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Attentive Audience Lamud OrientationNonviolent Peaceforce (NP) is in a unique position to observe the coming transition period in Mindanao and the Bangsamoro in the Philippines. NP serves as a layer between armed forces on the ground and higher-level mechanisms overseeing the peace process. These armed forces on the ground include the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), while the higher-level mechanisms include the International Monitoring Team and the peace panels of the GPH and MILF. Through community acceptance and excellent contacts, NP will continue to engage both the Philippine Army and MILF in awareness-raising initiatives related to international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights (HR).

Read more: NP Trainings on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Make Positive Impact in the...

Illustration courtesy of mediatEUr. During the period of March – April 2014, a member from mediatEUr and another member from the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) conducted a study on the effectiveness of NP’s work within the Civilian Protection Component (CPC) of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in the Philippines. The IID is a reputable and recognized organization based in the Philippines with strong connections with people within the community. The report focuses on NPs CPC work through several evaluation lenses including:

  1.  Intended results and outcomes of program as articulated in project proposals to Norway and the EU during 2012-2013
  2. The reflecting of Peace Practice Criteria of Effectiveness in Peacebuilding
  3. Conflict- sensitivity
  4. A gender lens- to asses the extent the program applies a gender sensitive approach
  5. The OECDs criteria for evaluating conflict prevention and Peacebuilding programs

The main findings of the evaluation field mission are categorized into topics including; relevance, effectiveness, impact and sustainability. NPs work founded on unarmed civilian peacekeeping has been recognized as a relevant strategy to address grassroots-level security concerns at higher levels of decision making. Furthermore, community representatives confirmed that they felt safer as a result of NPs presence and role as part of the CPC and through passing on information to NP, we acted as a higher decision making power. Armed actors on both sides also confirmed that our presence as a third party observer served to temper their behavior. The impact of NP has further been recognized by maintaining ‘0 incidents’ since early 2012 that has preserved the political momentum for the peace process and built confidence between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Another important impact, less widely understood, is the innovation in international third party peace process support that the IMT-CPC represents and to which NP has significantly contributed.

External stakeholders that were interviewed in this study expressed their appreciation for the work of NP. Specifically, NP is able to influence the actions of the GPH and the MILF armed actors. This includes the capability to cause armed actions to cease and desist through direct access and monitoring. Firefights and incursions have been suppressed after information was forwarded to NP counterparts in nearby locations. Mere minutes pass before the cessation of armed action and the reporting of information to NP. NPs presence, mostly viewed as international, is seen as a sign of seriousness of the situation, improving safety in the community, a sign of honor, and a sign of human concern for the violent situation in the Philippines.

Closing the report, the two observers made recommendations for NPs work in Mindanao as well as for the global development of NP. Particularly, the new and evolving concept of unarmed civilian peacekeeping needs greater international recognition as a tried and tested alternative to peace building.

Read the full report: click here

minimageOn April 25/26 2014, EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux led a European Union diplomatic delegation to express support to the continuing Mindanao peace process and development in the Philippines. The delegation included five ambassadors (EU, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Italy); five other high-level diplomats (UK, Romania, Czech, France, EU); a representative of the Spanish Aid agency; as well as a domestic media contingent.   Nonviolent Peaceforce helped coordinate the two-day exposure trip as well as organized with various stakeholders on the ground to ensure a smooth and secure visit for the high level delegation. Currently, NP has nine field locations throughout the Philippines providing a wide range of activities through unarmed civilian peacekeeping. NP in the Philippines works with a wide range of actors including; communities affected by conflict, the government, military and police forces, other INGOs, non-state armed actors and local organizations.

Read more: European Union diplomatic delegation in Mindanao, Philippines

On May 19th-20th, 2014, the government of Norway together with the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) hosted a Humanitarian Conference on South Sudan in Oslo, Norway. The purpose of the conference was to raise the alarm on South Sudan, how the crisis is on the brink of becoming a catastrophe where 4 million people are at risk of starvation.

NP's CEO, Doris Mariani, Senior Advisor Mukesh Kapila and South Sudan Country Director, Tiffany Easthom were in attendance. 

Tiffany was a panelist on the Protection of Civilian panel, alongside representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Save the Children exploring issues and challenges relating to civilian protection in the current context of South Sudan.

The donor countries were able to pledge 600 million dollars towards the response. While the pledges are welcome and the NGO and UN community is making every effort to scale up, there is no humanitarian solution to apolitical problem. 

We continue to call upon the conflict parties to bring a rapid end to the violence and to make every effort to reach a political solution, putting the safety, security and dignity of the people of South Sudan above all other concerns.

