Civil Peace Service: Conflict transformation and peacebuilding in Mindanao
Title: Civil Peace Service (CPS): Conflict transformation and peacebuilding in Mindanao
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Civil Peace Service Group
The Mindanao island group in the southern Philippines is regarded as the country’s structurally weakest and least developed region. The uneven distribution of land and resources in this group of islands, as well as the discrimination against and marginalisation of large sections of the population, are factors that contribute to various violent conflicts. Armed clashes between the Philippine Government and various rebel and separatist groups have been ongoing for decades. A large number of conflicts also exist between ethnic groups, clans and families, some of which harbour considerable potential for violence.
The decades-long conflicts between the Philippine Government and the Maoist New People’s Army (NPA) as well as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are particularly significant for the nation as a whole. The MILF is fighting for the broad independence and self-determination of Mindanao’s Muslim minority. In the conflict between the government and the MILF in particular, the two parties have undertaken efforts in recent years to settle their dispute and reach a sustainable peace agreement. In March 2014, an agreement was signed which governs the gradual creation of the Bangsamoro Muslim Autonomous Region . A bloody incident in 2015, generally regarded as a turning point in the peace process, brought the legal adoption and political implementation of the agreement largely to a standstill. Implementation of the peace agreements was further advanced under President Duterte’s new government in 2016. Passage of an ‘enabling law’ to create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is still pending, however. The uncertain political situation surrounding Bangsamoro is deepening the historical mistrust of the government and preventing a political solution to the long-term conflict. Extremist groups are capitalising on this and gaining strength – as exemplified by the violent occupation of the city of Marawi in May 2017.
Communities affected by conflicts use the potentials of local institutions (particularly in the future Bangsamoro region and surrounding areas) for non-violent conflict transformation. They identify violent conflicts early, prevent them from escalating and thereby strengthen their general resilience.
Marginalised groups, particularly members of indigenous communities, know their rights and the administrative bases in the context of conflicts over resources. They are capable of reasonably asserting and representing their own rights and interests.
The people in north-western and central Mindanao address controversial issues in the context of the Bangsamoro peace process in dialogue forums and at information events. They are aware of the causes and impacts of conflicts, are informed about progress made and challenges encountered in the peace process, and are familiar with possible non-violent solutions to newly erupting conflicts.
Civil society and governmental institutions and organisations (especially in the planned Bangsamoro region and surrounding areas) help to advance the process of transitioning to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in a proactive and conflict-sensitive manner.
The Civil Peace Service (CPS) experts advise the partners in Mindanao and support them in planning and implementing peacebuilding projects. They work together with the governmental and civil society partners to strengthen the communities’ abilities to promote peace, establish dialogue and improve legal certainty. To achieve this they cooperate with the Forum Civil Peace Service (forumZFD) in the context of a joint CPS strategy.
The CPS also cooperates with the Conflict-Sensitive Resource and Asset Management (COSERAM) programme, which GIZ is implementing on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Joint meetings, both with forumZFD and within GIZ, reinforce the substantive and strategic interplay between the approaches and their results.
CPS projects have created dialogue spaces in which the local population can address security-relevant matters together with local government entities, civil society organisations and representatives of the local security sector in an inclusive and multi-dimensional manner. They apply acquired knowledge to perform non-violent conflict management and conflict-sensitive action. At the same time, they work to address local conflicts at an early stage while promoting partnerships with decision-makers.
The long-term advice and support received from the CPS experts have prompted the indigenous communities of the Mamanwas in the Caraga region to form a supra-regional organisation for the first time. This has enhanced their constructive influence on national and local socio-political decision-making processes. It also promotes the cooperation with the national government agency NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous People), which is responsible for protecting and furthering the interests and welfare of indigenous peoples while respecting their beliefs, customs, traditions and institutions.
Projects promoted by the CPS support the indigenous communities’ positioning on peace policy in the public discourse on peacebuilding processes through consultations and dialogue platforms across Mindanao. Overall, 120 traditional leaders of 20 indigenous communities of Mindanao have been involved in the internal organisation of the indigenous peoples and in the strategic discussion on the design of the peace processes. A further 370 participants belonged to other indigenous communities or to Christian or Muslim population groups.
The CPS supports the peace process between the Philippine state and the MILF by linking actors in the peacebuilding process, involving disadvantaged and marginalised groups, and promoting dialogue at all levels of society. The object of the support is promotion of political participation and relations between the diverse groups and social levels. Individual examples illustrate the specific influence of dialogue events on decision-making processes. For example, the recommendations developed by marginalised voices at local and regional level in the Lanao regions have been integrated into the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) of 2016.