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Strengthening knowledge and leadership among the internally displaced

(Lessons from the IDP Leaders Humanitarian Protection Training last August 20-23, 2022)

Against the backdrop of the signed peace agreement between the Philippine government and MILF and the ongoing post-crisis reconstruction process is the threat of possible internal displacement. Forced evacuation can be due to protracted high-level armed conflict, clan wars, and environmental hazards.

The historical cycle of displacement, uncertainty, and marginalization of conflict-affected civilians puts the entire BARMM government‘s response to displacement and peacebuilding in the spotlight. As of the end of 2021, approximately 267,278 individuals in the whole Mindanao were internally displaced, and 37% percent of the population are located in the BARMM region (Bryant, Fernandez, & Baraguir, 2021).

Influencing how the government approaches the problem of displacement in Bangsamoro requires strong leadership not just in the BARMM government but also among the internally displaced population. To ensure that they are included in the broader conversations of the best route to recovery processes, they must be equipped with lobbying skills and learn how to engage and negotiate with their local leaders. And that they can articulate their inherent rights as IDPs.

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus, in partnership with The Asia Foundation through the IDP Resiliency Project, conducted a three-day IDP Leaders Humanitarian Protection Training last August 20-23, 2022. The primary objective of this training workshop was to develop the skills and knowledge needed by IDP Leaders to engage in discussions on policies and programs intended for them. The necessary knowledge and skills are essential in participating in policy-making, planning, budgeting, and implementing government projects and programs so that they can deliberately and confidently address the issues and concerns affecting their situations as IDPs.

Knowing one’s location in the context of displacement

IDP leaders working on their IDP plans

The IDP leaders internalized how they could be organized and can be the source of each other’s protection. The resource person emphasized that in the absence of local peacekeeping forces, the individuals that made up the community can protect themselves from possible sources of conflicts, not as human shields, of course, but as a united community ready to stand up against external disruptive forces. The resource person demonstrated this community strength as she gave examples of communities successfully intervening and resisting the onset of ridu during a graduation ceremony in a particular conflict area in Maguindanao province.

Knowing one’s inherent rights

Beyond the self is the wider community where rights are manifested, protected, and claimed. IDP leaders are responsible for asserting their rights and ensuring the community enjoys them. With a clear vision of their leadership and knowledge of the IDP rights, the IDP leaders were prepared to draft their IDP plans and what they intend to do as leaders once they return to their communities.

Knowing where to begin

It was vital for them to include the role of the BARMM government and civil society organizations in removing the barriers that excluded them from participating in the rehabilitation dialogues. They want to represent themselves in committees that are currently talking about humanitarian responses and to be able to recommend efficient service delivery and protection. Being provided with platforms for doing so and having the resources to join such conversations were mentioned in the IDP plans for durable solutions.

More than the tangible support for rebuilding houses, they want to participate actively and meaningfully in conversations that will impact their lives.

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