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.
With continuing armed fighting across the country and an upcoming transition in government, support to build peace is needed more than ever.
Both the government and the eight ethnic groups are setting up a network to monitor violations of the ceasefire agreement across four states. They’ve initiated a political dialogue to resolve the root causes of the civil war and the newly elected government has also pledged its support for nationwide reconciliation. However, some ethnic groups remain skeptical about the military’s ability to implement the ceasefire agreement and may choose to support ongoing armed fighting if they feel their groups’ needs are not being met. That is a why third-party network of civilians to monitor the peace agreement is so important.
Civilian participation increases confidence and a sense of ownership in the peace process. Furthermore, it allows a broader base of people to take part in the political dialogue and have their grievances addressed.
In 2013, Nonviolent Peaceforce and its local partner, the Shalom Foundation, began setting up a network of local civilians to monitor the ceasefire in two states. Inspired by the projects in these two states, local civil society organizations requested Nonviolent Peaceforce’s help to set up similar networks in four other states. Over the next couple years, Nonviolent Peaceforce’s work in Myanmar will continue to focus on strengthening peacekeeping efforts, expanding to areas that have been difficult to access previously and collaborating and sharing information across states to create a stronger network of civilians that are actively contributing to a peaceful society.