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Advancing Peace and Stability in Mindanao

Advancing Peace and Stability in Mindanao

Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago comprise one-quarter of the Philippines’ total population and hold significant potential for economic growth; however, instability — brought about by poverty, marginalization and conflict — has impeded development in many areas throughout the region. USAID partners with national and local governments and civil society to address the root causes of these challenges. By enhancing governance and civic engagement, improving access to quality social services, protecting life-sustaining natural resources and expanding economic opportunities — especially among youth in the most vulnerable communities — USAID is helping make way for families and communities in Mindanao to pursue a more stable future.


While parts of Mindanao flourish, others are challenged by governance issues that permit marginalization and perpetuate instability. To help address this, USAID has been mentoring local governments and civil society organizations from Central Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago to be more responsive to citizens’ interests, build relationships with citizens, and improve access to water, sanitation and other public services. These governments have since enhanced their transparency and accountability, and institutionalized avenues — such as citizen charters and local committees — for people to participate more fully in decision-making and constructively discuss sources of grievance. Through these measures, community development plans cover more inclusively issues like gender equality and public safety. With a more civically engaged public, USAID is advancing peace dialogues between conflicting identity groups. For example, USAID trains women, youth and religious leaders in Cotabato City, Marawi City, Zamboanga City, Lamitan City and the municipality of Ampatuan in Maguindanao to mobilize their communities for peace and reconciliation.


Poverty rates exceed 70 percent in some areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, stamping out opportunities for young people and leaving them vulnerable to the influence of extremism. More than three million children and youth in Mindanao are not currently attending school. This cohort does not have meaningful pathways out of poverty and is not engaged in education or the economy, making them highly vulnerable to recruitment by criminal, insurgent or terrorist groups. To help address this, USAID is reaching one-third of at-risk youth in the communities where the proportion of out-of-school youth are the highest. Now, approximately 20,000 youths have greater ability to productively engage with their communities, return to school or attain employment, and exercise positive leadership. Also, USAID has convened out-of-school youth development alliances, helping local governments, academia, the private sector and national government agencies to address issues important to out-of-school youth and link them to employment.


The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is marked by the worst health indicators in the country, especially in maternal and infant deaths. USAID helps the Department of Health to strengthen health systems, sustain health service improvement and reach people living in remote areas. USAID has helped establish service delivery networks of public and private healthcare facilities, allowing more people to receive better care, especially for those in geographically isolated and low-income communities. More than 35,000 adults received their choice of family planning methods and 26,000 women received antenatal care. In targeted sites, 25,000 women and children were immunized or were beneficiaries of maternal care and family planning services.


Millions of Filipinos depend on Mindanao’s rich habitats for food, water and livelihood. USAID supports the Philippine government in conserving and sustainably managing these natural resources, furthering stability. To reduce forest degradation, USAID introduced the Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System (Lawin) to indigenous peoples in Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park, Norther Mindanao’s major watershed. Today, nearly 400 indigenous people use Lawin to patrol the forests for threats and report geo-referenced data to local officials for action. The Philippine government has adopted Lawin and trained over 1,000 patrollers throughout Mindanao to use the system for protecting the region’s 1.9 million hectares of natural forest. To strengthen environmental law enforcement, USAID trained over 350 government officials from General Santos City, Zamboanga City, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Tawi Tawi on countering wildlife crimes. USAID also prepared them to become deputized responders to wildlife threats. To reduce demand for wildlife products, USAID is educating citizens on common, illegally traded wildlife species.


In May 2017, conflict broke out between armed groups and the government of the Philippines in Marawi, displacing nearly 360,000 people. USAID has since committed nearly $59.1 million (Php3.2 billion) to directly assist with ongoing emergency relief operations for those affected by the Marawi crisis, including longer-term stabilization and rehabilitation efforts. In collaboration with the Philippine government and humanitarian organizations, USAID is delivering life-saving assistance that is improving conditions in evacuation centers and host communities. For example, USAID installed water and sanitation facilities, and distributed emergency shelter materials, benefitting over 7,500 families. In addition, USAID is establishing women- and child-friendly spaces to protect them from exploitation and violence, as well as support their psychosocial needs. USAID is also providing health clinics with supplies and services to address tuberculosis and support maternal, newborn and child health needs.

To boost food security, USAID is providing 1.8 million kilograms of rice — enough to feed 45,000 people for four months — to displaced families. USAID is building on its extensive experience working with the Philippine government to advance development and peace in Mindanao. To bolster the longer-term recovery and help reduce the risk of further conflict, USAID is ramping up efforts to help vulnerable young people attain livelihoods and to promote positive engagement among communities. Additionally, USAID is helping to restore public services, like water and electricity and improve health and education systems.

Last updated: March 18, 2019

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