Philippines: UN, RP to start ACT for Peace with Australia, New Zealand

The United Nations (UN) and the Philippines, along with the governments of Australia and New Zealand, firmed up their commitment to sustain peace and development in Mindanao during signing ceremonies, held last May 30, at the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel.

Australia, through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), is granting A$17 million in the next five years for the programme ACT (Action for Conflict Transformation) for Peace in Mindanao.

Under the programme, New Zealand, through New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID), is also providing US$1.150 million to finance the peace and development assistance in the Caraga region.

ACT for Peace, slated to begin next month, focuses on fully transforming conflict-affected areas into peaceful communities. Specifically, it aims to deliver basic services such as health and nutrition, reproductive health, water and sanitation, relief and rehabilitation; promote farming livelihood and develop enterprises; and enhance the capability of local government units, civil society organizations and former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) combatants on peace-building and conflict prevention.

The programme continues to assist Peace and Development Communities (PDCs) in Cotabato, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibuguey, Sulu, Basilan, Palawan, and Tawi-Tawi, and eventually will expand to cover the Caraga region.

The PDC is the basic unit of the peace and development framework of the programme, serving as the convergence area of all the interventions.

"This is a wonderful programme" Ms. Deborah Landey, UN Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, said. "By providing assistance to transform communities affected by conflict into peaceful, self-reliant ones, and empowering local institutions for conflict prevention and peace-building, ACT for Peace will support a peace-driven development for Mindanao," she noted.

The ACT for Peace programme will be implemented by the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) and the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with the following UN agencies: UNDP, UNFPA, FAO, and ILO. The UN agencies will provide the necessary technical and substantive assistance to the programme.

In 1996, the UN was one of the first to respond to implementation of the peace agreement with the MNLF. The governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey have extended funding assistance for the three-phased joint programme.

Australia and New Zealand have been major partners of the UN in the Multi-Donor Programme in Mindanao for the past 7 years. "Australia is pleased with the outcome and the strong cooperation between international donors, the United Nations and beneficiaries in the field," His Excellency, Anthony Hely, Australian ambassador, said.

Australia and New Zealand's continuing involvement in the peace and development process in Mindanao reflects its long-term commitment to help the Philippines reduce poverty, promote good governance, achieve sustainable development and promote security and stability.