In an emergency, the first essential commodity is not food nor shelter. It is information. And the best source of information are the ones we are trying to help – the people living in the conflict affected villages. They are a huge untapped information resource. A fish vendor in the Municipality of Datu Piang can offer me a more nuanced conflict analysis than a PhD degree holder from the University of the Philippines.
Based on a perception survey we conducted for the unhcr Tragi-comic consequences when actions are based on eschewed or insufficient information.
In 2008, Mindanao produced the highest number of IDPs among all internal conflicts worldwide One village which is merely 25 kilometers from our headquarters took 3 hours for my team to reach With such a limited number of personnel, the question thus is how can the IMT monitor close to 4,000 villages
- 4 weeks ago, at a unhcr conference in tokyo, I presented together with a government official a country presentation on the primary concerns of conflict induced IDPs. This was a joint government – NGO country presentation. And at the top of our list was politicization of humanitarian aid. Under existing operational parameters, humanitarian agencies have to deal with existing local government units in identifying beneficiaries. However, not surprising in areas with a weak governance, municipal mayors are reluctant to include in the list those villages where it didn’t get enough votes. Or worse, include those villages but substitute the names of the villagers with someone else’s.
Just to give you an idea of the geography: highest levels of violence are in those cluster of islands to the west and in the central part of the main island which is either mountainous or marshy
Given these challenges, what we set out to do are the following: The “business model” is quite simple: the ceasefire bodies, humanitarian agencies, the international monitoring team need actionable information WHEREAS the civilians need their concerns to be acted upon There was no such system prior to this which explains some of the flawed assumptions I mentioned earlier.
- Note that the monitors are local Locals: we don’t recruit someone from Village A to monitor Village B. We ask a resident of Village B to monitor his own village.
So how does our monitors’ reporting protocol look like. It is quite simple. They use a technology that is already out there. The Philippines has one of the highest mobile phone coverage and subscription rate in the world. We just found a good use for it. Incidentally, in many instances, we get our information real time, that is, sometimes when we call our monitors to validate their alerts, we can hear the sound of gunfire or artillery shell in the background. So you can imagine how frantic the appeals for help from our monitor on the other end of the line.
Zainudin Malang - Civilian Protection Monitoring in Mindanao: The Power of Information
Civilian Protection Monitoring in Mindanao: The Power of Information Zainudin Malang Executive Director Mindanao Human Rights Action Center, Inc. (MinHRAC) [email_address] Civil-Military Interaction Seminar 2011 November 7-10, 2011 Sydney, Australia
The Information Gap in Mindanao’s Conflict Affected Region <ul><ul><li>“ We are the ones living in a conflict affected village. We are the ones with the deepest understanding of the conflict. We are the ones who suffer the most from the conflict. And yet, we are the ones who are least heard and are given the least role in our own affairs.” </li></ul></ul>
Information Gap Indicators <ul><li>Some of the assumptions resulting from the information gap: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Our system to monitor the delivery of humanitarian assistance is working fine.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It is good that there is no longer an insurgency in Mindanao. We should introduce more development initiatives.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Even as: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>56% of IDPs reported diversion of aid </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For the past twelve years, there were instances when the ceasefire collapsed that produced 1 Million (year 2000), 430 Thousand (year 2003), and 715 Thousand (year 2008) IDPs. </li></ul></ul>
The Challenges of Monitoring the Conflict in Mindanao <ul><li>The challenge of repeated cycles of displacement </li></ul><ul><li>The challenge of disjointed geography and society </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Displacements occur in difficult to access rural villages in the mountains, marshes , islands </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>12 ethno-linguistic groups, with a total population of 11 Million </li></ul></ul><ul><li>First deployed in 2004, the International Monitoring Team only has 43 monitoring personnel </li></ul>
The Challenges of Monitoring the Conflict in Mindanao <ul><li>The challenge of politicization of information relating to conflict and aid </li></ul><ul><li>The challenge of bridging the divide between conflict affected communities and the ceasefire body/aid agencies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a product of both a physical communications divide and a lack of trust; the disconnect between outside actors and conflict affected communities. </li></ul></ul>
The Physical, Social, and Political Environment for Monitoring <ul><li>3,831 villages spread out mostly in 14 Provinces in the Western, Northern, Southern, and Central parts of Mindanao </li></ul><ul><li>Incidence of violence between state and non-state forces mostly in rural areas, inaccessible to most agencies </li></ul><ul><li>Physical and communications disconnect between conflict affected villages and humanitarian, ceasefire, and human rights actors </li></ul>
Grassroots Based Monitoring to Fill-In the Information Gap <ul><li>Organize and train civilians in conflict affected villages as community-based monitors; locals monitor locally </li></ul><ul><li>Establish a reporting system that will collate information provided by the monitors and relay this to relevant institutions </li></ul><ul><li>International Monitoring Team and Joint Ceasefire Committees </li></ul><ul><li>Government and MILF Peace Negotiating Panels </li></ul><ul><li>National and international human rights bodies and humanitarian agencies </li></ul><ul><li>By doing so: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>serve as a communication bridge between grassroots stakeholders and other actors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>allow the international monitoring team, ceasefire body, and aid agencies to triangulate their information </li></ul></ul>
MinHRAC’s Community Based Monitoring Program <ul><li>1,253 monitors </li></ul><ul><li>16 Field Teams in 14 Provinces </li></ul>MinHRAC HQ <ul><li>National Agencies – Comm. On Human Rights, Dept. of Social Welfare, Dept of Health </li></ul><ul><li>Int’l Institutions - Int’l Monitoring Team, Joint Ceasefire Committees, UNHCR, ICRC, UNFPA, WFP, UNICEF </li></ul>INFORMATION FLOW ON CIVILIAN PROTECTION CONCERNS
Mode of Alert Transmittal by Grassroots Monitors Sample SMS 1 Sample SMS 2 Alert: Fighting in Brgy. A, Mun. of B, between government and rebels forces, from 9am to 12nn today, Dec. 7. 2 civilians injured in crossfire namely: X and Y. Other civilians sought shelter in nearby school. Grassroots Monitors Monitoring Coordinators MinHRAC Monitoring Hotline SMS SMS Alert: Armed men led by Captain or Commander so-and-so entered Brgy. A, Mun. of B, at 3pm today, Dec. 7, and burned/straffed houses of civilians. 25 homes destroyed. Civilians ran towards poblacion and need shelter.
Sample Reporting of an Incident <ul><li>8pm, July 8, 2010, MinHRAC hotline receives the following SMS </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ They are exchanging mortar shell here in Brgy. X. Some of the shells are falling near our shelters. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>By 8:05pm, validation of the incident via phone call was conducted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>By 8:10, the alert was conveyed via phone call to the International Monitoring Team which then convenes via phone the Joint Ceasefire Committees </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>By 9pm, a phone call to the monitor which relayed the initial alert confirmed that the shelling has stopped. Previous shelling incidents in the same area would last the whole night. </li></ul></ul>INCIDENT BACKGROUND: Barangay X is a village in the Municipality of Midsayap, Province of North Cotabato. From 2008-2009, it was host to a huge number of IDPs arising from the collapse of the ceasefire. At the time of the incident, the ceasefire had been reinstated. But occasional fighting still breaks out.