Thematic areas: Humanitarian Norms – Landmine Ban
2019 began with a breakthrough in the peace process between the government and the strongest ANSA in the country, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), establishing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Despite this, serious violent incidents continued to transpire in areas included in the BARMM, especially the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Sulu. Maguindanao has consistently been the province most affected by armed conflict in the region for most of the past decade and remains Geneva Call’s focus. Armed conflicts in Mindanao have been marked by violations of humanitarian norms, including targeting civilians, the use of human shields, abductions and summary executions, as well as attacks on civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and places of worship. The United Nations has continued to report the recruitment and use of children for combat and non-combat roles by ANSAs. Armed conflict is often intertwined with grassroots conflicts between political families or powerful clans, ethnic groups, and ANSAs which often blur the lines between the different contexts.
Geneva Call’s activities in the Philippines
• Expanding the reach to religious targets: Following consultations with Islamic religious experts, Geneva Call launched in Cotabato City a Booklet on 15 Key Rules for Fighters in Internal Armed Conflict with integrated Islamic references and in Maguindanaon dialect. More than 150 attendees were present, representing different stakeholders expressing direct support in broadening access to hard-to-reach ANSAs. MILF expressed its support and proposed to integrate the content of the booklet to the madaris curriculum in BARMM. A video describing this non-normative approach to promote IHL in hard-to-reach areas was produced and viewed 180.000 times.
• Capacitating local partners for increased outreach: Geneva Call launched its collaboration with two CSOs, Tiyakap Kalilintad Inc. and UnYPhil – Women and conducted several training sessions in order to capacitate them. The CSOs will conduct awareness raising sessions with communities, distribute educational materials and monitor and evaluate ANSA’s actions.
• Increased awareness: Geneva Call continued its communication campaign ‘Conflict has rules too’, with six videos in Filipino, a radio campaign in Maguindanaon and Tagalog across four radio stations, the Fighter not Killer mobile app as well as four thematic illustrated booklets in Tagalog on the conduct of hostilities, protection of children, protection of education and the prohibition of AP mines. In total, 1.4 million people were reached.
• Policy changes towards respecting IHL: Geneva Call initiated new humanitarian engagement with two hard-to-reach ANSA factions with Islamic inspiration in Maguindanao. It continued its engagement with a long-term established ANSA by advocating towards the inclusion of the provisions of the Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action into the regional law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
• 2020: Two factions of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement/Fighters (BIFM/F) have been regularly engaged and they remain cautiously open to pursuing engagement although security and legal reasons are slowing down the process. A study carried out by consultants into practices and values of BIFM/F factions in relation to civilian protection was also conducted.
• 2020: Following Geneva Call’s training, CSOs have launched several public awareness initiatives for the protection of civilians. Reaching more than 50’000 individuals, these have included radio, SMS campaigns, and efforts raising community-level awareness on humanitarian norms as well as, more specifically, the protection of healthcare. As a result of Geneva Call’s capacity building activities, a CSO member approached fighters of BIFF to plead with them to prevent civilians from getting caught in the crossfire and wait for them to evacuate whileANSA reinforcements were pouring into his village to retaliate after a raid by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
• 2020: After extensive engagement with religious scholars/leaders and the development of 15 rules for fighters with Islamic references, religious leaders have begun integrating humanitarian norms in regular lectures in mosques and madaris to create space for dialogue with other religious leaders said to be supporters of the targeted ANSA.
Geneva Call has SET UP AN OFFICE IN COTABATO CITY, to implement and monitor projects in different geographical areas and to target different ANSAs in Mindanao, where the humanitarian impact of conflict is greatest.
In 2018 alone OVER 250,000 PEOPLE WERE ESTIMATED TO HAVE BEEN DISPLACED by armed conflict
SEVERAL ANSAS have signed the Deed of Commitment banning AP mines.
Fahad Abbasi – COUNTRY DIRECTOR