A group of civil society organizations consulted me, in my role as co-founder at Coffee for Peace (CFP) and CEO of PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI), and asked me to facilitate a seminar on how to understand the current conflict they are facing as they do their peace and development work. These organizations have been in dialogue with us since April last year. So, last 20-21 February 2023, I went to Zambales province and continued our partnership talks by listening to them and by seeking to understand their context while immersing myself in the community for a couple of days. Based on the needs I saw, I introduced to them basic conflict transformation and conflict mapping skills. These organizations are walking in solidarity with certain Aeta Indigenous communities in Zambales who are experiencing land-based conflict with certain powers.
Applying conflict transformation processes
The Aeta Tribe is one of the indigenous communities in the Philippines, with a population concentrated mainly in the mountainous regions of Zambales. Like many other indigenous communities, the Zambales Aeta have faced various challenges related to land, resources, and cultural preservation. These challenges have often led to conflicts with other groups, including the government and non-indigenous settlers.
Conflict Transformation is a process of changing the way in which conflicts are addressed, from a confrontational and destructive approach to one that seeks to build relationships, promote understanding, and find mutually beneficial solutions. In the context of the Aeta Tribe in Zambales, CFP-PBCI is introducing conflict transformation in a number of strategies, including:
Building trust and relationships. We’re focusing conflict transformation efforts on building trust and relationships between the Aeta and other groups, including the government and non-indigenous settlers. We’re aiming to achieve this through dialogue, shared experiences, and other forms of communication.
Acknowledging and amplifying Aeta power. We’re prioritizing the power-amplification of the Aeta, including their participation in decision-making processes that affect their communities. We hope to achieve this through capacity-building initiatives that provide the Aeta with the skills and knowledge needed to engage effectively with other groups.
Promoting cultural preservation. The conflict transformation efforts we’re doing prioritizes the preservation of the Aeta’s cultural heritage, including their traditional practices, language, and customs. We will try to achieve this through education, cultural exchange programs, and other initiatives that promote understanding and respect for the Aeta’s way of life.
Addressing resource-related conflicts. Many conflicts involving the Aeta are related to land and resource use. Our conflict transformation processes focus on finding sustainable solutions that balance the needs of the Aeta with those of other groups. This can be achieved through the development of inclusive and participatory resource management strategies.
Advocating for Aeta Indigenous Rights. Finally, our conflict transformation efforts emphasize the promotion and protection of the Aeta’s rights as an indigenous community. This can be achieved through advocacy and awareness-raising campaigns that highlight the challenges faced by the Aeta and call for their rights to be respected and protected.
By adopting a transformative approach to conflict, it is possible to promote peaceful coexistence and build a more inclusive and equitable society for all.
Conflict-mapping skills in the context of Zambales Aetas
We have introduced Conflict Mapping to our Zambales connection as a useful tool for analyzing and understanding conflicts. This tool can be especially helpful in situations where multiple parties are involved, and tensions are high. In the case of the Aetas of Zambales, conflict mapping can provide a framework for identifying the root causes of land-based conflicts with the government and extractive corporations.
One of the key benefits of conflict mapping is that it allows for a comprehensive analysis of the conflict. By mapping out the various stakeholders, their interests, and their positions on the issue, conflict mapping can help identify potential areas of common ground and opportunities for collaboration. It can also help identify areas of disagreement and potential sources of tension.
In the case of the Aetas of Zambales, conflict mapping could be used to identify the various stakeholders involved in the land-based conflicts, including the Aetas themselves, the government, and the extractive corporations. By mapping out the interests and positions of these stakeholders, it could be possible to identify areas of agreement and disagreement.
Another benefit of conflict mapping is that it can help identify potential solutions to the conflict. By identifying the underlying causes of the conflict and the interests and positions of the various stakeholders, conflict mapping can help identify potential solutions that could satisfy the interests of all parties involved.
For CFP-PBCI, conflict mapping is a useful tool for the Aetas of Zambales as they navigate the complex and contentious land-based conflicts with the government and extractive corporations. By providing a comprehensive analysis of the conflict and identifying potential areas of agreement and solutions, conflict mapping could help move the parties involved towards a more peaceful and equitable resolution.