By Adrianne Lapar.
Khameel sits on a piece of cardboard in a tent within northern Greece. We are literally a stone’s throw away from the border with Macedonia and far from Khameel's home in Iraq. But suddenly, his home doesn’t seem so distant when he leans in and tells me, “It’s like the conflict is following us.”
Khameel, a young Yazidi man from northern Iraq, has been displaced since August 2014, when the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL) seized his hometown of Sinjar. “Daesh took our girls from us,” explains Khameel, referring to ISIL by its Arabic acronym and referencing its sexual enslavement of thousands of Yazidi girls. Khameel, along with tens of thousands of other Yazidis, fled to the Sinjar Mountains, and hid there for about a week before trekking on foot to northeastern Syria. There, he and other Yazidis scraped by for about a week, relying upon the goodwill of Syrian Kurdish civilians, before making their way to Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
CONTEXT and History of NP in Myanmar
“This is not just the longest running civil conflict in the world but probably the most complex. The result is the most complicated peace process we’ve found anywhere. Trying to corral all these groups—18, 20 of them — with their different interests and identities into a single unified peace approach is extraordinarily difficult.”
-Derek Mitchell, former US ambassador to Myanmar
After more than 60 years of civil war, Myanmar has embarked on a path towards peace. In 2011 and 2012- the Myanmar government signed a series of bilateral ceasefire agreements with 14 out of the 17 largest ethnic armed groups.
Though these agreements increased security in parts of the country, they were not followed by meaningful peace talks to address the root causes of conflict.
In an attempt to negotiate a more meaningful multilateral ceasefire agreement various armed groups got together and formed the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) in November, 2013
October, 2015- After two years of negotiations, eight armed groups signed the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the Myanmar government.
One month later, the country welcomed its first democratically elected civilian-led government since 1962!
November, 2015-In line with the agreements in the NCA, a process towards the establishment of a formal ceasefire monitoring body, Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committees, was initiated in five States and Regions where EAOs and Government signed the NCA.
August, 2016- The newly elected government made the peace process a top priority and brought nearly all armed groups together at the first 21st century Panglong Peace Conference to initiate the long-awaited peace talks.
Despite signs of progress, there are major challenges ahead. Many armed groups chose not to sign the multilateral ceasefire agreement in 2015, they didn't feel that the process was inclusive enough. Civil society groups, and women in particular, have felt largely underrepresented.
Meanwhile, fighting in many parts of the country has picked up, making peace talks and additional ceasefire negotiations more difficult, eroding trust in the peace process, and impacting the lives and livelihoods of already vulnerable civilians.
Since 2011, armed conflict and inter-communal violence in Myanmar have displaced more than 240,000 people. Myanmar is also one of the countries at highest risk of natural disasters in Southeast Asia, with approximately 460,000 flood-affected people in need of humanitarian aid as of November 2016.
Agreement on the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, 2015
As Myanmar opened up and embarked on a peace process, state and civil society actors started to look for examples and models in neighboring countries. In 2010 and 2011 they visited the Philippines to learn more about the monitoring of the ceasefire agreement in Mindanao and had the opportunity to engage with Nonviolent Peaceforce.
In August of 2012, Nonviolent Peaceforce was invited by the Government of Myanmar and civil society organizations to support the country's peace process.
Since 2012 NP has supported local communities in establishing networks that monitor the impact of ceasefire violations and armed clashes on vulnerable civilians. By working with local partners, NP is able to provide training and technical assistance to civilian monitors in their own communities to:
Nonviolent Peaceforce also:
NP facilitates dialogue between civilian monitors and representatives of armed groups about the nationwide ceasefire agreement, Hpa An, Kayin State, 2015
STRATEGIES AND THEORIES OF CHANGE
Nonviolent Peaceforce envisions its application of Unarmed Civilian Protection to contribute to Myanmar’s peace process through the reduction of violence, the building of healthy relationships, and the mobilisation of grassroots initiatives. Nonviolent Peaceforce believes in:
Violence reduction: The participation of civilians in the ceasefire monitoring process encourages combatants to minimize violence against civilians. In the long run, we believe that the actual reduction of violence will increase confidence in the peace process and provide safer spaces for dialogue.
