Community-Based Early Warning, Early Response System

Municipality of Butig, Lanao del Sur

Yusoph Saaban, Acmad Diamaoden, Ansary Diamaoden, Isnairah Ibrahim, & Nohman Khalil

A Community-Based Early Warning, Early Response (CB-EWER) System that helps prevent armed conflict through the vigilance and cooperation of the members of the community itself.

The goal of CB-EWER is to have a community that is vigilant and has a strong feedback loop. Each member of the community should contribute in maintaining peace in their area by becoming the eyes and ears of community leaders who can help avert armed conflict.

CONNECT WITH US!

The innovation team needs an office space in Butig where they can centralize their operations and hold their meetings. They also need better communication equiment that can work independently of cellular signal. The team also calls for recognition from LGUs and government departments.

unypadranao@yahoo.com / nohmankhalil@gmail.com

+639776873066

I asked myself: why did we fail to see what was coming? Why did we fail to prevent the displacement of Butig residents, and the destruction of the town?

For as long as the spirit of volunteerism is alive and our members remain committed, we will continue our monitoring efforts to prevent conflict.

OVERVIEW

The main premise of the Community-Based Early Warning, Early Response (CB-EWER) system is that armed conflict can be avoided if factors leading up to it are detected early and resolved quickly. The innovation team tries to promote a proactive behavior in preventing armed conflict from happening in their area, instead of reacting to what has already happened.

BACKGROUND AND CHALLENGE

Butig is a 6th class municipality in the province of Lanao Del Sur. The town is no stranger to armed conflict. It is the hometown of the Maute brothers, the ISIS-inspired extremist group that siezed Butig in 2016 and Marawi the following year. Since then, thetown has not shaken off the perception of being a “breeding ground for violent extremism.”

Nohman Khalil is a technical consultant to UNYPAD Ranao, Inc., the main innovators in this project. He also works as Protection Officer for the organization, Nonviolent Peaceforce. Khalil recalls early warning systems have been in place in 2016, but it was not able to prevent an armed conflict.
“I asked myself: why did we fail to see what was coming? Why did we fail to prevent the displacement of Butig residents, and the destruction of the town?” These were some of the questions that prompted the innovation team to modify their approach in maintaining peace.

During committee meetings, some members noted that recruitment for the 2016 Butig siege has been going on as early as 2011. However, nobody spoke up or did anything to stop the activity because of the prevailing culture of silence in the area. Nobody also knew how to stop the extremist group’s growth.

RESPONSE

CB-EWER is an improved version of the existing early warning systems in Butig. This time, they recruited members from different backgrounds to join their multi-sectoral team.

“Very few of our members were involved in the previous conflict management organization,” says Misbah Zacaria, a village watchman in Lanao Del Sur. “Every barangay has a representative. We had a multi-sectoral make up with representatives from the youth and religious sectors, as well as government agencies like DepEd, and womens’s groups. Together, our members can try to find the best solution for the problems our community faces,” adds Zacaria.

Khalil says members of the CB-EWER team have roles that contribute to three tasks: conflict prevention, conflict management, and sourcing local solutions.

Conflict prevention is about monitoring possible signs of conflict and reporting it back to the team for possible action. The sharing of information is done via two-way radios. Local residents are also welcome to give the team any leads by either telling the members in person or contacting them via cellphone.

Conflict management is dispute resolution. Misunderstanding among neighbors sometimes run deep, they end up as ridos, or retaliatory clan feuds. CE-EWER tries to prevent disputes from escalating into violent outbursts by resolving issues early on.

Lastly, sourcing local solutions is all about looking for context-specific solutions to community problems. The team will try to come up with gender and culturally-appropriate suggestions to resolve conflict instead of applying general policies.

As in medicine, the CB-EWER team’s philosophy is prevention is better than cure. “we encourage the community to settle conflict internally, since there are resolution mechanisms in place. Military intervention should be last resort in resolving conflict because the presence of arms might just worsen the situation,” Khalil says.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND IMPACT

There’s no shortage of volunteers who want to take part in the CB-EWER system. “Community members themselves are willing, eager to learn and be part of this mechanism so they can improve the image of their community,” says Khalil.

Civilians who take part in the early warning system can point the team to possible leads by notifying the team through text, via two-way radio or by meeting with them in person.

Members of the CB-EWER team itself are also given given capacity-building workshops where they learn mediation, negotiation, and techniques in grassroots peacebuilding.

Acmad Diamaoden, tribal leader and resident of Butig, says the development of CB-EWER has empowered the community because now, they too can be part of maintaining peace in their area. They now understand that achieving peace is a concerted effort by the community and not the sole responsibility of the military and law enforcement groups.

SUSTAINABILITY

Diamaoden is optimistic that this innovation will outlive their group’s partnership with Tuklas Innovations. “Our efforts will not stop even if Tuklas ends. As long as our community members pledge commitment to these measures, as long as we’re alive, we will continue expanding it as much as we can,” he says.

Youth leader Zacaria agrees with Diamaoden. “For as long as the spirit of volunteerism is alive and our members remain committed, we will continue our monitoring efforts to prevent conflict.”

Khalil also believes that CB-EWER is far from being completed. He says the community itself needs to attend more workshops and activities that will equip them in dealing with early signs of conflict. With enough funding, Khalil wants to onboard more community representatives who can contribute to developing the CB-EWER system.