“For the violated people of Sulu, the ICRC is no more than a Santa Claus .” –Peace activist from Mindanao. 1

The Impetus for Civilian Protection

The study of civilian protection and hurdles in its implementation is of seminal importance insofar as it informs policymakers’ attempts to respond to the scourge of war. As statistics loudly declare that nearly 90 percent of the victims of modern warfare are deliberately targeted civilians, mainly women and children2, the urgency of ‘mainstreaming’ protection into international humanitarian and development organisations has gained momentum. Historically, no more than 50 percent of the reported victims of war were civilians in the 18th century and 65 percent in World War II.3 The sheer weight of numbers of civilians affected by current-day war and the failures of international humanitarian and development organisations in Rwanda and Bosnia4 are the driving forces in resurrecting protection as an imperative in conflict areas.

UN Security Council Resolutions 1265 (1999) and 1296 (2000) reflected the determination to overcome the ‘protection deficit’ that had grown acute in the humanitarian and development fields since the end of the Cold War.5 The UN Secretary General has time and again urged a worldwide “culture of protection” to imbue not only words but also actions of state and non-state actors in conflict zones.6 Field-based UN specialised agencies, departments and funds were required to implement the Secretary General’s mandate to “mainstream human rights” into the UN system and discontinue with their “business as usual” style of blithely supplying narrow specialised services.7 Donor states also joined the chorus by restating humanitarian assistance as “including the protection of civilians and those no longer taking part in hostilities.”8 Awareness that humanitarian and development interventions could be an “entry point” for promoting civilian protection and justice plays not only at the global stage but also among local civil society activists on the ground in theatres of war.

Given the nearly ten years of normative exertions for bringing back civilian protection to the centre stage, one should expect that all field-based international development and humanitarian organisations- visible representatives of the ‘international community’- are now better attuned to defending political rights in conflict situations. However, the empirical evidence throws up uneven progress in the attitudes and actions of these organisations vis-à-vis the range of violations of political rights of civilians- harassment, intimidation, arbitrary displacement, detention, abduction, extortion, torture, disappearance and killing.

This essay will probe the reasons why the attitudes and actions of field-based international organisations towards civilian protection in war-prone parts vary so much. Why are some Intergovernmental Organisations (IOs) and International Nongovernmental Organisations (INGOs) more proactive than others when it comes to boosting local civil society efforts to enhance protection of civilians? This question is important since it contains the clue to the protection deficit in internal wars and offers possible solutions to policymakers who wish to improve the situation. My dependent variable is behaviour of international development and humanitarian organisations with regard to political rights of civilians.

The core thesis of this essay, based on field research in Mindanao, southern Philippines, is that a combination of agency-related internal and structure-related external factors restricts international civilian protection. Specifically, it makes the case that visceral inefficiency and contextual political power combine to fashion the attitude and behaviour of international organisations toward protection.

Up to now, only partial explanations exist for dysfunction or gaps between ideals and practice, with some studies emphasising inter-organisational competition and fiscal insecurity9, and others suggesting IO-INGO desires to be ‘neutral’10 or threats to physical safety of IO-INGO personnel.11 This essay takes the debate to more holistic grounds by stressing inefficiency and political power as the two causes of IO-INGO inconsistency and failure to defend civilian protection. My theory not only subsumes existing explanations but also offers new insights that were previously unconsidered.

IOs and INGOs in Mindanao

Investigations on determinants of IO-INGO behaviour toward civilian protection were conducted in Mindanao, Southern Philippines, through semi-structured conversations with IO and INGO staff, local civil society activists and ordinary civilians in June, July and August 2006. The questions- ‘How important are protection problems in the areas you work?’ and ‘What do you do when confronted with a protection issue in the field?’- figured in every meeting, but the rest of the subject matter was left to the particularity of each dialogue. No tape recording or written notes were taken while the conversations occurred due to the sensitivity of the topics.

The method of research was qualitative comparison of ten cases on the basis of what the personnel of these organisations themselves said and by soliciting views of experienced figures from local civil society who either added to or contradicted what the IO-INGO staff divulged. The other method for research was participant observation, wherein the author physically inserted himself with civil society delegations and spent time with displaced persons and war-fleeing populations close to the battle fields. Through this strategy, the actual processes by which the organisations operated were revealed, matching or mismatching with the views expressed in verbal conversations.

The choice of Mindanao was made on account of its history of recurring armed confrontation between the Government of the Republic of Philippines (GRP) and two primary rebel outfits representing the Bangsamoro people- Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Although another war between the GRP and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) is also raging in Northern and Eastern Mindanao, the research focuses only on the GRP-MNLF and GRP-MILF wars in Western and Central Mindanao (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao-ARMM- and surrounding provinces). The former is a ‘hot’ war with no ceasefire or peace process whatsoever and far riskier for the researcher’s physical safety.

Mindanao is symptomatic of contemporary internal wars, with two communities divided along ethno-religious lines and the minority’s elites seeking self-determination through armed means. The region is a typical war zone with all the ingredients that go into an ambience of generalised violence and civilian fear. Civilians in Mindanao have been at the receiving end of endless cycles of violence that some describe as a state of “permanent martial law.”12 More than 120,000 lives have been lost by the wars since the early 1970s. Findings from a prototypical civil war such as Mindanao can be generalised to other comparable situations because the conditions of the conflict are quite replicable elsewhere in the world. In the global context of a crisis in protection of civilians in war zones, a theory that throws light on the reasons for INO-INGO inconsistency in Mindanao will be useful for understanding the same phenomenon in comparable scenarios elsewhere.

Mindanao is also a good backdrop for my research because of the abundance of IOs and INGOs with field-based projects. The following cases were chosen on the basis of their having regular projects and programmatic activities in the Moro rebellion-infested parts of Central and Western Mindanao:

Mindanao_Table1d.JPG

The five in the left column are IOs while the five in the right column are INGOs. Nine of these ten organisations have a mixture of humanitarian and development functions, depending on the nature of the fluid conflict.13 CHD is a mediation-conflict resolution INGO that also has the mission of “mobilising humanitarian responses.” The ten chosen organisations constitute the universe of cases of IOs and INGOs with impact in Central and Western Mindanao.

Theories of IO-INGO Behaviour

To discover the determinants of IO and INGO attitudes and actions toward civilian protection, the independent variables can be separated into two related dimensions- internal organisational features and external political opportunities and constraints. Something is going on inside each IO and INGO that makes it proactive or conservative towards political rights and justice. Likewise, something from outside-domestic and international- is co-determining or over-determining its behaviour on these issues. Any IO or INGO, by virtue of being a distinct entity whose ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ can be demarcated, is amenable to study by means of this broad internal-external dichotomy that also has the features of intertwinement (see Table I).

Generalisation on field-based IO and INGO behaviour is an under-researched phenomenon. However, improvisations of two recent publications can lay the theoretical template of my enquiry. Michael Barnett and Martha Finnemore14 set out to explain why IOs behave as they do and use organisational theory to depict them as bureaucracies with their own internal logic. Although creations of states, IOs “develop their own ideas and pursue their own agendas”, even defying some states in arenas where the latter’s interests are unclear or weak.15 The preferences, interests and aptitudes of leaders or interest groups within IOs play a significant role in determining the overall outlook of the organisation towards a problem in the field.

Through an elaborate process of interpreting, analysing and investing ‘meaning’ to information, IOs gain an “authority to orient action and create social reality.”16 This constitutive “social construction power” of IOs can be seen on display when they decide on categories of legitimate social action. For instance, I will argue that the IOs debate and generate knowledge on what human rights are, who is in violation of them and what should be done to promote them in the field. To Barnett and Finnemore, IOs are not black boxes automatically responding to external stimuli. Their entrenched bureaucratic cultures absorb the stimuli and shape eventual responses. Bureaucratic culture emanates from rules, rule-making and rule following. It is neither good nor bad and could be a source for efficiency or dysfunction, insensitivity or even “pathology.” IOs can be notoriously resistant to reform or redirection “because change threatens entrenched organisational culture and interests.”17 Generally, they prefer politically safe and comfortably routinised patterns of work to efficient or impactful interventions. There is thus an “internal logic” to IO attitudes and actions which needs to be unpacked for a fuller understanding.

