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Shan State, Myanmar.

A few days before December 25th, violence broke out between two ethnic armed groups in the Northern part of Shan State. A girl from a local village was killed and three other civilians were injured during the conflict. Civilian monitors, trained by Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) and supported by local partner Shalom (Nyein) Foundation, responded to prevent further casualties. (Photo: Nonviolent Peaceforce trains a group of local monitors in Myanmar)

The monitors engaged both armed groups and negotiated a three-hour ceasefire to evacuate 300 civilians caught in the crossfire. They worked with community leaders from a local township, who lent them a few trucks to transport the civilians to a safe area. The monitors referred the injured civilians to local community based organisations, who ensured medical treatment. Approximately, 1,150 civilians have been displaced during these clashes and are taking shelter in monasteries and houses of relatives. During the clashes, clinics, farming equipment and civilian houses were destroyed.

Read more: Civilian monitors evacuate 300 civilians

Nonviolent Peaceforce’s work in Myanmar is at a crucial juncture because of a recent landmark election with Aung San Suu Kyi nominated as defacto leader of the country and the signing a nationwide ceasefire agreement. A historical transfer of power takes place as a civilian led government will take over the current military led government. In October, the nationwide ceasefire agreement was signed by eight ethnic groups and the government. Though not all ethnic groups in conflict with the government signed, it is a hopeful step towards ending a civil war that has lasted more than 60 years.

Read more: NP's Role During Historical Transition in Myanmar

1948 Myanmar (also known as Burma) gains independence from Britain. Civil wars break out almost immediately as ethnic people demand greater autonomy.

1962 Army general Ne Win stages a coup against the elected government and creates a one-party state. Civil wars continue. In subsequent years, some ceasefire pacts are signed, but conflict also continues in many areas.

1995 The military leaders had by then signed several ceasefire agreements with ethnic-armed organizations.

2008 A new constitution is introduced.

2009 The military leaders demand that all "ceasefire groups" transform into "Border Guard Forces" and accept the command of the Myanmar army. Many armed organizations refuse.

2009 Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi begins talks with Myanmar’s military leaders and is allowed to meet Western diplomats.

2010 Federal elections are held, which introduce the first civilian government. Twenty-five percent of the Parliament seats are allocated to the military.

2011 The Myanmar government starts a 3-phased peace initiative with ethnic groups (ceasefire, confidence-building and political dialogue, and agreement for eternal peace).

2012 By mid-2012, 13 groups across the country have signed bilateral ceasefire agreements with the government.

2013 Leaders of 17 ethnic armed groups establish a Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which will represent them in negotiations with a government peace negotiation team, the Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC).

2015 16 ethnic-armed organizations and the government sign a draft ceasefire agreement. Negotiations continue.

Read more: Profile of the Conflict in Myanmar

On 15 October, the government of Myanmar and eight Ethnic Armed Organizations signed a long-awaited joint ceasefire agreement. The event marked the culmination of more than two years of negotiations between the government and a consortium of Ethnic Armed Organizations. In the capital city of Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s President, the Army Commander-in-Chief, parliamentary leaders and the leaders of the eight Ethnic Armed Organizations signed the agreement in the presence of six international and 20 domestic witnesses.

Even though a number of Ethnic Armed Organizations that have been part of the negotiations have decided to not to sign the agreement at this time, it is an important step towards securing a just and sustainable peace in Myanmar. The signing of the ceasefire agreement opens the door to a political dialogue process, which aims to address the underlying causes of the armed conflict that has lasted more than 60 years in Myanmar.

Read more: Joint Ceasefire Agreement in Myanmar

In July and August, negotiators of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in Myanmar intensified their efforts to conclude a deal before the campaign season for the upcoming elections kicks off. During this same time, heavy monsoon rains poured down, causing widespread flooding around the country. Nonviolent Peaceforce is working in several states to support civilian ceasefire and protection monitoring mechanisms. Among these states, Chin has been the most severely affected by the floods and subsequent landslides. Some of the monitors and Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) partners halted their usual activities in order to respond to the situation and support relief efforts. Others were simply unable to continue or communicate their activities as landslides blocked the roads and internet connections were interrupted. Citizens in Yangon and other cities flocked the streets to collect donations in a display of solidarity with flood-affected communities.

