Sustainable Peace through International Conscious Presence
Posted on 3 Sep 2008 by:Nonviolent Peaceforce [NGO]
Location: Mindanao, Philippines
Topic: Sustainable Development
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The presence of NP in the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Post (JCMP) streamlined Civilian Protection issues in the ceasefire mechanism structure between Government Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and directly contributed to prevent the incidences of violence between the armed groups as well as minimized the occurrences of rumors and facilitated the local villagers to stay in their communities instead of evacuating.
NP spent considerable amount of time to secure legitimacy and acceptance from the local conflict actors, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and local communities. NP partner CSOs facilitated NP to connect with all the stakeholders and helped in identifying the critical areas where presence of International Civilian Peacekeepers along with local peace advocates would directly contribute to prevent the occurrence of violence and would consolidate the role of local CSOs to maintain peace in their respective areas.
NP created a new precedent as being the first International NGO which opened up a field office in the middle of conflict zone in Maguindanao province and deployed international staff there as unarmed civilian peacekeepers. The NP full time presence in that area considerably improved the security situation in the vicinity of NP office. In the month of December 2007 clashes started at a distance of 7kilometers from NP field site between local paramilitary groups and some of the independent commanders of MILF which aggravated the security situation in the whole area and forced hundreds of families to evacuate. As of NP?s proactive presence in the area, the GRP MILF CCCH invited NP to monitor the civilian protection issues in the affected area and later NP main office was requested to join the mediating group of GRP MILF CCCH and IMT to resolve the conflict between local government units/paramilitaries and MILF commanders. NP main office and field office participated in the joint mediating delegation which managed to secure a temporary breakthrough and as a result it was decided to create a new Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Post (JCMP) in the middle of conflicting armed groups. The NP was categorically requested by GRP MILF CCCH to place NP staff in the JCMP post along with local monitors to do Interpositioning and provide Conscious International Presence.
On the basis of categorically pronounced GRP-MILF CCCH invitation to NP to make visible international presence to mitigate the gravity of the situation, NP decided to deploy it?s international and local staff in the newly created JCMP in Balanaken, Datu Piang Maguindanao. Although NP had scarcity of both logistical and human resources but because of the sensitivity of the situation, NP decided to maintain full time presence initially and maintain random presence as the security situation improves.
NP along with local monitors spent overnights in the monitoring post and made foot patrols in the critical areas and maintained links with the armed groups. NP teams as of its mandate, connected with the civilians who evacuated and were afraid to come back to their villages. Other than connectivity with the villagers, the continuous high visible presence of
NP vehicles and uniformed staff made the local residents feel safe to come back to their villages. There were several occasions of increase in the number of paramilitaries in the checkpoints which created panic among the local residents and alerted the opposite armed groups but such situation were controlled through rapid response of NP teams along with local monitors.
What is innovative about this approach/tool/project
In the contemporary realities, it is quite unfathomable for international organizations to deploy their international staff to live and work in the middle of conflict affected areas. But Nonviolent Peaceforce has made it possible through its international unarmed civilian peacekeeping force which is well trained in nonviolent intervention techniques and methodologies and has proved that civilian peacekeeping through international conscious presence is a more powerful, vibrant and effective tool to prevent violence, strengthen the role of CSOs, providing protection to the conflict affected communities and creating credible spaces for dialogue at the lowest level. In the history of Mindanao, Nonviolent Peaceforce is the first international non-governmental organization which has opened up its field office in the middle of conflict affected areas and deployed its international staff on full time basis. The uniqueness of Nonviolent Peaceforce is to focus more on grass roots peacekeeping in the areas which are the flash points and from where the conflict has the tendency to start or escalate and take a snow ball effect. The international presence at the lowest community level in the conflict prone areas creates high deterrence which compels the armed groups to be more careful to commit any kind of violence. Because of this unique, nonpartisan and nonviolent approach, NP gained acceptance, legitimacy and credibility not only from the CSOs and communities but also from the key parties in the conflict.
Evidence of results and impact
The continuous conscious international presence by NP teams contributed to maintain peace and prevent the occurrences of violence between conflicting parties. It minimized the incidences of civilian evacuations and in return brought more stability in the daily lives of local population. NP earned credible trust and confidence from all the stakeholders in the peace process which is reflected by regular requests from key parties in the conflict to NP offices and regular visits by the communities to NP premises. The parents and teachers in the Balanaken area approached NP and thanked NP for continuous presence because it helped the schools to stay open and the businesses to continue without any disruption. The NP presence helped other international organizations to regularly visit the conflict areas and NP field offices. The presence of NP in the conflict prone areas extends a sense of security to the local communities that no armed clashes will take place as long as NP is around. The Nonviolent Peaceforce has been requested by GRP MILF CCCH to place NP staff in other joint ceasefire monitoring posts and to bring more international staff.
Costs associated with the development and implementation of the activity; and Contact information.
The annual budget of one NP field office is approximately 130,000.00 USD having three international and three national staff.
Atif Hameed, Project Director