The local, national and international climate in which INGOs and IOs operate is dynamic and has a tremendous impact on their practical actions and postures. For theoretical leverage on external determinants of IO and INGO behaviour, Clifford Bob’s study18 of what criteria humanitarian INGOs use to evaluate a cause and decide whether to support or reject it is informative. Firstly, INGOs are “strategic actors” more than moral ones and it is “necessary to scrutinise their interactions with each other and the public.” 19 Since resources are scarce and INGOs suffer from “anxieties about maintenance, survival and growth”, they constantly engage in mutual competition for funding from states, foundations and individuals.20 Inter-INGO rivalry leads them to concentrate on particular issues or specialise in one or more niche problems in the field.

Secondly, an INGO is in a highly unequal power relationship with local NGOs and Community Based Organisations (CBOs). By virtue of its elevated position as a “gatekeeper” that can raise the profile of a cause or local NGO, the INGO confers its approval to only those movements conforming to its vision, which in turn is set through internal debates revolving around strategic-political considerations. As a corollary, INGOs “flock to prominent movements” that are already well recognised, so that the costs of publicising the new cause is not prohibitive. Most crucially, INGOs approach and fund “those who will listen” and frame their demands in the idiom that the INGOs appreciate.21 The more radical and critical a movement, the less is its likelihood of getting into the good books of INGOs.

Bob also theorises that INGOs decide whether or not to adopt an issue by calculating, inter alia, “long-term risks” such as loss of reputation and prestige if the client local NGO or CBO turns out to be fraudulent or unworthy. While this is a consideration, far more significant are the political risks of upholding certain causes- risks engendered by the chances of upsetting domestic and international interests and various powerful stakeholders in a conflict area. INGOs and IOs, being bureaucracies that master the art of self-preservation and prolongation, do not act in any way that even mildly irks the powers-that-be. This is a key determinant that Bob does not raise but it will be borne out from my empirical findings in Mindanao.

Although Barnett and Finnemore intend their theory to be for IOs only22 and Bob’s interest is in INGOs per se 23, their twin insights fit both INGOs and IOs. The crucial difference between and IO and an INGO lies in the fact that states create the former but not the latter. However, if we take the ten case studies of my research, states fund all of them to a lesser or greater degree irrespective of whether it is an IO or an INGO. Some IOs may fund some INGOs and vice-versa, but the ten chosen organisations are all similar by means of their humanitarian and developmental functions, shared modes of action and international character. Personnel of IOs and INGOs see each other, confer regularly in the field and act in tandem as if they belonged to a common stream. There is no theoretical rationale to peruse IOs and INGOs separately due to the sheer difference in their origins.

The theoretical literature leads one to expect that IOs and INGOs will behave in the manner of bureaucracies that interpret their mission creatively but obstruct changes that threaten internal vested interests or infringe on routinised standard operating procedures. One also expects IOs and INGOs to compete among themselves for funds and be risk averse, preferring ‘safe’, undemocratic and entrenched local partners. The hypothesis that can be generated out of these two theories would read as follows:

IO-INGO attitudes and behaviour toward civilian protection will be less proactive if they act bureaucratically and choose non-radical local partners.

The alternative hypothesis, derived from the partial explanations mentioned earlier, would be that

IO-INGO attitudes and behaviour toward civilian protection will be less proactive if they are concerned about neutrality and physical safety of staff members.

Factor I: Mandate Tussles

IOs and INGOs justify almost every move of theirs in the field with the magic word- ‘mandate’. It is the most apparent criterion they cite for programmatic prioritisation and decision-making. On closer examination, mandates of IOs and INGOs are never as precise as to definitively foreclose or prohibit involvement in civilian protection or any other ethically desirable norm that is consecrated in international discourse. Mandate is less of an exact blueprint that is literally executed and more a set of loose guidelines and generic principles to set the tenor of an organisation’s order of business. It is subject to moulding, stretching and shrinking, as per the internal and external winds of influence on the organisation.

Some humanitarian and development IOs and INGOs tend to be ‘dual-mandate’ or ‘multiple-mandate’ by historical nature and design. The ICRC is the custodian of international humanitarian law as codified in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. Accordingly, its mission in conflict areas is not only to offer material aid, but also to protect civilians. Its publicly affirmed goal in the Philippines is “to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance.”24 In sectoral terms, this connotes an internal division of labour between relief supplies and legal protection of civilians. Annually, the ICRC Delegation to the Philippines holds an ‘Action for Results’ meeting in the Manila head office, wherein how much of the budget is to be allocated to which sector is decided in a spirit of “open dialogue” among staff members.

Often, there are disagreements about whether civilian protection-related services are more important in Mindanao or delivery of food and non-food items. The outcome of this meeting is a request sent to the Geneva ICRC office for funds.25 Bargaining bouts among players with separate and unequal powers and objectives ends in an outcome that balances political interests of different sectoral desks of the ICRC in the Philippines. The perceptions, motivations, power and manoeuvres of principal players in the Delegation to the Philippines count the most in this “collegial bargaining.”

At the Geneva level, where the request for funds is sent, managerial personnel have to take into account the geographical tastes of donor governments, which are intrinsically linked to their foreign policies and differential media interest in the bevy of global war. “Darfur would get a lot more from donor states right now that Mindanao. There is no ‘CNN Effect’ in Mindanao and hence, little donor interest.”26 With the US government, ICRC’s largest donor27, tagging Darfur as “genocide” and treating Central and Western Mindanao as a front in the war on terror, there is little doubt where the allocations would go.

UNICEF too is a ‘dual mandate’ IO that undergoes internal and external pulls and pressures in deciding what to support in a conflict area. The topic of children caught up in armed conflict, a matter of concern to UNICEF by virtue of the Convention on the Rights of the Child28, is a rather minuscule one in the larger scheme of UNICEF’s country plans. There is just one consultant, based in Cotabato city, with no support staff whatsoever for the whole of Mindanao. When asked why protection of children in armed conflict does not invite more resource allocation, the consultant professed ignorance while maintaining that the problem of ‘child soldiers’ was not a slight or negligible one.29 He said that historically, relief and development budgets in UNICEF have been far bigger than those for protection and this is due to the country-wide needs assessments that weigh on the minds of decision-makers in UNICEF‘s Manila office. He also alluded to “political difficulties” that limit the programme on children in armed conflict and that are external to the organisation. These will be broached later in the essay.

Two reasons surface as to why some IOs like WFP and ILO, lacking a pointed mandate in protection, still show consciousness toward it. On one count, UN system-wide norms are seeping into the thinking of a specialised organisation. The UN Development Assistance Framework in the Philippines (2005-2009) has the objective of bringing about “synergy of the various United Nations organisations working together as a team.”30 It exhorts all UN bodies in the field to implement “the rights-based approach of protection and empowerment…a conceptual link between the domains of conflict and poverty.”31

A second mechanism ensuring that UN organisations ‘mainstream’ protection irrespective of specialised functions, at least on paper, is visionary leadership. As Barnett and Finnemore hypothesise, resistance to reform is tremendous in IOs since change threatens vested interests of lobbies and shakes up the laidback bureaucratic culture. What can break this impasse and prevent organisational decay is leadership that motivates field staff to keep protection concerns in the background no matter what they are doing. I found the country-level and Mindanao-level leadership in WFP and ILO to be more proactive in their views toward protection than the leaders of UNICEF, UNDP or ICRC. The latter three organisations’ programme managers who spoke to the author reiterated the need to be “cautious” on protection issues and did not value political rights as much as the leaders of the former two.

Among the five INGOs for my study too, dual and multiple mandates are negotiated through a similar trajectory as in the IOs. OXFAM-GB, a development-cum-humanitarian mandate organisation, has since inception had a leftist anti-establishment philosophy laced with fairly radical views of justice and human rights. Civilian protection and advocacy for political rights are essential parts of its emergency relief component in a way that no other INGO in Mindanao does.

