EMPOWERING COMMUNITIES IN PEACEBUILDING AND DEVELOPMENT
Mindanao is rich in resources but the bulk of its population remains poor due in part to recurring armed conflict brought on by competing claims over resources and by social injustice.
Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) is among the civil society organizations that have been pursuing efforts to put an end to armed conflict through peacebuilding and development programs. BMFI, believing in community-based, barangay focused approach, operates in more than 40 conflict- affected or disaster-affected communities throughout Mindanao and implements integrated and participatory programs at the barangay level. Its strategies include participatory governance, sustainable integrated area development, resource tenure improvement and access to justice, and transparent accountable governance.
BMFI established three area-based teams (i.e. BalayAleosan for the Aleosan and Alamada areas,BalayCalia for Cagwait and Lianga areas, and BalayCdo for its Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental and Sumilao areas) composed of community organizers called SIADOs (pronounced as shadows) or Sustainable Integrated Area Development Organizers. With their firm belief in the capacity of the community to solve their own problems, the SIADOs facilitated local peace consultations and barangay development planning workshops that involved the whole community. The SIADOs also provided peacebuilding courses, trainings and learning sessions to communities and to BMFI’s partner CSOs. BMFI also entered into Security Sec- tor Partnerships (SSP) with the military, police, and the LGUs. These community-based approaches are further complemented by collaborative peacebuilding interventions such as peace education, policy advocacy, constructive partnerships, exposures, exchanges and networking with key stakeholders at the regional, national and international levels. Combined, these programs were aimed at making all the stakeholders realize that as long as creating spaces for dialogues are continued, a culture of understanding, participation, cooperation and co-ownership can be attained.
TODAY, THE PEOPLE’S PRIORITY PROJECTS—WATER SYSTEMS, ELECTRIFICATION, FARM-TO-MARKET ROADS, PRE- AND POST-HARVEST FACILITIES, BETTER HOUSING, SCHOOLS, AND CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT TRAININGS—ARE NOW BEING PURSUED IN EACH OF THE BARANGAYS.
Today, the people’s priority projects—water systems, electrification, farm-to-market roads, pre- and post-harvest facilities, better housing, schools, and capacity development trainings—are now being pursued in each of the barangays. Some communities are now preparing for the “kanduli”, a celebration marking the culmination of a lengthy “rido” (clan war) between families in the same barangay. Regular community dialogues on the ongoing peace process helped people assess the current situation and prevented potential conflicts from breaking out or escalating.
The SSP has convinced the Philippine Military Academy to integrate theories of peace in their curriculum. A training workshop on SSP held at Balay Mindanaw Peace Center even included participants from BMFI’s Action Asia partners from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Manipur, Cambodia, and Odisha—countries and states who also have volatile peace and security concerns. BMFI’s policy recommendation of including a Civilian Democratic Over- sight (now called Bantay Bayanihan) in the localization of the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan has also been adopted.
Because of BMFI’s efforts, communities and their leaders have shifted from thinking of peace as merely a security issue to peace as a development issue in which they have a role to play.