After receiving an official invitation from the Myanmar Government and key national-level civil society organizations in August 2012, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) began developing a unique program in Myanmar, to support local grassroots and high-level peace initiatives. It is a critical time for the international civil society to take bold action in Myanmar and support the monumental political reforms undertaken in the past couple of years.
Although Myanmar has entered into at least 14 ceasefires since September 2011, mechanisms to monitor them at the local and national level are not yet fully established. Functioning ceasefire mechanisms, which hold armed parties accountable, are important for a simple reason: if there is violence on the ground, reaching a final peace agreement will essentially be impossible. But Nonviolent Peaceforce understands that the conduct of the peace processes and ceasefire agreements will ultimately influence the degree, durability, and longevity of any political liberalization.
NP conducted three training programs in Yangon, Myanmar, which addressed how ceasefire mechanisms are established and operated on a day-to-day basis to ensure the protection of civilians and Ceasefire Monitors. “We need more such trainings with experienced and knowledgeable trainers like those at Nonviolent Peaceforce in the future to help us secure peace,” commented a training attendee from the Karen State.
Training participants included members of Parliament, representatives from the opposition, local civil society organizations who operate within conflict-affected communities throughout Myanmar, and 25 future local Ceasefire Monitors from the Shalom Foundation. The Shalom Foundation is NP’s new local partner organization that works at a national level to address violent conflicts between armed ethnic groups and the Myanmar Government. NP is currently in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Shalom Foundation and the Myanmar Peace Center, to serve as the primary institution involved in the numerous peace processes.
In the coming months, NP’s Philippines program will host an educational visit for Myanmar Government officials to learn about the current ceasefire mechanisms on the conflict-affected island of Mindanao. Visitors will include Minister Thu Aung Minh who has been tasked with overseeing the peace process in Myanmar by the President.
“Due to NP’s previous experience working with local ceasefire monitors, and being part of an official ceasefire mechanism in southern Philippines, we are in a unique position to provide support for the various blossoming peace processes. We are essentially helping build the needed infrastructure for peace,” said NP Trainer Shadab Mansoori, who has worked with NP in the Philippines for over two years as the Conflict Prevention Program Manager.
He continued, “It’s an incredibly exciting time to be in Myanmar working for peace. There is a lot of momentum to get these peace processes moving forward while ensuring the protection of civilians.”