Healthy relationships: NP builds healthy relationships with all parties and encourages conflicting parties to address their needs without harming civilian. This models and promote the transition from a culture of war to a culture of peace and nonviolence in the early stages of a peace process. It allows for a smoother transition towards reconciliation.
Grassroots mobilisation: Mobilising civilians to monitor ceasefire agreements and responding to civilian protection concerns builds confidence among civil society and increases local ownership. A bottom-up, community driven initiatives will not only compliment top-down peacemaking initiatives, but influence them in a meaningful way. Civilian-led grassroots initiatives can increase the attention to civilian protection concerns among decision makers and create opportunities for the voices of vulnerable communities to be heard.
The spectrum of civilian ceasefire monitoring as presented by NP Myanmar
“To reiterate, it is important to highlight that perhaps the greatest contribution of this work will be the many civilians who have changed their beliefs and behaviours. They are becoming less governed by a ‘culture of fear’ and less limited by traditional roles. They are more accepting and promoting women’s leadership, and actively engaged in civilian protection. These are easy words to write, and very hard shifts to accomplish.”
Ellen Furnari, PhD, Transforming Matters, in her paper on the projects implemented by Nonviolent Peaceforce with the Karen Women Empowerment Group and the Gender and Development Institute Myanmar (Furnari, 2016, p.28).
Nonviolent Peaceforce's in Myanmar has:
External project evaluators have judged the efforts of NP and its partners to be a ‘highly relevant contributor to the peace process in Myanmar’.
"Before the training, we did not know how to engage actors, especially like Tatmadaw and KIO. But the training from NP helped us learn the ways to engage them and build our confidence. It is because of the skills and confidence we got from the trainings; we can now intervene and respond to cases of violence in our communities. I hope NP continues building our capacity and we in return continue protecting our communities"
– Township Coordinator, Momauk Township, Kachin CCM.
“In the past 3 days we learned a lot about the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. This is very important for peace. Before I attended this workshop, I felt like playing chess without knowing the rules of the game. But now I understand which way to go.”
- Liaison Officer of Ethnic Armed Organisation
Nonviolent Peaceforce in Myanmar has currently 10 staff members, coming from the Netherlands, Kenya, the USA, Nepal, and Myanmar.
NP staff members and local partner Karen Women Empowerment Group discuss the protection of women, Hpa An 2016
OUR LOCAL PARTNERS
NP has been working with the following local organizations:
Map of local partner organisations of Nonviolent Peaceforce that have established and are currently managing, overseeing, and/or supporting civilian monitoring networks in Myanmar (2016).
As an intern in the Nonviolent Peaceforce office in Minneapolis, Rachel Beecroft dreamed of being part of an NP field team. Now as Rotary Peace Fellow and graduate student at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, that dream will come true. She will join the NP Myanmar team for three months as she fulfills requirements for a degree a Master of International Relations majoring in Peace and Conflict Resolution. The Rotary Peace Center program emphasizes development of practical skills, including mediation and project development. The program explicitly explores the relationships between peacekeeping and peacemaking. Both of these fields involve not only what happens after a conflict, but also what happens before a conflict breaks out. Creating lasting peace requires developing a culture of peace, and in war-torn societies, entire generations know only violence. Changing those cultural norms requires a multi-pronged approach, and this program is helping her to develop and implement those multi-faceted solutions.
In June and July 2016, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) conducted an exploration in Southern Thailand to assess the situation and how NP could support the protection of civilians in the conflict-affected region. The following article discusses our findings.
The origins of violent conflict in South Thailand between insurgency groups fighting for independence in the Deep South and the Thai government can be traced back to at least the1960s. However, violence has intensified significantly since 2001. As with most contemporary violent conflicts, the dynamics are complex. The vertical conflict between the government and insurgents is further exacerbated by conflicts at a community level. Tensions exist between different religious and ethnic groups and there are rivalries within the same identity groups.
Civilians are deeply affected by the insecurity. Daily violence includes assassinations, bombings, roadside attacks, and arson attacks. People fear pursuing their daily activities, resulting in a loss of livelihoods.
In particular, schools and teachers are targeted, impacting children’s safety and access to education. More than 200 schools have been bombed or burnt down over the past 12 years and more than 182 teachers have been killed.