Peacebuilding is in crisis. This year begun with wars burning in Gaza, Sudan, and Ukraine – not to mention less-covered but still deadly conflicts from Myanmar to Haiti. Worldwide, diplomatic efforts to end violence are failing while global militarisation continues to ramp up.

Despite the increasing complexity and duration of conflicts, and the critical role peacebuilding plays in interrupting these cycles of violence, financial resources for peacebuilding work are declining. The investments that do occur often do not end up supporting those who are most in need. According to PeaceRep, just 1 percent of international philanthropy is dedicated to peacebuilding – at a time when these investments have never been more essential.

The international donor conference in Belfast ‘Countering Violent and Polarisation: How Can Donors Help?’ organised by the Social Change Initiative brought together a collection of philanthropy leaders, and government donors to help philanthropy adapt to current needs and challenges by crafting a compelling narrative about its role, and positively shape pathways towards peace.

Having just completed an almost-two-year long mission in Ukraine with Nonviolent Peaceforce – an INGO specialised in Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) – I was eager to join the conversation. Two years into the response, many international actors are still limited in their operations with at-risk communities in de-occupied areas or in proximity to the frontline. Local humanitarian organisations, most of which are staffed by volunteers, remain at the forefront of emergency aid delivery and civilian protection. Yet, Ukrainian responders struggle to secure much-needed financial support – even while acting as crucial intermediaries for international NGOs and UN agencies.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), by early 2023 the number of aid organisations working in Ukraine had increased five-fold since the beginning of the invasion. More than 60 percent of these organisations are Ukrainian. Yet only 12 national NGOs directly benefited from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund (UHF) last year, while the bulk of the funding went to INGOs and UN agencies.

Although the UHF has tried to orient toward localising funding, they put lower priority on localisation commitments than on the overarching goal of allocating money to the responders best placed operationally. In addition, many of the most effective frontline responders and conflict mediators are often not eligible for the fund. This results in a situation where Ukrainian organisations, particularly the smaller-scale agile volunteer collectives, can only access the UHF through partnerships with eligible larger organisations.

Read the full article about international philanthropy and peacebuilding by Kristina Preiksaityte at Alliance Magazine.