Over the past seven years Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) has become a key actor in Mindanao, known for working alongside local peace and human rights workers in the most vulnerable, conflict-affected communities. In 2010, NP was invited by the peace panels of the Government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process - to become a member of the Civilian Protection Component (CPC) of the International Monitoring Team (IMT).
The IMT is the mechanism is in charge of monitoring the ceasefire and overseeing humanitarian and human rights initiatives in Mindanao. As a component of the IMT, the CPC is in charge of protecting the safety and security of non-combatants throughout the peace process. This entails, amongst other tasks, monitoring the conflicting parties’ compliance to international human rights and humanitarian law. The CPC is comprised of three local civil society organizations and NP (the only international non-governmental organization serving as a part of this structure). Members of this team actually workand live in conflict-affected communities.
“NP’s field presence has really helped us bridge divides created by conflict and even strengthen our links with local institutions, including the Commission on Human Rights, a key factor in creating a robust and resilient civil society.”, said local civil society partner, Abdulbasit Benito, Executive Director, Bangsamoro Center for JustPeace.
NP in the Philippines’ field teams conduct an average of 366 monitoring patrols in Mindanao each year as a part of its work under the CPC. Further, the teams engage and work alongside some 305 local ceasefire and human rights monitors annually. Regular trainings are conducted with local partners and oftentimes, with the Commission on Human Rights. These trainings are often given to key security actors including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and the MILF (see photo).
"NP in Mindanao has been a source of hope and security for conflict-affected communities. NP empowers and brings the voice of communities to people and groups that matter. NP's integrity, sincerity, independence and commitment to human rights and peace is widely recognized,” said Attorney Benedicto Bacani, Executive Director at NP’s local civil society partner, the Institute of Autonomy and Governance (IAG).
NP maintains eight offices across conflict-affected Mindanao and, in conjunction with its role in the CPC, continues to implement other human rights-related activities across its area of responsibility. For example, since 2011, NP has worked in partnership with United Nations Children’s Rights & Emergency Relief Organization (UNICEF) to monitor, verify report and respond to the six grave child’s rights violations. To this end, NP’s teams average 65 child protection trainings, for approximately 2900 participants. The teams also also conduct an average of 390 field trips to monitor, verify or follow-up on reported child’s rights violations each year.
NP works in close collaboration with local partners to establish and strengthen protection structures in communities prone to human rights violations. The current network of community-based monitors in NP’s area of responsibility in Mindanao consists of 34 structures, covering 127 vulnerable barangays (villages) in 35 municipalities across Central and Western Mindanao. These structures are supported in conjunction with 22 local civil society partners and more than 1000 trained volunteer monitors. NP teams provide an average of 41 trainings for approximately 3000 participants each year- in order to establish and strengthen these local mechanisms.
By Paul Fraleigh, Nonviolent Peaceforce Country Director in the Philippines