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Phil Vernon

cropped-tweed-better-qual-head-phil-vPhil has been engaged in development, humanitarian and peacebuilding work for more than thirty years. He lived for several years each in Sudan, Lesotho, Rwanda, Mali, Ghana and Uganda. He returned to his native UK in 2004 and until 2017 was Director of Programmes at International Alert, a peacebuilding organisation. Since January 2018 he has been operating as an independent consultant, advising international organisations on peacebuilding, development and humanitarian actions. He remains an Associate of International Alert, and his CV can be found below.

His consulting assignments so far have included researching and writing a strategic assessment of the Horn of Africa for the UN; contributing to a UN conflict prevention strategy for the same region; designing initiatives to build peace in Ukraine, Syria and the Liptako-Gourma Triangle in the Sahel; drafting an approach for building resilience in the Lake Chad Basin; researching the impacts of local peacebuilding initiatives in a variety of contexts; developing conflict-sensitivity guidance for the EU, the UN and the World Bank in recovery situations; evaluating the conflict-sensitivity of several stabilisation projects in the DR Congo; and writing two policy guidance briefs on inclusive approaches in post-conflict transitions. He is currently engaged in the evaluation of a strategic grant awarded to two global peacebuilding and human rights organisations.

In 2010 he was the lead writer of Working with the Grain to Change the Grain: Looking Beyond the Millennium Development Goals, a critique of overseas development aid which proposed an alternative model of support to people in poor and fragile contexts, and which in many respects anticipated the Sustainable Development Goals agreed five years later. In 2015 he wrote Peace through Prosperity: Integrating Peacebuilding into Economic Development, which outlines a framework in which businesses and others can contribute to peace as an integral component of their plans. In 2017, International Alert published his account of why peacebuilding matters and needs more engagement and support today, Redressing the Balance.

He was a trustee of the charity Build Africa from 2005-2012, is a member of mining company BHP Billiton’s Forum for Corporate Responsibility, and is a trustee of International Training & Research Centre INTRAC. Phil has an MSc in Environmental Forestry, lives in West Kent and enjoys family, cross-country running and writing poetry – a few poems can be found on this site. A micro-collection, This Quieter Shore, was published in 2018 by Hedgehog press and can now be downloaded as a free pdf file. A full collection, Poetry After Auschwitz, is forthcoming from Sentinel Poetry in 2019, and he is treasurer of the Kent and Sussex Poetry Society. Email:


Curriculum vitae

Over thirty years development, peacebuilding and humanitarian experience, operational in diverse geographic contexts, and at organisational leadership and policy level

Services offered

  • Strategic analysis and programme design in peacebuilding and development, in fragile or conflict-affected contexts:
      • Background research and analysis
      • Organisational, thematic or country level strategy design
    • Programme and project design or adaptation
  • Implementation guidance, training and support for peacebuilding, development and humanitarian projects
  • Guidance on integrating conflict-sensitivity and peacebuilding into development and humanitarian programmes
  • Project and programme evaluation
  • Research on specific peacebuilding topics or contexts to inform policy and/or policy advocacy
  • Writing and editing
  • Advice to businesses on their societal relations, including how to operate in conflict-affected contexts, at policy or project level
  • Short-term interim management, and management/leadership advice.

