Since the 1970s, ‘partnership’ has been an aspiration for relationships amongst non-governmental organizations involved in international development (NGDOs). Unfortunately, NGDOs have shown little ability to form equitable relations, or true partnership, amongst themselves. The first part of this article examines why. The new policy agenda for international aid emphasizes contract-based relationships which will make real partnerships even more difficult to achieve. The second part of the analysis argues that trust-based authentic partnerships remain vital for development, and outlines some steps that NGOs might take towards forming them. In the long term, however, NGDOs must radically rethink their roles, which calls for a transformation from intermediaries in a funding chain to facilitators of international co-operation between the diverse groups which comprise civil society. NGDOs unwilling to take this step could be classified as hypocrites if they continue to employ the term ‘partnership’ for what is essentially old wine in re-labelled civic bottles.