Unrest and violence have existed here for generations. The effects are felt everyday as people try to live, work, and raise their children. Recent years have seen the emergence of extremist groups reflecting ISIS ideologies. The most prominent was the five month siege of Marawi City led by ISIS-inspired local extremists and foreign terrorists. The siege displaced hundreds of thousands of residents, many of whom after more than a year now are still unable to return to their communities and still live in temporary shelters, evacuation camps, or with relatives.
The proliferation of loose firearms and the cultural norm to possess firearms in Mindanao has increased the insecurity in the region where long-running clan fueds locally known as “rido” exists for generations due to land conflict, political rivalry or violation of pride and dignity. The ensuing cycle of provocation and retaliation can last for generations and expand to different communities including political clans with private armies and members of armed rebel groups.
Mindanao has a long history of internal conflicts centered around a number of issues: historical injustices, economic deprivation, poor governance, and a marginalized population. In addition, the Moro people and indigenous tribes called Lumad, who were once in the majority but are now minorities in the country, struggle for the right to self-determination.
The Philippine government is negotiating settlements and peace agreements with Muslim rebel groups and the communists in the country. There are a large number of loose firearms in the region, which contributes to the ongoing violence.
Clashes between government troops and extremist armed groups continue in other areas after the battle for Marawi City displacing and re-displacing thousands of people from their homes.
The primary challenge is to protect civilians during frequent and often lengthy displacements. Mindanao has a long history of conflicts involving armed Moro groups, communists, clan militias, and criminal groups. Clan feuds are made worse by the proliferation of firearms among civilians. Military efforts to stop the conflicts have displaced civilians.
NP has built a broad base of trust and has helped prevent violence in the area. It is one of the key international nongovernment organizations engaged in the ongoing peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
NP is a member of the International Monitoring Team-Civilian Protection Component that monitors and reports civilian protection concerns in the regions covered by the peace talks. In addition, NP is the only international organization actively promoting and providing Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP), which keeps civilians and their property safe. It provides protective accompaniment for civilians and organizations in areas of conflict, including helping hostage survivors reunite with their families. NP monitors ceasefire agreements, and it verifies and reports compliance and noncompliance of agreements.
NP creates safe spaces for peaceful dialogue between different stakeholders in the country, including local institutions, for community-based conflict prevention and conflict resolution. To sustain these initiatives, it trains local partners and other stakeholders in UCP methodologies for monitoring, unarmed peacekeeping and civilian protection. NP works to encourage nonviolent ways for communities to respond to conflict.
To broaden the appreciation and acceptance of Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) in the country, NP is working to mainstream and build support at the local, regional, and national level.
While doing this, NP needs to continue to provide training to communities. Ongoing support ensures communities will be able to continue civilian protection and promote the practice to neighbors.
- “Nonviolent Peaceforce really helped us a lot in our problems with the IDPs (internally displaced persons) in our area. Once we report our concerns to them, they will immediately respond.” – Donna Dalandas
In an impact assessment survey from February 2018, people from the communities NP serves reported that: