Brief Description of the Project
In January 2009 a multi-stakeholder and partner research process commenced which seeks to compare responses to violent internal conflict in the Asia Pacific region with particular focus on relative efficacy of mediation and dialogue processes. Comparative Perspectives on Conflict Management in Asia comprises three case studies.
The HD Centre is also pleased to be working in partnership with a number of esteemed organizations and collaborating with the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
Indonesia: Assessing Conflict Management Strategies
Indonesia has made enormous strides since the financial crisis in 1997 and the tumultuous end of the Suharto era in 1998. Much of the violent internal conflict that proliferated around the country in the early period of country’s turbulent democratic transition has been addressed. Yet there has been remarkably little comparative analysis about conflict management in Indonesia. This is striking given the frequency of internal conflict the country has experienced and the range of actors involved in both the propagation and resolution of violent grievance and conflict.
There are four objectives to the Indonesia component of the project:
- to generate greater understanding of conflict management in Indonesia;
- to undertake comparative research of conflict management approaches, trends and techniques;
- to identify good practice in conflict resolution, prevention and management;
- and to increase the conflict management capacity of state and local actors through inclusive research and pragmatic processes.
HD Centre, along with the Institut Titian Perdamaian and the Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia are examining the violent conflicts in Maluku, Central Sulawesi and Papua. Key issues that will be looked into include the effects of decentralization and increased levels of autonomy at the provincial and district level; roles of civil society and government in conflict management and how these diverse roles can be more effectively coordinated and applied; the circumstances that support a successful government-led mediation process; effects of resource allocation and anxiety that fuel conflict and misperception among communities and between various identity groups; and the growth of extremism and disenchantment with organized political processes to resolve differences.
In 2009 an extensive annotated literature review of leading reports and studies on conflict management issues in Indonesia was concluded. It aims to provide those interested in conflict prevention and management with an overview of the diverse range of information available. Other activities included:
1) Workshop series
On 14 October 2009, the HD Centre held a one-day workshop in Ambon, Indonesia, on ‘Conflict Management Strategies in Maluku: Learning from the Maluku Experience', as part of its ongoing research on the approaches to conflict prevention and management in Indonesia. The workshop was organised with the ITP with support from the Institut Tifa Damai Maluku and the Canadian Embassy in Indonesia. The Regional Secretary (Sekda) of the Maluku province delivered the opening address. Participants included representatives from local government agencies, NGOs, academics, religious and traditional leaders, to discuss conflict management strategies and progress towards reconciliation and reconstruction since the outbreak of the conflict in 1999 and provide insights into the ongoing conflict management efforts. The lack of coordination between these efforts and resulting ineffective implementation were discussed, and outstanding challenges were identified, including the status of internally displaced people (IDPs), persistent religious segregation, and high youth unemployment.
On 8 December 2009, the HD Centre and the ITP held a second workshop, this time in Poso, Central Sulawesi, on ‘Conflict Management Strategies in Indonesia: Learning from the Poso Experience', supported by the Government of Canada. Poso has experienced several outbreaks of violence since 1998. Local government officials and non-governmental actors exchanged information on conflict management strategies over the past decade. The workshop also exposed approaches and policies to constructive criticism; highlighted key problems in current conflict management strategies; and generated useful recommendations for both government agencies and NGOs. The need was expressed for a thorough independent appraisal of conflict management efforts so far in order to identify critical issues that could spark a resurgence of violence. The last workshop in the series was held in West Kalimantan in February 2010.
2) Research on Papua
LIPI has carried out interviews and seminars in Papua and Jakarta with civil society representatives, religious and government officials. Seven focus group discussions took place in 2009 on a variety of themes including:
- The revival of relations between the Government and Papuans: a seminar in Jakarta was held to identify the views of Government officials regarding critical issues in Papua. It was agreed that follow-up workshops would help to map Government actors and increase coordination among them to address challenges in Papua more efficiently;
- Dialogue in Papua: a workshop took place in Papua (Jayapura) to address obstacles to the organisation of a dialogue initiative between Papuans and the Indonesian Government ;
- Civil society involvement: a meeting was held in Jakarta with Papuan civil society organisations to gauge their perspectives on dialogue;
- Situation in Papua and options for dialogue: a focus group discussion was held with Papuans living in Jakarta to discuss options for dialogue. A draft framework for dialogue was outlined;
- The Special Autonomy Law: a seminar took place in Papua (Manokwari) with participants from various backgrounds to discuss the Special Autonomy Law (Law No 21/2001), perceived by participants as a failure. Participants stressed the importance of appropriate trust-building instruments and all-inclusive consultations to improve special autonomy through dialogue;
- Solutions to the conflict: the last two events were organised with Government officials in Jakarta, where they discussed potential solutions to the conflict in Papua, the complex challenge of demilitarization, and the sharing of natural resource wealth.
India: Learning Lessons from Dialogue Processes
India is an influential player in global politics on account of its economic and political power, and is expected to play an increasingly central role in the management of international peace and security. It has a wealth of experience in conflict resolution and continues to engage in peace processes both within its borders and regionally. Particularly in Nepal and Sri Lanka, it has played a crucial but discrete role in efforts to make peace, demonstrating considerable innovation and flexibility on traditional policy doctrines, and constantly supporting dialogue.