Selected achievements over thirty years

  • Wrote or contributed substantively to proposals raising over $200 million, from all major institutional donors, covering peacebuilding, economic development and livelihoods, agriculture, health, education, governance, and basic humanitarian needs
  • Led the design of International Alert’s core peacebuilding methodology in 2009
  • Designed multi-year strategy for CARE in Mali (1996) and Uganda (2002), International Alert in Uganda (2008), and a joint strategy for International Alert, Search for Common Ground and International Crisis Group in Guinea (2008)
  • Designed International Alert advocacy strategies for influencing the European Union (2012) and African Union (2010)
  • Researched and drafted a sub-regional resilience-based UN strategic assessment for the Horn of Africa, and contributed to UN Horn of Africa Conflict Prevention Strategy (2018)
  • Devised and oversaw implementation of International Alert’s approach to advising the World Bank, UN and other international organisations in adopting appropriate approaches and policies in fragile and conflict-affected countries over several years
  • Devised and led CARE’s initial rapid humanitarian response in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide
  • Researched and wrote major published thematic papers for International Alert on:
  • Devised, helped write or edited many research reports while working for International Alert, and with a particularly hands-on role in:
  • Researched and wrote report on the impact of local peacebuilders around the world for Peace Direct and the Alliance for Peacebuilding, report published as summary, full version and internet site.
  • Oversaw International Alert’s advisory work with mining and oil companies for more than ten years, including Anglo American, Shell and Total; served as an advisor on mining and oil giant BHP Billiton’s Forum for Corporate Responsibility, 2010-present
  • Wrote commissioned internal paper for BHP Billiton: BHP Billiton’s contribution to society: completing the jigsaw, 2012
  • Helped establish and co-led Civil Society Organisations for Peace in Northern Uganda coalition between 2001 and 2004, which had a significant influence on bringing peace to Northern Uganda; researched and wrote the conflict analysis underpinning the coalition’s strategy
  • Advocated for and advised the UK and other donor governments on policy changes, through written contributions, public and private consultations, most recently as an external advisor on DFID’s Building Stability Framework (2016)
  • Wrote commissioned internal paper for DFID: Working with the Multinational system to integrate peace into economic development initiatives, February 2015
  • Presented at numerous public panels, training seminars etc. on a variety of topics including Peacebuilding, Climate Change, Conflict-sensitivity, Economic Development for Peace, Human Security, Ethics, Governance, Monitoring and Evaluation of Peacebuilding
  • Delivered training on conflict-sensitivity and peacebuilding to Dutch embassy staff in Yemen and Mali (2012)
  • Delivered training on peace and conflict trends for the UK Stabilisation Unit’s regular conflict training course, 2015-17
  • Held leadership positions in NGO projects, country offices, and organisationally, for thirty years, most recently as Director of Programmes for International Alert, 2004-17
  • Led the development of new ethical guidance for International Alert’s peacebuilding work (2017)
  • Leadership of organisational changes including
    • Rapid programme growth and improved strategy and accountability at International Alert
    • Integrating policy advocacy, peacebuilding and new partnerships alongside more traditional service delivery projects in CARE Uganda
    • Adopting good governance programming and new forms of partnership in CARE Mali
    • Responding to civil war and genocide in CARE Rwanda
    • Overhauled project approach in CARE Lesotho
    • Restructuring processes on several occasions throughout my career, most recently a major change in 2016
  • Researched the accountability of decision-makers in large international NGO CARE, as part of its change management process, 2004
  • Led International Alert’s six-year organisational programme of advocacy with donors, international agencies and companies, funded by DFID’s programme partnership arrangement
  • Served as a trustee of international development NGO Build Africa, and INTRAC, an international civil society capacity-building and advocacy NGO; and on the steering committee for the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office, and Civil Society Organisations for Peace in Northern Uganda
  • Worked long-term in Sudan, Lesotho, Rwanda, Ghana/Togo/Benin, Mali, Uganda
  • Provided strategy, programme design and implementation, and other advice and guidance to International Alert’s work in Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, DRC, Georgia-Abkhazia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Lebanon, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Pakistan, Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Rwanda, Uganda, Ukraine and the UK, and on thematic work linked to peace and conflict on climate change, conflict-sensitivity, gender, organised crime, preventing violent extremism, natural resources management and economic development


  • Forestry Diploma (1985) Scottish School of Forestry, Inverness, Scotland
  • MSc Environmental Forestry (1991) University of Wales, Bangor
  • Cambridge/Queensland Universities Advanced Social Management Programme (2013)


  • English – Mother tongue
  • French – Spoken: suitable for most professional situations. Reading: good. Written: suitable for memos, etc.