In Mindanao, OXFAM started as a purely relief-delivering organisation but around 2002, a “shift in thinking” happened inside the country head office using feedback from field staff.32 The feeling was that recurrent bouts of war had boxed the organisation into ‘emergency mode’ far too much to the detriment of ‘good governance’ and accountability of authorities to civilians. By 2005, with the political situation looking more hopeful as the MILF-GRP peace talks advanced, OXFAM grabbed the chance to implement ‘humanitarian protection’ workshops in violence-prone parts of ARMM.

The same two reasons that enabled an ambiguous or hidden mandate for protection to be teased out and concretised in IOs worked in OXFAM’s case. Firstly, able leadership at the Manila level (conscientious local Filipinos) drove the local staff in the field in Mindanao to become proactive towards espousing political rights of civilians caught in armed conflict. As a parallel to the UN system’s pressure on IOs from New York and Geneva, OXFAM-GB’s ‘Protection Peer Group’ in the UK, composed of protection specialists as well as generalists, has been lobbying hard to ‘mainstream’ political rights into the melange of field programmes. Its influence on the prioritisation of OXFAM in the Philippines was evident in the fact that the Country Programme Manager partially attributed the “shift in thinking” and OXFAM’s lead over other IOs and INGOs in protection to a “corporate code that comes from the UK.”33 This example illustrates that some IOs and INGOs are better positioned than others to push protection forward as an organisational responsibility.

Factor II: Divisibility and Relativity of Rights

An intellectual hurdle for IOs and INGOs to embrace civilian protection in Mindanao is the big divide between political-civil rights and economic-social-cultural rights that crippled the international human rights regime during and after the Cold War. Despite convincing arguments by leading thinkers and practitioners on the indivisibility and holistic character of human rights34, the cleavage between proponents of ‘rights from’ and ‘rights to’ is a real world phenomenon that matters when international organisations set priorities in the field.

In Mindanao, the donor community, IOs and INGOs and a large cohort of local academics and NGOs subscribe to the ‘peace and development’ paradigm as the solution to the long-standing violence. The overwhelming prioritisation for funding and operating development projects and the verbal communication of several local citizens with the author conveyed this bias. The ‘peace and development’ concept sits on the economic rights bandwagon and argues that Mindanao’s poverty and underdevelopment vis-à-vis the rest of the Philippines are the root causes of the conflict. Since human development indices in the ARMM are the lowest in the country, the panacea for all ills facing Central and Western Mindanao is believed to be bringing the masses out of the rut of economic misery and enabling them to earn decent standards of living.

The leading foreign donor organisations in Mindanao- the World Bank, the USAID, UNDP, AusAid, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), Canadian International Development Agency( CIDA), German Service Development (DED) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)- all throw their weights behind ‘peace and development’ as the only hope for ending the conflict. Every single of my ten case studies pays obeisance to this primacy of economic rights over political rights as the cornerstone for attaining peace. This is not only the result of donor preferences (heavily influenced by diplomatic relations with the Philippine state and its partner in the war on terrorism, the US government), but also owing to the well organised local NGO interest groups that benefit from the triumph of developmental solutions. The Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (MINCODE) is the broadest network of networks in the entire region advocating for channelling more development aid to meet the needs of economically marginalised Mindanawons. It has among its members 10 networks, 94 local NGOs and 221 people’s organisations (POs), a veritable sea of local partners of IOs and INGOs who all reinforce the dominance of economic rights over political rights. . It must be clarified here that the economic rights pursued by these developmental bodies are ‘soft’ in tenor, stressing health, nutrition and micro-finance as opposed to ‘hard’ economic rights like return of army-occupied land to civilians or ending feudal labour systems.

Bob’s hypothesis that IOs and INGOs do not favour radical causes and social movements and instead opt for professionalised local partners who think and work on their frequencies is upheld in Mindanao by the fact that pro-protection movements and citizen groups that are fiercely independent and vigilant of the negative consequences of foreign aid are less heeded than the groomed careerist developmental organisations that thrive on the popularisation of the economic rights formulae

Another generally discrete reason why IOs and INGOs form a tight alliance with the economic rights constituency is the rent-seeking opportunities that development funding offers to both international and local organisations. According to one well-placed source in a typical local development NGO that manages to secure funds from a host of IOs and INGOs, the economic rights agenda is essentially a “gravy train that everyone wants to ride, expatriates and locals.” 35 His testimony deserves quoting at length:

“Suppose there is a proposal falling under the peace and development rubric for US $1 million. The donor gives it to a Manila-based national NGO. This NGO will deduct 60% of the subvention for travel, accommodation and living costs of assessors sent to Mindanao for feasibility studies, surveys and reporting. 20% will go to the local NGO as the cost of going into the communities. At the stage of implementation, local government units (LGUs) will have to be greased. At the end, if the LGUs are in, less than 20% reaches the intended beneficiaries among the poor and the jobless. Outputs and impact are manufactured just on a table by the implementing local NGO and published as achievements. Corruption also exists in procurements of UNDP and UNICEF. Expatriate as well as local staff members are involved in the business along the chain of graft from Manila to the remotest barangay (smallest administrative unit in the Philippines).”36

Critics in Mindanao have remarked how “most of the funds went to technical studies and operational costs than to the projects themselves. Community preparation was wanting or the community was not ready to receive the projects when implemented. Implementation was characterised by lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the implementers, political influence and rivalry among beneficiaries.”37 Moreover, “despite almost a decade of mainly externally-funded development assistance, the ARMM has not shown any improvement. Instead, it has been pushed further into dismal levels of poverty.”38

IO and INGO attitudes to civilian protection in Mindanao are also affected, albeit to a lesser extent than the economic rights hegemony, by the other unresolved ontological divide in the human rights regime- the clash between universalism and relativity. The ARMM and surrounding provinces are inhabited by Muslim majorities or large Muslim minorities who subscribe mostly to the Sunni denomination’s Shafii School. The grip of ulama (Muslim clergy) on social life is extensive and Sharia law courts are the most respected judicial bodies. The rise of the MILF (a breakaway faction of the MNLF) has also led to fairly thorough Islamisation and mobilisation of the Bangsamoro in the name of a defensive jihad of the whole community against the AFP. In this socio-political milieu, human rights as expounded in international law are derided by many Moros as “Western liberal values that are inimical to divine law since they are materialistic and individualistic.”39 By organising under the banner of group rights to self-defence, Bangsamoro leaders assert that human rights are context-specific and should be respected as per the local traditional communitarian mores.40

IOs and INGOs working in the ARMM and surrounding provinces are wary of being accused of tampering with Muslim traditions and therefore tread very cautiously on certain contested political rights. UNICEF and its partner organisations, for example, resolved to take “a more pro-active approach to demobilisation of under-aged combatants by initiating localised negotiations with armed groups, urging their provincial commands (whether military or rebel groups) to issue directives to their forces not to recruit children below 18 and to demobilize children in their ranks.”41 In reality, whenever the topic is brought by UNICEF before the MILF, the rebel leaders retort that “in Islamic society, we do not accept 18 as the age at which a person ceases being a child. For us, a boy or girl who attains majority age (puberty) is no longer a child and can be ready to serve the community’s right to protect itself.”42 UNICEF has feeble persuasive power over the MILF, the de facto state in areas under its control.

