Elana Aquino has 20 years of experience as a practitioner and academic in international development, diplomacy, and global peacebuilding with a portfolio of strategic and operational leadership and impact. She currently is the U.S. executive director at Peace Direct. Aquino has supported community-driven solutions for the return of South Sudanese internally displaced persons, and as a peacebuilding program officer, she supported locally-driven women’s empowerment initiatives that recognize women as crucial factors in solidifying peace. In Kenya, she was a researcher and then head of the key coordination secretariat between the government of Kenya and 17 international development agencies. She led the production of the national joint assistance strategy for Kenya, targeting her strengths of team facilitation, communications, website development, research, data and risk analysis, benchmarking best practices, and relationship building. She organized the first National Development Partnership Forum in Kenya co-chaired by the prime minister and the regional head of the World Bank, with key participation from regional United Nations agencies.
She is a fellow for both the International Career Advancement Program and the International Peace and Security Institute and a board member of Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation. As a child of immigrant parents from the Caribbean, she is passionate about global peacebuilding, conflict transformation, and poverty prevention and reduction.