In July and August, negotiators of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in Myanmar intensified their efforts to conclude a deal before the campaign season for the upcoming elections kicks off. During this same time, heavy monsoon rains poured down, causing widespread flooding around the country. Nonviolent Peaceforce is working in several states to support civilian ceasefire and protection monitoring mechanisms. Among these states, Chin has been the most severely affected by the floods and subsequent landslides. Some of the monitors and Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) partners halted their usual activities in order to respond to the situation and support relief efforts. Others were simply unable to continue or communicate their activities as landslides blocked the roads and internet connections were interrupted. Citizens in Yangon and other cities flocked the streets to collect donations in a display of solidarity with flood-affected communities.
While monsoon rains created havoc around the country, negotiators of the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) and the ethnic armed group’s Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) continued to address outstanding issues. They were able to reach an agreement on most of the provisions in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement text and excerpts of the text were released to the public in August. A Senior Delegation of ethnic leaders is expected to meet with the president and the commander in chief in September. During that time, they will work to finalize the National Ceasefire Agreement and discuss any outstanding issues.
Whatever the final outcome of the negotiations will be, NP continues to support the peace process. NP is working together with local civil society organizations across the country to establish self-sustaining community based mechanisms that monitor the implementation of ceasefire agreements and/or address civilian protection issues. After building relations with key stakeholders and supporting local partners in recruiting and training monitors in 2014 and early 2015, NP is now working to consolidate the existing mechanisms. In July and August, NP efforts focused on facilitating dialogue between monitors and key stakeholders, coaching monitors in the implementation of their work plans, and developing resources with and for the monitors to increase their autonomy and efficiency.
It takes time and effort to establish functioning monitoring mechanisms that suit the local context, meet the needs of partners and monitors, and are sufficiently flexible to adapt themselves to emerging developments and the ever-evolving peace process. But there are encouraging signs of progress. Key stakeholders have responded positively to the participation of civilians in the peace process and the support that NP is providing them. Local partners have taken initiatives to coordinate their efforts and exchange lessons learned across projects and states. Most importantly, monitors on the ground have taken initiatives to strengthen their own mechanisms and effectively applied unarmed civilian protection methods, feeding back that “it works!”