Slideshow Banner4 WHAT we do

Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Central Mindanao Team conducted a Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law orientation for a total of 27 Philippine National Police Police and another for 25 Police personnel on the following day. October 13, 2014, General Santos City.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).

Read more: Nonviolent Peaceforce Strengthens Human Rights Protection

Hopeinaforgottenland3An old platitude about the conflicts in Mindanao traces it back to one of the most basic commodities of men: land. Just a few hectares of corn, rice or sweet potato ensure the livelihoods of several families or communities. Land is a gift given from one generation to the next. And in case of the indigenous tribes of the Southern Philippines, land is not only the material expression of the people’s lives, but also a token from nature, and thus a precious part of earth itself.

Read more: Hope in a Forgotten Land

DorisBorIn August, I made my second trip to South Sudan, spending two weeks with our field teams and meeting with international donors. It was heartwarming to hear first hand from everybody of the high regard with which Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) is held in South Sudan. This is reflected in the significant expansion of funding from donors and the rapidly enlarging footprint, making us the country’s most significant protection agency. Our staff now measures 135 people from 25 countries – our own “United Nations” (UN). 

Read more: We are Family

WPT with peace flagsThe formation of Women’s Peacekeeping Teams (WPTs) is an important part of NP’s programming in South Sudan. In various communities where NP is based, NP supports the development of teams of roughly 10 women who work to support each other and their community on protection issues that target women. Specifically, issues that women are in a unique position to improve. NP helps to create the space for the women to begin their work, builds capacity and confidence – but the inspiring and life-changing work is done by the women on the teams. This was demonstrated once again during the recent visit of Country Director Tiffany Easthom to the WPTs that NP supports in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Read about her visit:

Read more: NP’s Women’s Peacekeeping Teams incorporated into South Sudan communities

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.

20140816 110419 resized 1We are proud to announce, that Mukesh Kapila, Nonviolent Peaceforce Board Member and Senior Advisor in South Sudan will be in the Twin Cities on November 20th. During his presentations Mukesh will be speaking about his work with Nonviolent Peaceforce and his book “Against a Tide of Evil.” Please join us at any of the following events: 

Read more: Mukesh Kapila: The Man Who Blew the Whistle on the First Mass Murder of the Twenty-First Century

Photo 1: Nzara NP staff with beneficiaries and county authorities during the distribution of bicycles and satellite phones.John Boul has been with Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) in South Sudan since the country program began operating in 2010. He joined NP as a national protection officer on South Sudan’s first field team, based in his home area of Mundri in Western Equatoria state. The time John spent as a member of that team laid the foundation for his future role as a team leader for NP. This is John’s journey from being a national protection officer to becoming Nonviolent Peaceforce’s first South Sudanese team leader.

In 2011, NP posted a job opening for the position of senior national protection officer in a new field site located in Nzara. Nzara is on the opposite side of Western Equatoria state from Mundri, near the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR). Nzara experienced conflicts related to cross-border activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) operating in the area. NP “needed a senior person to go set the system,” as John described the process of establishing a new team and setting up programming. John applied, was interviewed, and got the position. The Nzara team began its work in April 2011. It was an easy transition for John to go from working in his home community to working outside of it. This was partially due to the activities he had been doing within NP, such as traveling to Juba to receive training in child protection.

In February 2012, John was promoted within the Nzara team to Conflict Early Warning Early Response (CEWER) Coordinator. Before joining NP, John did not have experience in CEWER. It was one of his teammates on the Mundri team, Michael Tanya, who led the CEWER programming for the team. In the process of leading Michael transferred his knowledge to John. As John recalls, “Michael is a Kenyan who had worked with NP in the Philippines. He did CEWER there. He brought enough ideas and was able to teach the whole team.” Thanks to Michael, John was able to bring this knowledge with him to the Nzara team.

As CEWER Coordinator in Nzara, John (under the supervision of the team leader) was responsible for implementing all of the team’s CEWER programming at the field level. “It was one of the projects I implemented without headache,” John explains. “It was all in my hands to make the plan for the whole year.”

Nzara NP staff with beneficiaries and county authorities during the distribution of bicycles and satellite phones.The program included training for community stakeholders in CEWER, distribution of satellite phones in remote locations, and distribution of bicycles to those in the community responsible for sharing information about security. These communities were then able to reach other areas more efficiently with information about security. As part of this system, a technical team of four community leaders was formed at the county level. This way information received from the payams (regional areas that make up a county) could be filtered through the technical team.

Once the technical team collected information, they decided whether to send it to NP or if different action needed to be taken. Even though the Nzara project has now closed and NP has left the area, John is confident that “the early warning system has not ended.” It is always NP’s goal for communities to have this kind of ownership over programming. This way the communities continue being better able to protect themselves after NP leaves the area.  