Since January 2018: Independent consultant

  • May-June 2020: reviewed peacebuilding relevance and impact of DFID-funded Forest Governance, Markets and Climate programme.
  • April – May 2020: drafted joint Swiss Government / ODI submission to the High-Level Panel on Displacement, on integrating displacement affected communities into peacebuilding processes.
  • April 2020: researched and wrote policy paper outlining how to adopt conflict sensitivity in strategy, in chronically divided contexts.
  • November 2019 – May 2020: evaluation of a strategic government grant to PAX and Amnesty International Netherlands (member of three person INTRAC team).
  • October-November 2019: conflict-sensitivity review of Netherlands-funded projects in the DR Congo.
  • August 2019: Wrote policy brief on inclusive livelihoods for consolidating peace in Nepal, for International Alert.
  • May-August 2019: Developed conflict-sensitivity guidance for the joint World Bank, EU and UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment process.
  • February – May 2019: Researched the impact of local peacebuilders around the world for Peace Direct and the Alliance for Peacebuilding, report published as summary, full version and internet site.
  • 2018-19: Providing ongoing advice to Peaceful Change Initiative in the development of project proposals in Ukraine, Libya and Syria, and strategic analysis.
  • October-December 2018: Contributed to a UN report into irregular African migration into Europe: Scaling Fences.
  • April – September, 2018: Researched and drafted a sub-regional resilience-based UN strategic assessment for the Horn of Africa, and contributed to UN Horn of Africa Conflict Prevention Strategy.
  • October, 2018. Wrote human security concept note for the Liptako-Gourma Triangle, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger.
  • June, 2018: Drafted background paper on Resilience in Lake Chad Basin for the September 2018 Berlin/Oslo II Conference.
  • February – April, 2018: Developing two public policy briefs on inclusion in political transitions and using gender to promote inclusion, for UK-based peacebuilding NGO Conciliation Resources.
  • January, 2018: Wrote a piece on the role of values in development aid to fragile and conflict-affected contexts, commissioned for the OECD’s 2018 States of Fragility report.
  • Various invited speaking appearances: on the role of business in peace and conflict at the Basel Peace Forum; on inclusive peace at the Commonwealth Round Table on Inclusive Peace, and the UK Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
  • January- March, 2018: Provided advice on project selection for a private charitable foundation.

2004-2017: Director of Programmes, International Alert (Acting CEO, August-November 2015)

  • Strategic direction, representation, staffing, budget and programme quality oversight, problem-solving and fund-raising for Alert’s thematic policy teams and geographic programming in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Caucasus.
  • Senior management team member and regular attendee at meetings of the Board of Trustees. Developed Alert’s peacebuilding methodology.
  • Led the development of Alert’s peacebuilding methodology, and peacebuilding ethics.
  • Programme budget quadrupled through growth in country programmes and adding new countries.
  • Led and fully engaged in policy advocacy on specific countries and themes, and more broadly to push conflict-sensitivity and peacebuilding with UN, World Bank, UK, EU, Dutch, other donors and international businesses.
  • Developed Alert’s EU and AU influencing strategies.
  • Wrote major policy reports: Working with the grain to change the grain: Beyond the MDGs (2010), Peace through Prosperity: Integrating peacebuilding into economic development (2015); Redressing the Balance: Why we need more Peacebuilding in an Increasingly Uncertain World (2017).

2000-2004: Country Director, CARE Uganda

  • Overall strategic direction and management of the Uganda operations of CARE International, a large global humanitarian and development agency.
  • Moved the country office from traditional development and humanitarian programmes to engage in rights-based policy advocacy and peacebuilding through partnerships.
  • Annual budget £4 million from multiple donors; 130 staff; project portfolio of development, peacebuilding and humanitarian projects in natural resource management; health; water/sanitation; agriculture; peace advocacy; micro-enterprise development.
  • Co-led the establishment of Civil Society for Peace in Northern Uganda, a successful advocacy coalition which influenced the Ugandan government’s and the international community’s posture towards conflict in Uganda.
  • Advised senior global management on CARE’s re-alignment in 2003-4.