Photo: The Nonviolent Peaceforce delegation at the South Sudan Conference in Oslo, Mukesh Kapila (NP Special Advisor, Doris Mariani (NP CEO) and Tiffany Easthom (South Sudan Country Director)

By Tiffany Easthom, Country Director for Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan

001On April 14th, the day before the opposition forces retook Bentiu town in Unity State, the Nonviolent Peaceforce team received information that civilians were moving from town. These civilians were headed towards the United Nations Mission in South Sudan base, to stay ahead of a battle and to find shelter. For Nonviolent Peaceforce staff, having a day or two notice before a major battle with subsequent movement of civilians into the bases, is not unusual. However, there were some unexpected challenges this time. Armed actors had set up check-points around town, in some cases stopping the passage of civilians and generally frightening everyone.
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During this time the Nonviolent Peaceforce team starting receiving calls through their community networks.  This alerted them to the fact that pockets of civilians were caught and unable to move out of areas. The team immediately started to share this information with other humanitarian actors and began to ascertain whether they could effectively conduct civilian extractions. Civilian extractions involve negotiating access to the trapped civilians, collecting these civilians and providing protective accompaniment back to the base. The first group of civilians that Nonviolent Peaceforce team was alerted to were trapped at the airstrip. This group of civilians was unable to move either north to the UNMISS base or south back to Bentiu town.

After a quick response including information gathering, analysis and planning, the NP Bentiu team was able to move to the airstrip. There they loaded 20 children and seven mothers into the Landcruiser and accompanied them into the protection of civilians (PoC) area safely. The next morning at approximately six am, the same area with the women and children was attacked. This was followed by three hours of heavy fighting with the Sudan's People Liberation Army –In Opposition (SPLA-IO) gaining control of Bentiu and Rubkona.

 

 

Andres Alejandro Gutierrez Garcia, NP Team Leader in South Sudan and Derek Oakley, NP International Protection Officer in South Sudan, speak about their first hand experience of violence in South Sudan.

On April 17, 2014 the United Nations Mission in South Sudan base in Bor was attacked. Two of NP's peacekeepers where at this Protection of Civilians area when the attack started. They took shelter in a mud hut with five women and nine children. These two peacekeepers stood with the civilians as the gunmen approached them on three occasions. By repeatedly clarifying their roles as humanitarian actors and by refusing to move, these peacekeepers effectively saved the lives of the civilians. In this interview Derek and Andres talk about their harrowing experience. 

Read more: Andres Gutierrez and Derek Oakley on their experience of the violence in South Sudan

Kids in wheelbarrows at UNMISS base a couple of weeks ago."We are deeply saddened by the new escalation of violence in South Sudan. A few days ago armed protestors forced their way into the UNMISS base in Bor, Jonglei State. They opened fire on the 5100 internally displaced persons, primarily women and children, who had been sheltering there. The Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) team on the ground courageously were able to directly protect five women and nine children in the sudden chaos of the attack. On three separate occasions men with guns approached the NP team who were sheltering together with the women and children in a tukul (mud hut). The men with guns demanded the NP team leave the women and children to be killed. The peacekeepers saved the lives of those women and children by refusing to leave them and repeatedly clarifying their role and identities as humanitarian workers. When the attack ended, the team then worked tirelessly into the night collecting the wounded, verifying deaths and working together with partner organizations to organize medical evacuations to Juba.

The NP team in Juba has been working together with health actors to receive the evacuation flights as they arrive in Juba and providing protection support for the most vulnerable. At the time of writing, the team in Juba is at the airstrip receiving a wounded one year old child whose mother was killed in the Bor attack. In Bentiu over the past several days, the Nonviolent Peaceforce team has been doing civilian extractions, whenever there is enough of a safety window to move out of the base. They move out to where civilians are reported to be in hiding and then they are collecting these civilians to bring them into the safety of the UNMISS base. The fighting in the area has been fierce, on an extraction mission to collect ten civilians, the NP team saw more than 100 bodies on the short journey from the base to the town.

NP call upon all parties to exercise restraint, to respect international humanitarian law and to adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) agreement signed on January 23, 2014. Section 3 of the CoH provides detailed and specific language about the protection of civilians which was agreed upon by both parties."

Tiffany Easthom, Nonviolent Peaceforce Country Director in South Sudan.

Photo: Kids in wheelbarrows at UNMISS base a couple of weeks ago

By Francisca da Silva, Child Protection Project Coordinator, Nonviolent Peaceforce in the Philippines

Diary of a Peacekeeper - Francisca da SilvaPeople often speak of a conflict in terms of statistics or overarching issues and fail to acknowledge the most important element, the people for whom the conflict is a daily reality. When I reflect on Nonviolent Peaceforce’s (NP) work in the Philippines, it is the close connection with communities and partner organizations that stands out. We address conflict through constructively engaging the people who have experienced it and are the true experts. The focus is on building trust, ensuring non-partisanship and gaining acceptance from communities, local civil society organizations and conflicting parties. This multi-level approach is a critical aspect of the work we do.

Read more: Diary of a Peacekeeper - Francisco da Silva

By Hope Tichaenzana Chichaya

Hope Tichaenzana Chichaya visiting NP's caretaker Martha after she gave birth to a son named Nonviolent in July 2013. Hope is working in the most remote field site with no internet; therefore, unfortunately we don't have a more recent picture to illustrate this article.On February 22, 2014 a community security meeting prevented violence, enhanced understanding among community actors, and enhanced space for dialogue. This ultimately protected humanitarian actors, assets and space in Nyirol County, South Sudan. These community security meetings facilitated by Nonviolent Peaceforce play an important role in Waat community. Waat is a payam (political subdivision) in Nyirol County of Northern Jonglei State. Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) in Waat serves three counties of Greater Akobo: Nyirol, Akobo West and Uror County.

Read more: Community Security Meeting in South Sudan Prevents Violence