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Regional Dialogue: linking research and policy-making

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Philippines, organized a two-day Regional Dialogue and Training Workshop in Exploring the Nexus of Conflict, Climate Change, and Human Mobility, and the Lived Experiences of the Bangsamoro last March 17 and 18 at the Eden Nature Park and Resort in Davao City.

This regional Dialogue has convened policymakers, environmental advocates, climate change advocates, officials, and representatives from different local government units (LGUs) to discuss the dire state of climate change in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Converging problems

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus presented and validated its research findings on the Climate Change, Conflict, and Human Mobility Nexus by describing three cases of evident interlinkages experienced by communities in mainland Maguindanao and BASULTA (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) island provinces.

While climate change cause or exacerbate conflict (e.g., competition for dwindling resources, changing land boundaries, movement of camps, and acquisition of new lands, etc.), conflict, in turn, prevents people from successfully coping with climate change- a double bind, preempting cooperation. The existing conflict and climate change impacts already experienced by the communities in BARMM both erode or slow down the locals’ capacities to create adaptive measures, making the BARMM region vulnerable to climate-change concerns.

The speaker from MAFAR (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform) shared that some agriculturally-driven communities had to leave their livestock at the onset of conflict. Initially provided by MAFAR, the goats were consumed by the soldiers who camped in the barangay. Harvest failures also occurred, especially since rainfall has become unpredictable for the past decade. Both armed conflict and climate change disrupted agricultural life and threatened food security, which drove people to engage in armed conflict, gun hires, drug selling, and illegal migration. 

Fragmented approaches

There is an apparent gap in understanding how conflict cuts across climate change and displacement problems. There are several pathways that conflict, climate change, and displacement converge or even form a nexus, which were explained during the research presentation. The problem was so intricately converged, but the way it was addressed at present is fragmented or in silos.

As observed during the panel discussion, each ministry follows its mandates and works within the boundaries of predetermined programs and projects. Not even localized, but ones downloaded from the national level to the region for implementation. The danger of top to bottom approach is that local government units and regional-level department counterparts would stick to reaching a certain quota and implementing projects for implementation.

An example was the formulation of municipal-level LCCAPs (Local Climate Change Action Plans) which, even according to the Climate Change Commission officer present during the forum, were similar across all municipalities. As if they were all ‘copy-pasted.’ These two words were mentioned constantly during the discussion and manifest the underlying process in developing the plan and all other regional development plans.

While the ministries fear duplication or overlapping of programs and strictly follow the thematic focus of their respective ministries, there must be an elaboration on how the programs address the interlinking phenomenon holistically. For example, how can MENRE’s climate change mitigation projects potentially decrease conflict incidences? Or, in the case of MILG, how can they guide the LGUs in the localization of their development plans so that they will be both conflict-sensitive and adaptive to climate change impacts?

The many roles of women

Noraida Chio stirred an extensive discussion on the plight of the displaced Muslim women in BARMM. Not only were they prone to illegal recruitment, but also to become their husbands’ ‘milking cows’ or their easy source of income. The existing conflict, disinterest in engaging with traditional sources of income such as agriculture, desire for a better place to settle, urging from the family, and the availability of illegal means to apply abroad- all of these are factors in the migration of Muslim women.

However, being the one who earns doesn’t automatically translate to greater decision-making power or an excuse to shy away from her traditional gender role. They still carry the huge obligation of taking care of the family.

Human Mobility is an adaptation to conflict and climate change/ environmental degradation. While there is nothing wrong with migration as an adaptive strategy, it has to be safe, informed, and a free decision.

A policy towards a holistic approach

The challenge now is how the Bangsamoro government and the humanitarian forces working in the region can address the risks of the nexus. And what are the next steps for translating these research findings into peace-building practice and policy? What mitigation and adaptation practices are conflict and climate-change sensitive that can be applied in the BARMM region?

– MP Atty. Mary Ann M. Arnado, in her message as one of the members of the panel of reactors during the Regional Dialogue

“It is very very important for all of us to acknowledge and wake up to the new reality that we are in a climate change emergency. It should be acknowledged because if we do not look at that particular aspect, we will all be in a vicious cycle, and our interventions will not be cost-effective.”

-MP Baileng Mantawil, Member of the Parliament, in her reaction on financing climate change mitigation and adaptation mechanisms

“The issue of Climate Change is a global concern; part of it is the BARMM communities. While we are busy addressing peace, let’s not forget the great danger that we are now facing.”

It is crucial that the regional Dialogue stirred the conversation between policymakers, researchers, CSOs, local government units, and the ministries to talk about how to translate and concretize the key findings and recommendations from the study to address the pressing issues on conflict, climate change, and massive displacement in the Bangsamoro region.

The policymakers should investigate the viability of creating a regional body or office to ensure the BARMM government’s actions concerning climate change and conflicts are more coherent, systematic, and programmatic. Most importantly, such an office must rely on evidence-based programming to ensure it addresses the nexus.

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