While monsoon rains created havoc around the country, negotiators of the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) and the ethnic armed group’s Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) continued to address outstanding issues. They were able to reach an agreement on most of the provisions in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement text and excerpts of the text were released to the public in August. A Senior Delegation of ethnic leaders is expected to meet with the president and the commander in chief in September. During that time, they will work to finalize the National Ceasefire Agreement and discuss any outstanding issues.

Read more: Updates from Myanmar

By Ashish Pandey, Field Associate

15 June 2015

Learning about the history of the Mindanao Philippines conflictNonviolent Peaceforce (NP) in Myanmar facilitated a week-long exposure visit to Mindanao in the last week of May with representatives of the civilian ceasefire monitoring network in Mon State. The network was established by the Shalom Foundation, with the support of NP, in 2014. The objective of the visit was to learn from the experiences of the civilian ceasefire monitoring network in Mindanao; so that the monitors in Mon State can further strengthen their own network.

Min Aung Htoo, the Secretary of the Mon Civilian Ceasefire Mechanism (network), explained "Mon State, like Mindanao, has been affected by conflict for decades. A peace process is underway in Mindanao and local CSOs (civil society organizations) have contributed in ceasefire monitoring, thus complementing the formal ceasefire network. Therefore, with this visit, the participants want to learn from the Mindanao experience and see if any of this learning could be implemented in Mon State."

Currently, the government in Myanmar is negotiating a nationwide ceasefire deal with many ethnic armed groups with the aim of bringing an end to the decades-long conflict that has left thousands dead and millions displaced. In contrast, the peace process in Mindanao has matured through the years with the engagement of the key actors and civilians alike.

Read more: Civilian Monitors from Mon State, Myanmar, Learn Lessons about Civilian Ceasefire Monitoring in...

Midterm Review and Six-Month Planning Workshop

civilian ceasefire monitoringFrom January 5th to 7th, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) and its partner organization, the Shalom Foundation, held a three-day Midterm Review and Planning Workshop in Yangon, Myanmar, for representatives of the Chin and Mon State Civilian Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism Project. The workshop resulted in the creation of a six-month work plan that will strengthen the implementation of the Civilian Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism Project in Chin and Mon State, a project supported by the European Union.

Read more: Evaluating Civilian Ceasefire Monitoring in Chin and Mon State, Myanmar

Civilian Ceasefire Monitor WorkshopNonviolent Peaceforce (NP), together with its local partner organisation, the Shalom Foundation, conducted a three day workshop for civilian ceasefire monitors from Chin State from 23 to 25 of October 2014. The workshop, supported by the European Union, was a follow-up to a training conducted in the Chin State capital of Hakha in late spring of 2014. Nine people participated in the workshop, seven township monitors and two coordinators of the Civilian Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (CCMC) secretariat in Chin.

Read more: Strengthening Civilian Ceasefire Monitoring in Chin State

Ceasefire Monitoring TrainingNonviolent Peaceforce and its local partner, the Shalom Foundation, conducted a two day training in Mawlamyine, Mon State, from 25 to 26 September 2014. The training, supported by the European Union, was the second of two trainings that introduced the concept of civilian ceasefire monitoring to a selected group of candidate monitors from various townships around Mon State. For the participants these trainings were an opportunity to assess their interest and capacity in becoming a monitor, for the organisers they were an opportunity to identify suitable candidates and better understand the local context. Participants, for example, shared issues of concern among communities they represented, which allows the project to prioritise and streamline future monitoring efforts. 

While the training allowed civilians from Mon State to learn more about the current ceasefire process and ways in which civilians can support it, the training allowed the Shalom Foundation and the Civilian Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (CCMC) to hone their skills in conducting training on civilian ceasefire monitoring. Several sessions that NP facilitated in the first training, were now facilitated by either the Shalom Foundation or members of the recently established Committee. The CCMC will conduct additional training and awareness raising activities Ceasefire Monitoring Trainingin various townships in October before finalising the recruitment of the civilian ceasefire monitors for Mon State. It is envisioned that the civilian monitors will support the on-going efforts of the Ethnic Armed Groups (EAGs) and Government of Myanmar to protect the civilians.

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