Another protection plague in the ARMM and surrounding provinces is the ubiquity of Rido- clan conflicts over land and honour that often get intermeshed with larger political rivalries and exacerbate violence and oppression of unarmed civilians. Rido comes next in weight to jihad as a cultural obstacle for protection. According to one grassroots activist who has been trying in vain to resolve a big Rido in the Matanog area of north Maguindanao, “no INGO or IO tries to assist in Rido-fomented abuses and attacks because they think clan feuds are intrinsic to Moro culture and that meddling in the traditional ways of locals would be unwarranted and dangerous.”43 IOs and INGOs that have peace-building and rights advocacy programmes do not venture into Rido-related protection gaps since it is “too complex and too strongly woven into local culture.”44

Factor III: State and Peace Process Constraints

Since civilian protection falls squarely in the basket of rights from authorities, one cannot afford to ignore the role of the state in containing or managing it. The Philippine state acts as a big brake on the freedom of IOs and INGOs to set sectoral priorities and choose implementing partners. State pressure on IOs and INGOs to conform to its macro-political objectives derives from the power of government to grant or deny access for international organisations to a trouble spot like Mindanao. If IOs and INGOs are to enter and implement projects in Mindanao, from the state’s point of view, they should come and work on the terms set by it. Though Barnett and Finnemore talk of independent effects of IOs, they take pains to iterate that “we do not want to create a mythical world of IO omnipotence.” IOs may frequently prevail in conflicts with weaker states, but “it is difficult for them to oppose strong states.”45

Malacanyang- the seat of power in Manila- is the emblem of a strong militaristic state that cannot be bypassed by IOs and INGOs.46 After going through the screening and moulding by Malacanyang, IOs and INGOs have to then face the stipulations of the provincial authorities (LGUs) in Mindanao, who can act independently of the central government to consolidate their own power base vis-à-vis the ‘revolutionary’ MILF and MNLF. The dual filters of central and provincial government combine to weaken or distract programmatic attention to civilian protection in IOs and INGOs.

The case of UNDP, one of the largest IOs in the Philippines, discloses the modus operandi through which the state stifles civilian protection potential. UNDP acts as a multilateral conduit for funding many projects spread out in Mindanao via the UN Multi-Donor Programme (UNMDP), now known as ‘ACT for Peace.’ The onus on rehabilitating ex-MNLF combatants in UNMDP was based on realpolitik calculations of the GRP that the Mindanao conflict could best be solved by co-opting and integrating former enemies into the government machinery. One of the UNMDP’s claimed accomplishments is intensely political:” Increased trust and confidence in Government.”47 In effect, the mainstreaming programme is transforming the MNLF from a revolutionary politico-military organisation into a political organisation that is a junior partner of the ruling party.”48 By blunting one of the principal rebel movements through ‘Peace and Development’, the insurgency in Mindanao was sought to be easily crushed.

Civilian protection and human rights do not appear even once as a priority under UNMDP. When asked why this was so, the UNDP answered that it followed the prioritisation set by the GRP and the four foreign donor governments pumping funds into the country for ‘ACT 4 Peace’- Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Italy. Remarking that UNDP has no substantial control over the sectoral allocations of the funds, it cited the “guiding principle of National Execution (NEx) which is the paramount buzzword in the UN system. Although UNDP is a co-chair of the UNMDP, it defers to the inclinations of the GRP and the four foreign donor governments, all of whom have a developmental bent.”49 NEx is a programme implementation modality that stresses the “importance of using national capacities to undertake programmes and projects. Responsibility and accountability for the formulation, management and implementation of UNDP-supported programmes rests on the designated (government) Executive Agency in the programme’s host country.”50 With government departments as main partners, it is not surprising why the UN system downplays or outright ignores civilian protection in Mindanao, where government security forces are the prime accused of crimes against humanity.

INGOs in Mindanao are not as constricted in having to stick to government and its agencies as partners, but in practice, most of them imitate the IOs on this matter because the state holds the keys to distribution of many donors’ finances and has the ability to make continuation of INGO programmes difficult. Mindanao Emergency Response Network’s (MERN) role in proffering humanitarian relief in the initial days of the mini-war in Shariff Aguak and surrounding municipalities in June-July 2006 was controversial and violence-fuelling due to its partnering with the GRP’s Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The “evacuation centres” (IDP camps) that housed civilians considered loyal to the CAFGU and CVOs (paramilitary units fighting on behalf of the Provincial Governor of Maguindanao) were neatly planned and organised by DSWD employees to distribute emergency supplies from MERN. However, thousands of reputedly ‘pro-MILF’ IDPs in madrassas and makeshift shelters were not even recognised or enrolled as beneficiaries in the distribution until the discrimination was pointed out by local civil society.51

When I visited Mattaa evacuation centre during the Shariff Aguak crisis, most of the aid beneficiaries did not look like IDPs who travelled great distances to flee mortar shelling by the CAFGU-CVOs on one side and the MILF on the other. Away from the supervisory gaze of the DSWD bureaucrats, one civilian in tears confided to an activist accompanying me the following story:

“This is a very sad day for me. My wife works for the DSWD and she told me that almost the entire aid was being distributed to family members of the CAFGU and the CVOs who are coming from totally unaffected and safe villages to Mattaa to impersonate as IDPs. The CAFGU and CVOs who initiated heavy shelling of MILF positions are being encouraged to continue the bombardment because the fight is proving very beneficial economically, thanks to the humanitarian aid which is brazenly partial. The more houses of civilians they burn, the longer it will take for the genuine IDPs to return to their homes and the greater will be the opportunity to stock more food aid for the killing machines of CAFGU and CVOs.”52

As the crisis unfolded, proactive local civil society members formulated a new movement- ‘Tyakap Maguindanao’ (Save Maguindanao)- and composed a petition appealing to the warring parties for an immediate halt to fighting, humane treatment of civilians caught up in the violence and for allowing access to areas that were cut off due to heavy artillery fire. None of the IOs or INGOs signed it despite requests from the locals that the weight of international organisations would make the appeal for peace and respect of human rights formidable. OXFAM’s name was initially on the list of signatories, but it was later removed upon the protest of the organisation’s higher-ups. CFSI, Save the Children and CRS- the core members of MERN- did not support this initiative either on the grounds that “organisational rules did not permit them to indulge in advocacy.” There was no second thought on the part of MERN members on this matter. It was a routine decision based on organisational rules and precedents- symptoms of Barnett and Finnemore’s “bureaucratic culture” thesis.53 The hidden hand of government partnerships was of course the main external cause.

At one brainstorming meeting of local activists and representatives of IOs and INGOs during the crisis, Bantay Ceasefire- a proactive local monitoring organisation- proposed forming a ‘Joint Force’ to interposition between the two warring parties and halt the fighting and forced displacement. The plan was to “use humanitarian aid as an entry point and assert the stand of local civil society to disengage the CAFGU-CVOs and the MILF and ensure the safety of civilians trapped in the buffer zones.”54 The reaction of the entire IO-INGO family was lukewarm because they felt such an action would compromise their “neutrality.”55

One of the common explanations of IOs and INGOs about why they do not actively support civilian protection in Mindanao is that they are “following the parameters set by the peace process.”56 The 1996 peace accord between the GRP and MNLF prominently authorises “intensive peace and development efforts to spur economic activities and uplift the conditions of people” in the ARMM and surrounding provinces.57 Civilian protection and civil liberties are not listed as goals in this seminal document since, “in 1996, the euphoria of agreement and cooptation blinded the MNLF into thinking that the political problem was settled once and for all and that only economic backwardness was left to be tackled.”58

The silence on political rights of civilians in the 1996 peace accord is to some extent rectified by an understanding reached between the GRP and the MILF in 2002 to make sure that international humanitarian and human rights laws are respected in Mindanao. However, IOs and INGOs have not utilised its legal imprimatur to raise the standard of their civilian protection work due to practical political considerations. Raw state power and subtle assimilation into state strategic plans deter IOs and INGOs from transcending the 1996 agreement’s ‘peace and development’ agenda. As one observer notes,

“Aid agencies and donor institutions respond only through Philippine government priorities, both national and local. They cannot impose their own agenda or priorities. They are taken in as partners of the government.”59

OXFAM stands out as an exception among INGOs that has thought outside the box of the peace process and even criticised the rush since 1996 to pander to the ex-MNLF combatants while neglecting the political and economic rights of ordinary civilians. “Such a militaristic approach to peace sends out the wrong signals that if you take up arms against the government, one day, you will be rewarded with a generous economic package. It conveys that it pays to be a warrior.”60 As a member of MERN, OXFAM is also worried about the misuse of humanitarian aid that happens when government agencies are partners. It is therefore striving to forego intermediaries like DSWD and deploy its own field staff trained in impartial means of aid delivery during emergencies in Mindanao.61 OXFAM also benefits from the ‘push’ propulsion of activist networks like Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) that have been taken on as its local implementing partners, unlike more conservative IOs and INGOs which keep their distance from radical local movements.