Before his promotion, upon his arrival in Nzara, John started taking on more responsibility. Whenever the team leader was away John would serve as acting team leader. “It became like a normal thing to me,” John says of that time. John credits his team leader in Nzara, Joyce Langiwe, with preparing him for the leadership role. “The team leader began really building me up,” he shares in reflection. Sometimes she would have him work on the tasks of a team leader, such as writing the monthly report. This allowed him to gain experience handling the responsibilities required of a team leader; while the current team leader was still in place to support him. When Joyce left in July 2013, John was made interim team leader. His position was made permanent soon after.

John appreciates the technical expertise and management experience that working with NP afforded him and which helped prepare him for his leadership position. However, John is also aware that he worked hard to prepare himself for leadership as well. As he puts it, “I also picked up courage to do things. I started coming up.” John has seen how leadership style and ability can be shaped by a person’s family background, their educational opportunities, and the choices a person makes to learn and grow. One of the choices John made for himself was in 2012 to begin working towards a degree in Peace Studies and International Relations through South Sudan Christian University. He hopes to finish next year.

John talks about the confidence he feels in different aspects of his work after four years with NP, such as functioning in an inter-cultural setting, or meeting with high-level leaders. “I don’t fear. I know how to play it.” John would like to see NP do more capacity building and training in management and leadership for the staff; as he had such a positive experience undergoing such opportunities. He thinks NP should look for “other chances for training staff on management, to become good leaders, strengthening [them] more.”  

Though the Nzara field site has closed, John’s time with NP and the impact he has on the organization continues. Next he will be bringing his expertise in Child Protection in Emergencies programming to NP’s Yida team in Unity state. At the recent team leaders meeting in Juba, he shared some of his perspective on good leadership. There he challenged all of the other team leaders to reflect: “Sometimes we may call ourselves leaders. But are you really leading? Or are you ruling?” NP is fortunate that in John Boul, the organization has found a true leader.

Chin Ceasefire Monitoring Team Participants with NP Trainers Shadab Mansoori, Country Director, fourth from left front and Paul Fraleigh, Senior Program Manager. Recently, Nonviolent Peaceforce representatives traveled from Myanmar’s hot and humid capital Yangon to the cool and dry Chin State capital, Hakha. Hakha is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas in north western Burmato. The representatives travelled to this area to provide a 13-day training on civilian ceasefire monitoring.

This was the first such training given to most of the participants, numbering approximately 40. For some participants this was the first training ever attended.

“It took me four days to come to this training and I am happy I did. I learned a lot. The trainers were very knowledgeable and the training very interactive,” said a village monitor.

Chin State, dominated by ethnic Chin, is relatively isolated from Yangon though it maintains close connections with India to the west. It does not have an airport and to reach Hakha from Yangon requires a two-hour flight. This is followed by a (minimum) six-hour drive along a thin winding road prone to landslides. During rainy season, approximately from June to September, it is very difficult if not impossible to access the majority of the state. The topography, while stunningly beautiful, present’s unique challenges to the work of monitors as do communications – not all areas have reliable mobile coverage. It is also the poorest state in Myanmar. In 2005, the United Nations estimated the poverty rate to be over 70%.

“Chin State has been ignored for a very long time. We need development here to help our people and for this we need peace. This training helped me understand the process of getting there and how I as a village ceasefire monitor can play a part in this process,” said a township ceasefire monitor coordinator.

Chin Peace and Tranquility Chairman with Nonviolent Peaceforce's Paul Fraleigh at End of Training Ceremony. The project which entails setting up civilian ceasefire monitoring mechanisms with over 70 township and village-level monitors in two states is being implemented in partnership with NP in Myanmar’s local partner, the Shalom Foundation. The mechanism in Chin state will be operationalised under the Chin Peace and Tranquillity Committee, a group composed of Chin Christian pastors and leaders. This group has played a significant role in bringing together the Chin National Front and the Myanmar Government to the negotiation table. They were instrumental in forging the 2011 ceasefire agreement.

The training consisted of three broad modules:
1) core concepts, which underpin the work of civilian ceasefire monitoring, such as nonpartisanship, nonviolence and the necessity of engaging all stakeholders to the conflict;
2) human rights and international humanitarian law, which provide a legal framework for ceasefire monitoring; and,
3) the technicalities of ceasefire monitoring (e.g. how and what to monitor) which requires an in depth analysis of the actual ceasefire agreement.

This training is only a first step. The monitors will need constant follow-up and support in order to make them as effective and secure as possible - in helping build a robust, responsive and inclusive ceasefire monitoring mechanism.