Bangsamoro Youth in Promoting Peace in the New Normal: Updates from Southern Philippines

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Goldin Global Fellow, Philippines

In the struggle and impact of the pandemic to the work as local young peacebuilders, there is a need to maximize the digital platform to continue the conversations, lobbying and efforts in promoting peace. The use of social media with its virtual and sensory reality has been explored its capabilities as part of the new normal platform of peacebuilding work. While battling the invisible enemy which is the COVID-19, infodemics where news fake and disinformation also proliferate and put the lives of the netizens at risks.

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Based on the report of Humanity United, Peace Direct and Conducive Space for Peace on “COVID-19 and the impact on local peacebuilding”, the crisis and the response to it are exacerbating the underlying roots of conflict, particularly inequality. Some institutions are exploiting the crisis to further restrict civil society space and increase authoritarian measures. Local peacebuilders fear that it will be difficult to reclaim this space after the crisis. This is also impacting mental health due to isolation, social distancing, and the stress. But, this challenge has also provided opportunities to advance peace and young peacebuilders could be at the forefront of building peace and tackling the virus.

This new context brought new challenges and opportunities. It necessitates global shift and a learning process along the way. And, it will never cease the youth and peacebuilders in promoting and working for peaceful society. Young people are resilient in migrating their work and initiatives in digital forums that posits the change in peacebuilding landscape in grassroots communities and even to the entire country. This continuing engagement provides a safe space for dialogue, platform in laying down the foundation of understanding the context, meaningful insights, concrete recommendations, and priority agenda in addressing issues and concerns of the young people in peace and development.

Usapang Kapayapaan (Peace Conversation): Kutawato Online Peace Conversation Series

In pursuant to the thrust of the government to instil greater consciousness and understanding among the Filipino people on the comprehensive peace process to sustain institutional and popular support for participation in the promotion of building a culture of peace where the month of September was declared as the “National Peace Consciousness Month” by virtue of Proclamation No. 675 dated July 2004.

Kutawato Messaging Hub where VIBES are actively involved has seen the significance of holistic understanding of a Culture of Peace and the role as well as contributions of young people to each theme. Thus, together with local partners including the Goldin Institute launched Usapang Kapayapaan (Peace Conversation): Kutawato Online Peace Conversation Series.

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The holistic conceptual framework of education for a culture of peace may be articulated in terms of six major themes: Dismantling the Culture of War; Living with Justice and Compassion; Promoting Human Rights and Responsibilities; Building Cultural Respect, Reconciliation, and Solidarity; Living in Harmony with the Earth; and Cultivating Inner Peace. The themes are represented by the metaphor of a flower to emphasize their interconnectedness as “petals” to form an organic whole. All the petals, representing the six themes, are equally important to the essence of the flower. (Reference: A Holistic Understanding of a Culture of Peace, Presented at the APCEIU Expert Consultation on EIU, Fiji, 2002 (Toh, S.H. & Cawagas, V.F.)

Primarily, the conversation aims to raise consciousness and understanding of the public especially the youth in building a culture of peace. In every Saturday of September to October, the specific topic in corresponding episode was airing via facebook pages of partner organizations. The topics are Social Media and Hate Speech, Social Enterprise in New Normal, Indigenous Peoples’ in the Bangsamoro, Culture and Modernization, Mitigating Climate Crisis, Youth and Well-being, and Youth and Culture of Peace.

Some of the viewers and resource persons said that the series provide a space for young people to be involved in the conversation in highlighting their contribution and role in building peace and development in their respective communities.

Online Peace Conversation on Youth, Peace, and Security

In December 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 2250, the first ever thematic resolution on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS). This historic document is very important for all young peacebuilders worldwide because it brings recognition and legitimacy for youth’s efforts in building peace.

Even though member states are responsible for implementing the resolution at the national level, there are many ways in which young people and civil society organizations can take part in this process, from leading it to cooperating with other stakeholders on the local, national, regional and global levels. For this reason, it is important to contextualize the efforts: know the challenges and needs of young men and women in the community.

In the celebration of International Day of Peace as observed around the world on 21 September with the theme “Shaping Peace Together”, the Volunteers’ Initiatives in Bridging and Empowering Society (VIBES) and United Network of Young Peacebuilder (UNOY) based in The Hague, The Netherlands conducted an online event to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems and to celebrate and reinforce the achievements of youth, peace and security.

The activity is in collaboration with other UNOY youth-led peacebuilding organizations in Asia such as Nepal, Afghanistan, Philippines, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to stand together to raise more awareness and support for Youth, Peace & Security. The event was in partnership with Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPPRU), Bangsamoro Youth Commission (BYC), Generation Peace Network (GenPeace), Qapwa Philippines, The Goldin Institute, Kutawato Messaging Hub, and Equal Access International Philippines.

The conversation aims to provide inputs and updates of the national and regional (Bangsamoro region) YPS agenda, and identify youth priority agenda on peacebuilding both national and regional (Bangsamoro region).

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) where it has a Youth, Peace and Security Division represented by Dir. Vanessa Vianca S. Pallarco discussed the updates and efforts of national government on YPS highlighting the building on the existing YPS agenda in the crafting of National Action Plan on Youth, Peace, and Security (NAPYPS), sustaining peace initiatives, strengthening partnership among relevant government and non-government institutions especially the youth organizations, and continuing capacity development among peace partners. Meanwhile, the Bangsamoro Youth Commission with Nasserudin Dunding, the Chief of Operations and Programs, presented the Peacebuilding and Security cue as stipulated in the Bangsamoro Youth Transition Priority Agenda that captures the BARMM youth to participate in promoting human security, inclusive disengagement and reintegration programs, prevention from association with armed groups, including participation in safety efforts, peacebuilding, conflict prevention and management initiatives to promote peace and development in the region and the country.

For Qapwa Philippines, Ms. Angeli Monique Siladan, the Project Manager, shared their efforts on YPS thru sharing narratives and digital storytelling. Young people do not only become recipients of the outcome of YPS but more importantly an opportunity to participate to change the narratives that could be last for generation and could pass on to other young people in the future. While, Ms Mia Estipona, Project Officer of Generation Peace Youth Network presented their recommendations in mainstreaming UNSCR 2250 in the Philippines. There is still a need to provide training and education on peace and human rights including YPS and Women, Peace, and Security (WPS), and the local government unit plays a significant role in the implementation of key policies and programs to support youth, peace and security. Also, there is a need to understand YPS with the local context to sustain the advocacy and engage important players such as local and national government for sustainability.

From all these small initiatives, the young people in Bangsamoro region and in the rest of world continue to engage and involve themselves as active citizen taking their significant role in nation building and peacebuilding writ large. This espouses the exploration of digital peacebuilding and maximising the positive uses of technology: connection, inclusion, and collaboration. It also supports the establishment of strategic peace communication that involves information sharing, voice of the youth and the vulnerable, positive and alternative narratives, safe space for young people to talk and share, dialogue, and online conversations in the lens of conflict sensitive and peace promoting practices. As young people continue to spread positivity and peacefulness region, they themselves the one of the sources of peace per se as frontline advocates and peacebuilders.

Kudos to Bangsamoro young peacebuilders!

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