Factor IV: War on Terror and Liberties

Since September 11, 2001, more than 5000 US troops have been fielded in the Philippines on the invitation of the GRP to conduct “war games” (joint training exercises with the AFP) and to sweep “the doormat for terrorism in Southeast Asia”, Mindanao.62 Alleged linkages between Philippine guerrilla groups like Abu Sayyaf and MILF and Jemaah Islaamiya (JI- Southeast Asian wing of Al Qaeda) offer the justification for the massive American military involvement in the AFP’s planning and tactics in Central and Western Mindanao.

The concept of military humanitarianism which is being advanced by American security elites is a key to my question of interest. Thomas Barnett, who has been “embraced by Pentagon officials and top U.S. military commanders as a visionary strategist”63, proposes a twin-pronged strategy for the US army in contemporary wars- a division of labour between ‘Leviathan Force’ (“shock and awe” with extraordinary force) and ‘System Administrator Force (“mop up the mess” with humanitarian functions).64

In Mindanao, unsurprisingly, the US army implements humanitarian and civil-works programmes. During the recent military operation of the AFP against the Abu Sayyaf in Indanan area of Sulu, US marines distributed school bags, sewing machines and relief materials among civilians and embarked on a series of construction projects encompassing roadways, wells, schools, medical centres and cooperative marketplaces. Echoing language of psychological warfare and the government-set ‘peace and development’ agenda, the commander of the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines said,

“This development will bring jobs, better educational opportunities and better medical care for these communities, something the Abu Sayyaf group and the JI cannot offer.”65

The ‘news blackout’ that activists in Sulu talk about as a ploy of the Philippine state to avoid internationalisation of the crisis in civilian protection is buttressed by the US army’s developmental publicity that hides the abuses people are subjected to during offensives. Most importantly, the diplomatic legitimacy that the US provides to the GRP as a state victim of terrorism allows the AFP to adopt strong-arm methods that are to the detriment of civilian protection.

USAID funds projects on livelihoods, health care, family planning, education etc., with an open acknowledgement that they “directly support US foreign policy goals related to counterterrorism, regional stability, economic prosperity and democracy.”66 Save the Children, which we noted earlier as a conservative INGO when it comes to civilian protection, is one of USAID’s ‘principal implementers’ in Mindanao that reflects the economic needs thrust of the war on terrorism’s aid supplement.

USAID in the Philippines also “forms partnerships with other donors to ensure that policies are harmonious, goals consistent and programmes complementary.” The list of these donors includes UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, AusAid, ADB, JBIC, CIDA and JICA. Though USAID admits to difficulties in convincing other governmental and IO donors with “divergent national and organisational interests”67, the American aims in the war on terrorism in Mindanao are shared by both Australia and Japan, the two major regional powers with direct stake in the political future of the Philippines. The combined aid of these three states to Mindanao for 2005 amounts to more than $200 million.68 USAID claims that its “socio-economic interventions” in Mindanao “inspired” INGOs funded by CIDA, AusAid, Spain and the EU to similarly “complement the peace process.”69 The absence of donor interest in civilian protection that was referred to earlier in the essay is logically tied to the global war on terrorism’s objectives.

Proactive civil society advocates and Moros spiritedly oppose the presence of US military personnel in Mindanao under the flag of the war on terrorism. The historical memory of massacres committed by American colonial rulers in Sulu during the ‘Wars of Pacification’ (1902-1913) and recent allegations of sexual harassment of local women by GIs have spurred a popular social movement to prevent Mindanao from “being turned into another Iraq.”70 Christened ‘Bantay Milikan’, it appoints women observers in stationary monitoring posts close to AFP-US army encampments as well as teams of mobile monitors that will tail the US soldiers wherever they go in Sulu.

Radical civil society organisations spearheading Bantay Milikan told me that USAID had promised them funding for women’s rights causes in Sulu but kept it on suspension “ever since we came out against Balikatan.”71 These local organisations also do not see any chance of IOs and INGOs addressing political rights lacunae due to the “American dominance of the aid business and fear of the Philippine government that if punitive policies are eschewed and civilian protection is respected, it would raise the rebelliousness of Mindanawons.”72 Except CIDA, which shows an interest in funding local organisations with a political rights orientation73, no other foreign donor, IO or INGO has bothered to promote radical movements of local NGOs in Mindanao.

The war on terror’s consensus among donors, IOs and INGOs secured by USAID has had a considerable effect on derailing civilian protection.74 The Asia Foundation, which was founded by the CIA in 1956, is funded in the Philippines by the US Institute of Peace (USIP) – a US government sponsored think-tank. It claims that IOs and INGOs have to be careful in choosing local partners in Mindanao because of the problem of political bias among non-communist “militant leftist groups” such as InPeace (akin to Bantay Milikan). By positing that there is a “mainstream civil society” which is closer to the pulse of the people of Mindanao than the radicals, Asia Foundation maintains that movements with “political colouring” must be shunned.75 Bob’s hypothesis that critical and radical forces would be rejected by IOs and INGOs is being borne out by the evidence.

Scholars have noted how the war on terror has privileged national security as a legitimate norm and placed political rights on the back foot. Statist views of defending the homeland have returned with a bang to threaten the ideal of “borderless human security.” Focus in the media and governmental discourse has shifted since September 11, 2001, from individuals and groups to the nation-state and its stability.76 Since IOs and INGOs inhabit the same political space as the media and government and are equally buffeted by changing international trends, the war on terror cannot but impact on their attitudes to civilian protection in one way or the other.

The Impossible Promise of Humanitarianism

This essay excluded alternative determinants of attitudes and actions toward protection in IOs and INGOs such as lack of field security for humanitarian personnel in contemporary wars and concern for neutrality. Field security did not come up as a determinant in conversations either with IO-INGO personnel or civil society figures. The problem of kidnappings for ransom of foreigners does deter international staff members of my 10 cases from venturing deep into Central and Western Mindanao, but this affects both relief-development programmes and protection programmes equally. Worries about neutrality do get mooted as rationales for desisting from some protection actions by my cases, but it is an unsophisticated spiel beneath which lie larger qualms about ruffling de facto or de jure authorities. Other touted determinants such as absence of ‘CNN Effect’ or of ‘donor bias’ hold true in Mindanao, but they are mere shadows of the tight alliance between the state and the US government and cannot be presented as if they have effects independent of political strategies. We therefore reject the alternative hypothesis formulated at the beginning of this essay that the dependent variable is caused by IO-INGO attachment to ‘neutrality’ or to safety of their field personnel.

I set out to find the determinants of IO and INGO attitudes and actions toward civilian protection in conflict areas, using the war in Moro-dominated parts of Mindanao as the background. The evidence confirms some theoretical expectations from Barnett and Finnemore that international organisations can be dissected for signs of bureaucratic jostling and inertia. It also upholds parts of Bob’s theory that international humanitarian organisations behave strategically amidst peer rivalry for funds from donor states and foundations. They anoint those local causes and movements which are already well established and likely to produce concrete countable results. However, my findings of rent-seeking, rights debates, national and geopolitical political power as additional factors that go into the crucible of IO-INGO behaviour necessitate a more comprehensive theory than Barnett-Finnemore and Bob.