Through this project, the HD Centre seeks to identify and assess the use of dialogue by Indian governments at various levels in dealing with conflicts, to initiate both a debate on dialogue processes in the country, and to identify good practice. In partnership with the Delhi Policy Group, the HD Centre seeks to analyse approaches to dialogue in Kashmir, Nagaland and with the Naxalites in Andhra Pradesh to gain a better understanding of the conditions under which dialogue on peace and security is most effective and what processes and institutions are best placed to pursue it.
In 2009, an annotated literature review on India was produced and is available here. With a particular focus on Kashmir, the Maoist movement in central India, Nagaland and Manipur, it provides readers with an overview of leading reports, key articles, studies and papers on conflict management issues in those areas.
In December 2009, the HD Centre and the Delhi Policy Group also organized a workshop entitled, ‘Parameters for a Government- Maoist Dialogue', in New Delhi (18-19 December). It was attended by a number of prominent personalities including retired government officials, academics, senior journalists and civil society representatives. The 2004 dialogue process in Andhra Pradesh between the Maoists (known in the state as the People's Work Group) and the state government was discussed in detail in an effort to draw out lessons that could be applied in any future dialogue attempts. There was firm consensus among participants that some form of dialogue is crucial, and that a military approach is not a sustainable solution. However, there were divergent opinions on what the structure, modalities and topics for discussion in any dialogue with Maoists should look like.
Philippines: Militias and Armed Violence in Mindanao
In the Philippines, in addition to traditional belligerents, violent conflict increasingly features a range of armed actors which include civil defense forces, militias, paramilitaries, criminal groups and armed gangs. In Mindanao, the presence of militias, referred to as Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) or Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs), pose significant security threats, in a region already affected by conflict and the widespread proliferation of weapons.
However, little policy research is available on the phenomenon of militias. Through this project, and its key output, the forthcoming report, 'Militias and Armed Violence in Mindanao', the HD Centre aims to better understand how gender, religion, and age are understood through the analysis of civilian militias, and to identify measures for the dignified and sustainable disbanding of those militias' members.
The Philippines aspect of the project has three key objectives:
- to examine the multiple pressures and factors that lead to involvement or conscription in militias in the southern Philippines;
- to explore how particular identities such as gender, religion, age are understood, manipulated and contorted in this context;
- and to identify practical and political measures for the dignified and sustainable disbanding of current militia members.
These measures will inform policy and programming particularly through the HD Centre-led Sulu Armed Violence Reduction Initiative (AVRI).
Key research questions for this case study include: what factors have influenced the creation and consolidation of militias in Mindanao?; how have identity factors such as gender, age and religion influenced engagement, as well as non-involvement in militias?; what factors are necessary for members of militia groups in Mindanao to sustainably disband with dignity, livelihood and security assurances?; what have been experiences of disbanding to date, and what lessons can be learned?; how can militia be constructively engaged in peacemaking? The focus areas in Mindanao include Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.
In partnership with the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, the HD Centre developed an annotated literature review (available shortly) of leading reports and studies pertinent to the research focus to provide those interested with an overview of the diverse range of information available.
In 2009, ten focus group discussions were convened across Mindanao to gauge the views of representatives from the private sector, youth groups, women's rights organizations, development agencies and religious communities, on the issues of armed violence, civilian militias and local security. Individual interviews were also conducted with militia members, politicians, police and military officials, as well as members of insurgent groups.
As an example, on 9 October 2009, the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies and the HD Centre, in cooperation with the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, conducted a detailed focus group discussion entitled ‘Citizen's Armed Forces Geographical Units and Civilian Volunteer Organizations and Armed Violence in Mindanao' in Manila. Participants included the military, the police, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the Australian Embassy. Three presentations were given on the CAFGUs, the CVOs, and human rights.
Participants discussed the reasons behind the establishment of CAFGU and CVOs and their efficiency. The male dominance of those groups and the allegations that many of them are used as private armies were also discussed by the participants, as were the human rights abuses committed by those groups, including the recruitment of children. The meeting was a key opportunity to gauge the views of the military and police at headquarter level, as compared to their counterparts based in Mindanao.
Other Project Activities and Outputs
In 2010 the key outputs will be the country reports. To register interest in receiving one or all of the reports please send an email request. These reports have been informed by a wide range of primary research – focus groups, interviews, consultations, as well extensive literature reviews, as outlined above.
The country reports are targeted at decision-makers and shapers such as journalists and public commentators; those directly involved in peacemaking such as government officials, members of armed opposition groups, and third parties; those who may support peacemaking efforts such as donors. Hard-copy mailing of reports and outputs will be undertaken as well as briefings of key groups and individuals to further message findings and suggestions in order to influence and support strategic peacemaking in the Asia-Pacific.
Asia Security Initiative blog
As part of its Asia Security initiative, the MacArthur Foundation established the Asia Security Initiative blog in 2009 on current events and security challenges in the Asia-Pacific. The blog draws on the policy research of the Asia Security Initiative network. The HD Centre has actively contributed to this blog with nearly 30 posts in 2009.
Convening partners to exchange knowledge and build networks
In May 2009 the HD Centre convened all project partners in Singapore for a two-day meeting. It was supported by the Canadian International Development Research Centre, bringing together all those working on the project to debate and discuss contemporary conflict resolution challenges in Asia, and exchange ideas on how the various project outputs can effectively and strategically influence peacemaking policy and practice.
The HD Centre would like to thank the MacArthur Foundation (Asia Security Initiative) for its financial support to the project.