DAVAO CITY, 16 December 2022—A United Nations (UN) Philippines peacebuilding joint program in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) marked its completion with results that have significantly contributed to Normalization under the peace agreement as well as inclusive peacebuilding in the Bangsamoro region.
Implemented for two years by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women, with support from the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund, the joint programme called Supporting Conflict Transformation Toward Effective Peace-building in the Bangsamoro Region (STEP-BARMM) focused on harnessing the potential of women, indigenous communities and youth, strengthening capacities of key regional and local institutions to respond to conflict during the BARMM’s transition period and building evidence to better understand the evolving dynamics of conflict in the region.
Specifically, the program empowered 2000 former women combatants from the Bangsamoro Islamic Women’s Auxiliary Brigade (BIWAB) to successfully transition to civilian life as successful entrepreneurs, para-social workers with the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD) and peace and gender champions in their communities via support to 15 BIWAB cooperatives generating sustainable livelihoods, and training on Gender-based Violence and peacebuilding. This is a key objective of the peace agreement’s Normalization track.
STEP-BARMM mainstreamed conflict understanding and prevention in BARMM institutions. It worked with the Bangsamoro Women’s Commission to operationalize and localize the Regional Action Plan on Women Peace and Security in 22 local government units (LGUs) and supported the Bangsamoro Youth Commission (BYC) in developing the BYC Youth Policy Manual to engage youth in shaping future peace and development initiatives.
Furthermore, STEP-BARMM helped to establish the Peace, Security, and Reconciliation Office under the Office of the BARMM Chief Minister to reinforce security and conflict mediation under the transition.
At the same time, STEP-BARMM has fostered community resilience in conflict hotspots by strengthening community policing and establishing or reviving local institutions as inclusive platforms with community partners, non-Moro Indigenous Peoples community groups, and women conflict mediators to address increasingly inter-linked conflict and climate security risks requiring humanitarian-development-peacebuilding approaches.
“STEP BARMM has indeed provided an effective platform for stakeholders to come together and fostered synergies and partnerships that will contribute to the creation of a more inclusive platform for peacebuilding in BARMM,” said Director General Engr. Mohajirin T. Ali of the Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority (BPDA).
“In order to sustain these important peacebuilding milestones, I emphasize the importance of strong partnership and collaboration between government and non-government stakeholders, as well as a whole-of-government/whole-of-society effort,” Ali added.
UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez said, “Through the UN Peacebuilding Fund, the UN agencies have truly come together with government, civil society and communities to leverage our collective strength to support the Bangsamoro in the pursuit of peace as demonstrated by these achievements.”
The UN Philippines, guided by its Cooperation Framework with the Philippines, called the Socioeconomic and Peacebuilding Framework (SEPF), is committed to supporting normalization in the Bangsamoro region, reducing community-based conflicts, addressing community security and strengthening community economic empowerment.
Tristan Burnett, Chief of Mission of IOM Philippines, said, “The culmination of STEP-BARMM is an occasion to celebrate the achievements of this important initiative, present the policy results and most importantly identify ways forward with our BARMM partners. We are extremely thankful to have spent the last few days with our partners and stakeholders that have played a critical role in achieving the objective and deliverables of the project which has been supported by the UN Secretary General’s Peace-building Fund.”
Meanwhile, Dr Leila Joudane, UNFPA Country Representative in the Philippines, “congratulated the joint programme partners “for the achievements made during the two-year implementation of this STEP-BARMM Project and we will together build on the gains from this joint programme. Let us continue the advocacy to translate the policy recommendations into gender-responsive and locally-inclusive legislations, policies and programs with the meaningful participation of empowered women and young people.”
Ma. Rosalyn Messina, Country Programme Coordinator of UN Women. said that the joint programme “showcased what we can all do together to promote peace and transform communities we serve, especially our women.”
At the end of implementation of STEP-BARMM, the UN Philippines recommends, among others, improvements in the representation, inclusion and meaningful participation of women in BARMM institutions such as the parliament, ministries/offices and other local special bodies; securing the rights and well-being of non-Moro Indigenous Peoples through policy development and implementation, improving access to education and fast-tracking the passage of the Indigenous People Code to address the important ancestral domain issue inter alia; capacity-building for barangays’ disaster response capacities, particularly through the provision of more training, provision of livelihood support and addressing local security issues.
“As the Bangsamoro government’s socioeconomic development planning and policy coordination authority, the Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority is already taking proactive steps to ensure that key concerns on inclusivity and meaningful participation of all sectors are taken into account as we chart the Bangsamoro region’s medium-term development plan- the 2nd Bangsamoro Development Plan,” Ali said.
STEP-BARMM was designed to meet the difficulties posed by COVID-19, which directly challenged the peace and stability of the Bangsamoro region. The pandemic strained efforts to reintegrate former combatants, driving up competition for scarce resources in localities with historical tension and shifting institutional focus away from building inclusive policies during the formative stage of the peace process.
The UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) is the organization’s financial instrument of first resort to sustain peace in countries or situations at risk or affected by violent conflict.