Of the four factors that were found to be significant to my endeavour, the first two- mandate tussles and rights debates- can broadly be categorised as reflections of visceral inefficiency insofar as they are signs of inconsistency, incoherence, disunity and lack of integrity within the IOs and INGOs toward the principle of civilian protection. The third and fourth factors- state/peace process limits and the US war on terrorism- are reflections of contextual political power insofar as they spring from the geopolitical and national strategic context of Mindanao. It is plausible to generalise on the basis of these findings that IO-INGO inefficiencies coupled with the ground-level de facto/ de jure forces that be will determine the extent to which proactive protection measures can obtain.

Table I

Mindanao_Table2b.JPG

Having laid out the theory, one can disaggregate it and discuss the findings factor by factor. I found that the internalpoliticking over mandate interpretation and sectoral emphasis in programming has an impact on how prepared an IO or INGO is to assist political rights causes. Bureaucratic clashes over fleshing out the mandate usually take place at the level of country headquarters (i.e. Manila) but also rope in influences from the global headquarters (e.g. UN Secretariat, ICRC Geneva and OXFAM Oxford) and from local staff and implementing partners in the field. The balance of forces among these three layers of an IO or INGO can tilt the scales in favour of or against civilian protection and engagement with proactive local civil society. Individual leadership from programme manager upwards has an impact on the appearance of the final ‘outcome’ of collegial bargaining. Overall, Mindanao’s observations match well with the generalised finding that prioritisation debates in international organisations are “a form of jockeying between individuals and departments in order to prove their worth within their organisation and consequently to attract funding, power and/or status.”77

The unfinished battle between proponents of political rights and economic rights is the second major determinant of IO-INGO attitudes and actions on civilian protection. This happens internally through bureaucratic argument and counter-argument sessions and within Philippine society and polity. The Mindanao observations add to the general research findings that aid agencies have an internal working assumption that “vulnerability is due to poverty” even though it is “due to powerlessness and denial of rights to protection.”78 Donor consensus in favour of developmental approaches, caused by external alliances with the Philippine state and the US government, weigh heavily on the economic rights side and trump civilian protection. The financial and professional organisation of local Mindanawon economic rights lobbies also take the IO-INGO fraternity away from civilian protection. Corruption in IOs and INGOs and the ease with which development funds could be embezzled adds an unprincipled rational incentive for the victory of economic rights approaches. Groundswell from Mindanao’s Muslim society about relativity of rights also inhibits IOs and INGOs from entertaining certain forms of universally enshrined political rights.

The subordination of IO-INGO energies to the grand political interests of the Philippine state in Mindanao is an external reality that forces marginalisation of civilian protection. Through partnership ties with government departments, IOs and INGOs are steered clear of agendas that raise uncomfortable questions implicating agents of state security forces in abuse of civilians. The peace process is another device through which the government shapes the IO-INGO agenda in its desired strategic direction and precludes any wavering toward the trouble-brewing shores of civilian protection. The Mindanao observations add flesh to the general findings from many countries that “developmentalism” is an intentional strategy for enhancing state capacity and power. State control over society increases through instrumentation- “growth in the means of carrying out intended policies.”79 IOs and INGOs are tools of the central Philippine state and its provincial arms in this sense.

Lastly, unpredicted by theory but foreseeable if a realist international relations angle were added to the Barnett-Finnemore and Bob theses, the US-led war on terror ties the most powerful external leash on IO-INGO potential to enable radical local movements. The clandestine nature of US military actions in Mindanao and the combustible mixture of counter-terrorism with humanitarian charity leave little scope for elucidation and defence of the rights of civilians in armed conflict. The Mindanao observations show that organisational extensions of the US war on terror also practise a divide-and-rule game that weakens advocates of civilian protection in Mindanao and divorces IOs and INGOs from progressive local movements. Future research is warranted on how IO-INGO attitudes and actions in protection change with the political priorities of superpowers and what they would look like in a conflict that is not a theatre in the American war on terrorism.

To conclude, the patchiness and unevenness of attitudes to civilian protection among IOs and INGOs owes to the combination of four agency-related internal and structure-related external factors deduced from the Mindanao investigation. The explanation of a complex dependent variable like this has to be multivariate and multi-level to capture all the effects. OXFAM managed to be more proactive on political rights than the other cases because of differential impact of these four factors as observed along the seven internal dimensions for each organisation (see Table II). It will be evident from the empirical sections of this essay that an IO or INGO that scores high on system-wide and leadership push and low on rent-seeking, poverty-vulnerability equation, non-intervention in local culture, political conformity and shunning of radical civil society will be more proactive towards protection.

In theoretical terms, the puzzle of varying responses of IOs and INGOs to civilian protection can be best resolved by summing up the four factors in the form of two causes- visceral inefficiencies and contextual political power. This theory raises the larger question of whether IOs and INGOs are being true to their ‘international’ character, which presupposes standardised attitudes and behaviours irrespective of where they have programmes, or are primarily influenced by the respective ‘national’ context in which they find themselves. What is noteworthy is that in other settings, even OXFAM has been found to have diluted its radical bent and become co-opted by state strategies for poverty reduction in Africa. 80 Future research should be able to compare the same IO or INGO in two different countries with different external (local, national and international) political contexts and explain any variation.

Meanwhile, Mindanawons continue to be at the mercy of armed actors and cannot hope to be rescued by the ‘international community’ despite a concerted effort at global normative forums to forge an “interface” between humanitarian action and political rights and proclamations of a ‘responsibility to protect’. The hopelessness of ‘mainstreaming’ protection in IOs and INGOs is summarised in a nutshell by Samuel Makinda’s lament that humanitarianism “is a discourse of power, status, and influence. It is an indication of how far realpolitik issues have dwarfed human rights considerations.”81

