International Cooperation.

Raaval is responsible for advancing Peace Direct’s research on decolonising systems across the sector. He co-drafted this report, and supported on the development of the two previous reports around this topic. He facilitates the key consultations used for the development of Peace Direct’s research reports in this area, and is a member of the internal Decolonising Systems Working Group. Raaval has previously worked on research projects that advocate for the decolonisation of secondary school education in the UK.

Dimitri Kotsiras, Research Manager.

Dimitri oversees Peace Direct’s broader research agenda, including coordinating all research projects, the online resource Peace Insight, and leading the Decolonising Systems project. He also leads Peace Direct’s work with the USAID-funded Stopping As Success project.

He has previously supported democracy strengthening programmes at Westminster Foundation for Democracy. He also acted as a researcher and campaigner with Crisis Action and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, and he previously worked at the United Nations reporting on the UN Security Council.


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