Contact

Sven Reuter

Desk Officer Southeast Asia

Department for Programmes and Projects
Phone: 
0049 221 91 27 32 - 62
E-Mail: 
reuteratforumzfd [dot] de

Philippines

On the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, various conflicts overlap. The main one is the conflict between the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine Government. On top of that, fighting over resources as well as decades of Communist rebellion create a volatile situation on Mindanao. The forumZFD works together with partners from civil society, the media and state institutions in order to overcome this culture of violence. It aims at fostering mutual understanding and strengthening structures of communication and cooperation. The focus of this peace intervention lies on enhancing media competencies, integrating education for peace into the training of teachers and managing conflicts at community level.

On the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, various conflicts overlap. The main one is the conflict between the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine Government. On top of that, fighting over resources as well as decades of Communist rebellion create a volatile situation on Mindanao. The forumZFD works together with partners from civil society, the media and state institutions in order to overcome this culture of violence. It aims at fostering mutual understanding and strengthening structures of communication and cooperation. The focus of this peace intervention lies on enhancing media competencies, integrating education for peace into the training of teachers and managing conflicts at community level.

Our conflict analysis

Mindanao, the second largest island of the Philippines, was once viewed as a “promised land”. With its rich natural resources and fertile land, it offers perfect conditions for development and prosperity. Yet, a large part of the population is living below the poverty line. The proceeds from mining and agriculture go to a few entrepreneurs, often located in the capital Manila or abroad.

During colonialisation by the Americans in the early 20th century, conflicts over entitlements to land and natural resources were exacerbated. In many areas, the local population was placed at a disadvantage during land distribution or was driven away from its land by new settlement policies. In the 1950s, the government in Manila started to resettle people from the mainly Catholic north to Mindanao in the south. As a result, the indigenous Muslims (Moros) as well as non-Islamic local inhabitants became the minority population. Prejudice and stereotypical views of the Moros and other indigenous ethnic groups were deliberately stirred up at that time and are deeply rooted in the local society to this very day.

The discrimination and stigmatisation of Muslims led to the formation of rebel groups which fought for cultural and political self-determination, amongst other things. The two largest ones are the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). The government and leaders of the MNLF signed a peace agreement in 1996. However, new riots occurred again and again. The civil population is deeply affected by this violence. In August 2008, when new fighting broke out between combatants of the MILF and the military after a failed peace accord, more than half a million people fled their villages.

Like the Muslims, all other indigenous groups on Mindanao are also suffering under social and economic marginalisation. This led to the violent struggle of the New People’s Army (NPA) for a Maoist revolution. Since 1969, this organisation has been recruiting Filipinos from all social strata and ethnic groups. The NPA has become renowned for attacks on the military, politicians and economic enterprises as well as blackmailing and abductions.

Our programme

The forumZFD is represented on Mindanao at three locations: Butuan, Davao and Cotabato. The intervention aims at supporting local peace groups and activists in their work as well as effective networking. The civil population is assisted in overcoming the local culture of violence and stigmatisation.

In the three projects, joint teams of local and international peace experts endeavour to enhance media competencies, educate for peace and convey methods of nonviolent conflict management. The forumZFD functions as an all-partisan entity and supports state institutions as well as civil society organisations in their work for peace.

Project Location 1: Butuan

The situation in the northern town of Butuan is determined by regional conflicts over land and resources. In cooperation with local organisations, indigenous groups and government authorities, the experts of the forumZFD analyse the roots of these conflicts. They support negotiation processes in order to prevent violent escalations.

Current activities:

1. Capacity building for employees of the local school authority Teachers play an important role as focal points and mediators in conflicts, especially in the rural areas. That’s why it is important to make them familiar with the techniques of mediation and dialogue. Since 2011, the forumZFD team in Butuan has supported the educational authorities of the Philippines by training their staff in all aspects of nonviolent conflict management. In a joint process, suitable methods of capacity building were developed and are now being implemented. The intervention is primarily aimed at the leaders of the various school districts. With the assistance of our peace experts, they will eventually act as mediators in local conflicts and will themselves offer trainings for heads of school and teachers within their district.

2. Development of a regional peace agenda in Surigao del Norte

There were violent attacks by the New People’s Army on mining companies in the Province of Surigao del Norte at the end of 2011. Ever since, the provincial government has tried to reconcile the rivalling interests of the local population, politicians, the military and entrepreneurs. Experts of the forumZFD counsel the government on developing and implementing an agenda for peace.

Partner: Department of Education – Caraga, Department of the Interior and Local Government – Surigao del Norte
Project Manager: Gebhard Korte

Project Location 2: Davao

In Davao, our focus lies on networking projects for regional institutions and organisations with the aim of creating a sensitivity for the need of civil conflict transformation.

1. Peace education for future teachers

The team in Davao is supporting the regional authorities for higher education in its efforts to integrate peace education into teachers’ training courses. In cooperation with several universities within the region, the curriculum for a new school subject called “educating for peace” has been developed. It is the goal of this project that peace education will become a definite part of teachers’ training courses at all universities in the region of Davao.

2. Trainings for local organisations

The forumZFD instructs local organisations in the methods of civil conflict management. Existing capacities for the nonviolent transformation of conflicts over resources and land are being strengthened. Local organisations benefit from an exchange with other groups affected by similar problems. They are also supported in developing and implementing action plans for nonviolent conflict management.

Partner: Commission on Higher Education Region XI, Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao
Project Manager: Katja Gürten

Project Location 3: Cotabato

The intervention in Cotabato is dominated by the conflict between the MILF and the armed forces of the Philippines. One reason for the escalation of violence is the often sensationalist media coverage of local events, which upholds stereotypes and stirs up fears amongst the population. The forumZFD team in Cotabato is therefore supporting local peace organisations and, at the same time, promoting a dialogue between representatives of the media and civil society.

1. Supporting conflict sensitive peace advocacy

In 2009, the forumZFD was addressed by various civil society organisations requesting support for their advocacy activities. Consequently, the forumZFD developed advocacy projects with the aim of enhancing local capacities and giving a voice to the people in conflict areas. After a series of joint activities, the partner organisations formed the “Kutawato Multimedia Network” which unites people with very different views of the conflict. The aim is to allow all parties to draw attention to their own plight.

2. Establishing structures for communication and cooperation

The forumZFD is facilitating a dialogue between representatives of the media and local peace initiatives. The exchange of information between these groups will create mutual understanding and overcome social stereotypes. This way, journalistic reporting which exacerbates conflicts can be prevented in the future.

Partner: Kutawato Multimedia Network, Pecojon – Peace and Conflict Journalism Network
Programme Manager: Wolfgang Dörner

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