Table II

(Click image to view)
Mindanao_Table3c.JPG

Endnotes

  1. Conversation with author in Jolo, August 2nd, 2006.
  2. Frehiwot, B. 1999. ‘Wanted: A Just, Humane World’, Africa Recovery, Volume 13, Number 4, p.3
  3. Doyle, M & Sambanis, N.2006. Making War and Building Peace. The United Nations Since the 1990s. URL: www.yale.edu/macmillan/hsp/faculty-reports/Sambanis.pdf Last accessed on August 14, 2006. Introduction, p.9
  4. Cf. Uvin, P.1998. Aiding Violence. The Development Enterprise in Rwanda, West Hartford: Kumarian Press; & Mertus, J. 2000. War’s Offensive on Women: The Humanitarian Challenge In Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, West Hartford: Kumarian Press.
  5. UNHCR’s move away from protection and toward mere material assistance has been criticised by some scholars as a “betrayal” of refugees and displaced persons. Cf. Harrell-Bond et al. 2005. Rights in Exile. Janus-Faced Humanitarianism. Oxford: Berghahn Books.
  6. 2005. Report of the Secretary-General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, New York: United Nations, p.15.
  7. For a critical study on how far UNHCR, UNICEF, UNDP, WFP, DPA, DPKO, OCHA and OHCHR have implemented this mandate, see Kenny, K. 2000. When Needs are Rights: An Overview of UN Efforts to Integrate Human Rights in Humanitarian Action, Providence: Thomas J. Watson Institute for International Studies, Occasional Paper 38.
  8. 2003. ‘Principles and Good Practice of Humanitarian Donorship’, Stockholm: Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative.
  9. Cooley, A. & Ron, J. 2002. ‘The NGO Scramble: Organizational Insecurity and the Political Economy of Transnational Action.’, International Security, Volume 27, Number 1.
  10. Weil, C. 2001. ‘The Protection-Neutrality Dilemma: Why the Need for Military Intervention in Humanitarian Emergencies?’, International Migration Review, Volume 35, Number 1.
  11. Martin, R. 1999. ‘NGO Field Security’, Forced Migration Review, April.
  12. Conversations with representatives of a Mindanao-wide movement of local activists, Cotabato City, June 2006.
  13. Humanitarian functions mean emergency relief for immediate needs during or after fighting, while development functions stand for longer-term aid to improve the socio-economic conditions of communities. For more on the ‘relief-development continuum’, see Macrae, J. 1999. ‘Aiding Peace and War. UNHCR, Returnee Reintegration and the Relief-Development Debate.’ Journal of Humanitarian Assistance.
  14. 2004. Rules for the World. International Organisations in Global Politics, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  15. Ibid. p.5
  16. Ibid. p.16
  17. Ibid. p.6
  18. 2005. The Marketing of Rebellion. Insurgents, Media and International Activism, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  19. Ibid. p.xi
  20. Ibid. p.14
  21. Ibid.p.21
  22. Their case studies are UNHCR, the UN Secretariat and the IMF.
  23. His case studies are Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Global Exchange.
  24. 2005. Humanity in the Midst of Conflict, Makati: ICRC Delegation to the Philippines
  25. Conversations with ICRC Protection staffers, Makati City, June 22nd, 2006.
  26. Conversation with ICRC Protection staffers. Op cit.
  27. Washington accounts for 22.1% of the ICRC’s annual global budget. Cf. Annual Report 2005, Geneva: ICRC
  28. 2002. Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts. Geneva: United Nations.
  29. Conversations with author, August, 2006, Cotabato City.
  30. 2004. UNDAF in the Philippines, Manila: United Nations Country Team. p. 4
  31. Ibid. pp.16-18
  32. Conversations with OXFAM staffers, Quezon City, August 18th, 2006.
  33. Conversation with OXFAM staffers, Op cit.
  34. Cf. Sen, A.1999. Development as Freedom, New York: Knopf & 2003. ‘Annan Stresses Universality and Indivisibility of Human Rights’, New York: UN News Centre, April 24th.
  35. Conversation on August 15th 2006. Identity withheld on the request of the local NGO head.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Kimpo-Tan, E. 2006. ‘Implementation and Monitoring of Development Initiatives: Lessons From the GRP-MNLF Peace Process’, in Mindanao Forum, February 8th, Cotabato: Institute for Autonomy and Governance, pp.1, 9.
  38. Cagoco-Guiam, R. 2006. ‘The ARMM and the Peace Process: Imperatives, Challenges and Prospects’, in Mindanao Forum, March 22nd, Cotabato: Institute for Autonomy and Governance, p.5
  39. Conversations with Imams of mosques in Sultan Kudarat, July 24th.
  40. For a comparative study of group rights arguments that reject individualistic rights doctrines, see Yashar,D. 2005. Contesting Citizenship in Latin America: The Rise of Indigenous Movements and the Postliberal Challenge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  41. Camacho, A. 2004. ‘Issues and Recommendations on Child Soldiers in the Philippines’, Quezon: University of Philippines, Centre for Integrative Development Studies.
  42. Conversations with UNICEF staffers, Op cit.
  43. Conversations with author in Tugaig, July 2006.
  44. Conversations with Representative of an international Foundation in Makati City, July 2006.
  45. Rules for the World, Op cit. pp.28, 56.
  46. In the state-society balance typology of Thomas Risse-Kappen, Philippines fits into the class of ‘state-dominated structure’ where intermediate organisations (political parties, chambers of commerce, civil society etc.) to counter-balance state power exist but are not ascendant. Cf. Bringing Transnational Relations Back In: Non-State Actors, Domestic Structures and International Institutions, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Introduction, pp.3-33.
  47. 2006. About the ACT for Peace Programme, Makati: UNDP.
  48. Mercado.E.2000. ‘Peace and Development. The MNLF and the SPCPD Experience’, in Gutierrez, E. (ed) Rebels, Warlords and Ulama: A Reader on Muslim Separatism and the War in Southern Philippines, pp.296, 297.
  49. Conversations with UNDP staffers in Makati City, July 2006.
  50. 2006. Development Support Services Centre, Makati: UNDP.
  51. Upon the proposal of Guiamel Alim, a leading civil society activist, a Task Force of locals was formed to monitor the distribution of humanitarian aid and ensure equity and fairness.
  52. Visits to Libutan, Datu Pindililang Piang and Mattaa in southern Maguindanao, July 4th, 2006.
  53. Conversations with personnel of MERN’s international members in Cotabato City, July 2006. Identities withheld upon request.
  54. Proceedings of the Mindanao People’s Caucus at Kadtuntaya Foundation Office, Cotabato City, July 10th, 2006.
  55. UNICEF even turned down the local proposal to name the proactive movement to stop the war and displacement as ‘Human Security Alliance’. They were more comfortable with the phrase, ‘Humanitarian Alliance.’
  56. Conversation with CRS staffers in Manila, July 20th, 2006.
  57. 1996. Final Peace Agreement, Pasig: Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
  58. Conversation with senior mediator of the GRP-MNLF talks, Eliseo Mercado, in Cotabato City, August 13th, 2006.
  59. Bacani, B. 2004. Beyond Paper Autonomy. The Challenge in Southern Philippines, Cotabato: Centre for Autonomy and Governance, p.100
  60. Conversation with OXFAM staffers, Op cit.
  61. Ibid.
  62. Docena, H. 2006. ‘When Uncle Sam Comes Marching In’, Asia Times, February 25th.
  63. Tyson, A. 2005. ‘A Brain Pentagon Wants to Pick. Despite Controversy, Strategist is Tapped as Valuable Resource’, The Washington Post, October 19th. p. A19
  64. 2004. The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, New York: Putnam Publishing.
  65. 2006. Jacinto, A. 2006. ‘US Troops Get Warm Welcome in Jolo’, Sun Star Zamboanga, September 1st
  66. 2006. USAID/Philippines Operational Plan, Silver Spring: USAID, p. 3
  67. 2006. Partnership With the Private Sector, Manila: USAID Philippines.
  68. Computed from Carames, A. et al. Briefing on the Philippines-Mindanao, Madrid: Agencia Espanola De Cooperacion Internacional.
  69. 2006. ‘NGOs Help Boost Peace Process’, Kablalan Peace Monitor, Volume 1, No.3, February, p.5
  70. Elusfa, R. 2006. ‘Sulu’s Women to Monitor US Troops’, MindaNews, February 2nd.
  71. Conversation with Moro women’s activists in Zamboanga City, August 2nd, 2006.
  72. Ibid.
  73. One CIDA-funded political rights project has OXFAM as a co-donor and MPC as the local implementing organisation. Cf. 2006. Peace Advocacy, Ceasefire Monitoring and Community Dialogues on Ancestral Domain, Manila: CIDA.
  74. This is not to discount the impact of the other external and internal reasons that have already been pinpointed in this essay. In fact, separating the internal from the external is purely for analytical leverage since the two are intertwined, with the latter often feeding into the former (see Table I).
  75. Rood, S. 2004. ‘Civil Society and Conflict Management’, Indiana: Catholic Peacebuilding Network. p.3.
  76. Cf. Freitas, R. 2002. ‘Human Security and Refugee Protection After September 11: A Reassessment’, Refuge, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp.34-44.
  77. Goodhand, J. 2006. Aiding Peace? The Role of NGOs in Armed Conflict, Boulder: Lynne Rienner, p.155
  78. Ibid. p.158
  79. McAdam, D., Tarrow,S. & Tilly,C. 2001. Dynamics of Contention, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p.78
  80. Quarmby, K. 2005. ‘Why OXFAM is Failing Africa’, New Statesman, May 30.
  81. 2001. ‘Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Transformation in the Global Community’, Global Governance, Volume 7, Issue 3, p.343.
 

29 Responses to International Organisations in Mindanao: To Protect or Not?

  1. Romulo Gonzalez says:

    Being a Filipino, it is good to hear that people are writing in international media on this less known part of the world.

    Interesting analysis, but what can be done to raise the protection agenda in Mindanao? This article is critical, but doesn’t say what the way out is. Should there be a rule that these organizations have to show competence in protection to receive funds? It is easy to show failures, but how can things be changed? That is totally missing.

    Am not sure what Tables 1,2,3 mean…The labels are confusing as I don’t see which one stands for which in the artcle.

    In Table 2, what does Equation mean? Is it a separate internal dimension or was the idea to say Poverty-Vulnerablty Equation?