1998-2000: Programme Coordinator and Deputy Country Director, CARE Togo/Ghana/Benin

  • Overall programme co-ordination, project design, fundraising, etc., in all three countries (plus country leadership responsibilities for CARE-Ghana).
  • Management of portfolio in three countries including micro-finance, environment, agriculture, sub sector analysis, basic education, urban programming and reproductive health.
  • Supervised teams across borders.
  • Represented CARE with civic society, governments and donors.

1995-1998: Programme Coordinator and Deputy Country Director, CARE Mali

  • Project design and donor negotiation, and the ongoing supervision, reporting, and evaluation of a portfolio of a dozen projects including livelihood security, peacebuilding, community health, environment, agriculture, institutional capacity building, adult literacy and village water supply.
  • Represented CARE at round tables, co-ordination meetings, etc. Approved budgets, financial transactions and reports; deputized for Country Director.
  • Led long range strategic planning process, and wrote CARE Mali’s five-year strategic plan, involving a major shift in approach from direct project implementation to institutional strengthening of local partner organizations doing advocacy, as well as internal changes such as the adoption of organizational core values, improved monitoring and evaluation, and improved human resources management and supervision skills.

1994-1995: Assistant Country Director for operations, CARE Mali

  • Co-ordinated country office operational support in Bamako and five remote sub-offices, including CARE’s own vehicle repair garage.
  • Wrote administration, human resources and procurement policy manuals.
  • Approved financial transactions and reports; produced annual budgets; revised procedures and organogram; designed and introduced a new performance management system for 250 staff; installed e-mail system; deputized for Country Director.

April-September 1994: Rwanda Disaster Operations Coordinator, CARE Rwanda

  • Wrote situation analysis paper at the time of the genocide.
  • Conducted needs assessment, then designed, obtained funding for, established and managed CARE’s relief programme in RPF-held northern Rwanda, starting with cross-border operations based in Uganda, before re-establishing CARE’s country office in Kigali in complex circumstances.

1992-1994: Projects Manager, CARE Rwanda

  • Managed two forestry/agroforestry projects in northern Rwanda.
  • Advised government on policy changes for participatory forest management. Designed an agroforestry project in southern Rwanda.
  • Designed, negotiated funding for, and managed an emergency project for fuel supply, fuel conservation and environmental rehabilitation in camps for internally displaced persons.

1988-1990: Manager, Community Forestry & Agricultural Management Project, CARE Lesotho

  • Responsibilities included planning and reporting, budgets, procurement, staff supervision, donor and local government contacts, and training.
  • Project activities involved assisting rural women’s groups to establish commercial fruit tree nurseries and market gardens.
  • Completely redesigned project to ensure sustainability.
  • Advised government on agroforestry and forestry policy. Researched and wrote CARE Lesotho strategic analysis.

1987-1988: Forester, Kordofan Agroforestry Extension Project, CARE Sudan

  • Responsible for the technical and community development aspects of a project which helped farmers restore their drought-depleted Gum Arabic-based (Acacia senegal) farming and livelihood system.

1985-1987: Volunteer forester (Voluntary Service Overseas).

  • Attached to the Eastern Region Refugee Reforestation Project in Sudan, planned and managed re-planting 2,000 hectares of acacia forest using large numbers of Eritrean and Ethiopian refugee labourers, as well as agroforestry extension and training with Sudanese villagers. Lived in small Sudanese village for two years.

1976-1985: Worked in agriculture and forestry in England and Scotland, initially as a farm worker, later as a self-employed forestry contractor.


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