Against the complex backdrop of a fragmented ceasefire and momentous political developments, Geneva Call continues to push for compliance with international humanitarian norms in Burma/Myanmar.
At a three-day workshop held in the jungle on the Thai-Burmese border, Geneva Call presented and explained the international norms pertaining to children affected by armed conflict and to sexual and gender-based violence and gender discrimination. The audience was made up of nearly 40 officers from the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), from six of the seven Karen National Union (KNU) Brigade Areas, as well as the associated Karen National Defense Organization and the Karen National Police Force.
Geneva Call demonstrated how these norms were refined and condensed into its Deeds of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict and prohibiting sexual violence and against gender discrimination. Both of these were signed by the KNU in 2013.
Finally, participants were guided through a simulation of how to present the Deeds of Commitment to other people—a task Geneva Call and the KNU expect these officers to carry out upon return to their respective Brigade Areas. The workshop took place at an opportune time as Geneva Call is currently liaising with the KNU about an allegation of underage recruitment in one of its Brigade Areas.
Training for civil society organizations
It is also important that the civil population in areas under the control or influence of the KNU/KNLA know of and understand the obligations that it has made. Therefore, Geneva Call also supported a six-month project by the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) to raise awareness of the KNU’s obligations as a signatory of the Geneva Call Deeds of Commitment on Gender and Child Protection.
Geneva Call led members of the KWO through a three-day Training of Trainers workshop in early 2015. These women then set out to conduct training sessions of their own across eight KNU districts and in seven Karen refugee camps over the following six months. Geneva Call and the KWO were pleased with the positive responses from community members throughout Karen areas and both hope to continue their co-operation in 2016.
New developments in the national peace process
Geneva Call welcomes the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). On 15 October 2015, the representatives of eight armed non-State actors (ANSAs) and their government counterparts signed this milestone agreement. Three of these ANSAs are signatories to at least one of Geneva Call’s Deeds of Commitment; the KNU/KNLA is the largest signatory ANSA to the NCA.
Geneva Call hopes that the NCA will prove a key step on a road to lasting peace. However, it does have concerns about the increasingly fierce and frequent clashes in northern and eastern Burma/Myanmar between the government and ANSA forces that did not sign the NCA, although some of them already had bilateral ceasefire agreements in place.