Development and Peacebuilding in Mindanao, Philippines
In Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines, an independence struggle by various Mindanaoan Muslim, or Moro, factions has been waged for five centuries against successive occupiers. Due to twentieth century land-grab schemes and the subsequent influx of settlers to the region, the majority of Mindanao's population is now predominantly Christian. Population transfer, perceived as a deliberate government action, fuels the anger and fear of poor and displaced Moro Muslims, and escalates the separatist movements they have been fighting for hundreds of years.
In January 2006, KCP partnered with the Department of Agrarian Reform of the Philippine government to deliver a 10-day conflict sensitivity and peacebuilding training program in Mindanao for development workers. The 30 participants came from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds - Moro, Christian, and indigenous - and they represented national and local government units as well as NGOs. As local development workers, they found themselves on the front lines of potential resource-related conflicts, both between the central government and Mindanaoan residents, and among ethnic groups. Development projects have the potential to inflame these tensions - or, alternatively, to promote mutual cooperation.
This in-depth training emphasized the critical role of development personnel in promoting peaceful coexistence, by developing conflict sensitive interventions in resource management and sustainable rural improvement programs. The overarching goals of the program included relationship and trust building among activist members of disputing groups, shared conflict analysis, and joint problem solving resulting in specific peacebuiliding interventions within their communities.
Motivated by this first exposure to the needs, fears and troubled histories of their colleagues, group members created multi-ethnic team-based work plans for each provincial region. This marked the beginning of a process of conflict-sensitive interventions to address the development needs of their beneficiaries while promoting tolerance and peace. Participants also initiated a training program of their own, to introduce more development workers to methods for promoting peace and justice while engaged in their professional development activities.
Report from Mindanao, Philippines - January 2006