    Thanks
    Romi

  2. Vasoontara Yiengprugsawan says:

    Re: Romi…I think Equation is Poverty-Volnerblty Equation since that is often assumed in humanitarian groups.

    I don’t agree with this article that protection is doomed. Human rights are picking up as a cause and this is too pessimistic. We have this problem in Thailand also but some international groups are doing good work. I’ve served for one and found that its not so bad.

  3. Santos Felipe says:

    the main problem in mindanao is backwardnessa nd poverty. we should be discssing that. if poverty equals vulnerable, why start a new agenda thath has political shades? this article is biased toward one side in the conflict.

    Santos Felipe
    Kidapawan City
    Mindanao

  4. Catherine Arrigo says:

    I worked for MSF in the past. It’s good to see JHA back, since I rely on the writings here for a new book I’m planning. As to Santos’ comment, it’s time we step over the bread vs freedom debates! People need both.

  5. Hashima says:

    Romulo’s point is valid. We need solutions to problems, not simply a list of problems.

    The plight of the Moro people will not be addressed by any foreign organisations. This is the law of international relations. One has to help oneself. The article brings out that truth.

    However, the tables certainly are misleading. I agree that Equation is not a separate dimension, if I understand correct.

    Regards
    Hashima Ghazi
    F

  6. Richard Falk says:

    Finally a work of research on the Mindanao problem! Kudos to JHA for its new avatar and revamp!!

    Surprised to learn that the war on terrorism is having such impacts even in the Philippines!! These facts are not well known.

    Agree with others who have commented that Equation can’t be a separate dimension. It has no meaning. Could be Poverty-Vulnerability Equation. Table numbers are confusing in the body and the footnotes. They should be fixed.

  7. Jason Hewitt says:

    I’ve been reading this article since morning…More needs to be done to understand the full dynamics of the US terror war.
    People only hear about civil liberties in the US, but its devastating impact on the humanitarian sector is a new finding. We have to generate worldwide consciousness in humanitarian field to not fall into this trap of serving American hgemony.

    Th term ‘Equation’ is baffling in Table 2. Its probably there by mistake?

  8. Masoom Zehra says:

    The trauma of Mindanao is more than just international groups coming there to make hay. We have a situation where the so-called people’s representatives, the rebel movements, are themselves enriching their pockets and depriving the people. The author shoud ask about the sources of violence and conflict before concentrate on organisations.

    Masoom Zehra
    Action Aid

  9. Abizaid Kilmer says:

    If the US war on terror is leading to such devastating consequences, one should raise these issues in the US so that there is more awareness. What is unclear, however, is whether there are legitimate concerns for fundamentalist terrorists taking shelter in Mindanao. Most of the mainstream media believe so, but this article is called the connection to Al Qaeda “alleged”. If Al Qaeda is indeed strong in Mindanao, then one cannot help having these consequences on humanitarian missions. It seems unavoidable.

  10. bharadwaj says:

    hi bava huge artilcle and nt my cup of tea,i can understand any thing but tried to read the sideheadings,just as a token of rememberance

  11. Asfar Ali says:

    Can there be any solution to this structural mess that humanitarians operate in? The environment is so limiting that one cannot expect too much from these organisations. One should be thankful for whatever services they are rendering right now and not ask for the stars. Why can’t human rights organizations like Amnesty deal with protection? They have a much stronger ability to deter abuses through publicity. This article has set too high a bar of expectations.

    Asfar Ali

  12. Tiffany Hollioake says:

    I think the writer is too harsh on humantarians. They deserve to be understood for the complex environments in which they operate rather than just criticized. More research is needed on how humanitarians cope with the pressures on the ground and still manage to make a difference in conflict zones.

  13. Meghan Maher says:

    What is most interesting here is the claim that humanitarian groups are crippled by internal dysfunctions, not just by external context. Suppose the external context is unchangeable or beyond the capability of being changed, at least there can be internal changes if humanitarians accept that somethings are seriously wrong with them. Dvid Kennedy’s ‘The Dark Side of Virtue’ shows that humanitarians generally lack self-reflection. This is being proved. Stop being thick skinned!!

  14. Viva Askenderian says:

    How did we get to this point? Who is responsible for the drift in humantiarans toward becomign so insensitive to the plight of civilians? I feel it has to do with increase in professionalization and specialization in organizations. This has not been highlighted in the paper above. Maybe the solution is to hire more generalists so that they pay attention to protection?

  15. Victor Garaskin says:

    Why not leave the human rights issues to human rights bodies? I think defending political rights of IDPs is too political for humanitarians. Neutrality is dismissed by this article as not a major concern but it is the major concern! This is what drives humanitarian NGOs.

  16. robert gelnick says:

    How to mainstream protection….this is a million dollar question that’s still unsolved. The nature of complex emergencies is such that there is no easy answer. i think the article has done a fair amount of research, but not so much into the nature of the conflict and emergency in mindanao. that can provide a better understanfding of the kidn fo protection issues and problems. just read that President Arroyo has ordered an international investigation into human rights abuses in the Philippines. More contextual knowledge is require for international action to happen.

  17. Aquinas Sartore says:

    more research is need on rebel groups and their interaction with NGOs. JHA has good articles on how huamntarians negotiate access and develop relationships with armed non-state actors. There is lot of potential is finding that out. This paper doesn’t talk much about MILF, MNLF and the huamntarians.

  18. Samuel Rais says:

    Let’s get real…NGos and UN orrganizations lack the mindset to promote human rights. It is seen in the failure of the so called ‘rights based programing’. If humanitarians canot promote political rights and human rights bodies lack access to remote areas, who can help? The people themselves have to organise for their rights, not depend on foreigners.

  19. jonathan keystone says:

    interesting analysis…looks like there is a dearth of good research on how succefful humanitrain organizations are in dealing with protection problems in the field. this is a useful contribution but too hopeless. there is no suggestion for changing the way things are

  20. Kyle Cody says:

    Another belief in the humanitarian field that has not been mentioned here is that IDPs are an internal issue of governments and their protection cannot be advocated using international law and instruments.

  21. Olgun Mehmedi says:

    Suppose the NGOs and UN agencies all gain access to do humanitarian work with explicit agreement of governments that they will also mainsteam protection into their work…then maybe it is possible for them to be more proactive. NGOs work on contractual mode of thinking, as is shown here in the case of working within the peace process etc.

  22. Arianna Samavin says:

    How valid is the coupling of IGOs and INGOs? I think there are some structureal differences between these two types of humanitarian organisations. This article makes them look like they’re identical. UN organizations have a different ethic from NGOs.

  23. Dibyesh Modi says:

    Fine analysis of the cancer that is sweeping through the humanitarian world of insensitivty to lives of civilians…More research is requeired on the roots of insensitivty and callousness for human lives that rule in humanitarian circles in the field.

  24. Shomali Cortes says:

    The most interesting bit here is corruption in IO and INGO. Has there been sustained research on this phenomenon which everyone in the field knows to be existing? This should warn against beliefs that humanitarians are entirely principled actors.

  25. Sandra Connor says:

    Can human rights NGOs like Amnesty and HRW get into the act and collaborate with humanitarians in the field? the whole talk about ‘humanitarian-human rights interface’ needs to be energized into concrete plans of cooperation.

  26. Gustav Hermin says:

    How do the humanitarian organisations negotiate with the government and the insurgents in the Philippines? This process is necessatry to better understand the reasons why they fail on protection issues.

  27. Gillian Helske says:

    Human rights requires sensitivity to lives of people caught up in flight and warfare. Perhaps there is a sensitivity deficiency in international organizations. This is not brought out in the article well.

  28. Hector Simuel says:

    At last, people are sitting up and taking notice of human rights in Mindanao! Philip Alston has recently visited on behalf of the UN Human Rights office and more research is being done on the topic. Kudos! We need more attention there.

    Hector Simuel

  29. Lawrence Gilmore says:

    Are there any ways for rights activists to contact international groups who can publicize crimes against humanity? Can the humanitarians act as a channel between the two? We need info on this.

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