Raising Silent Voices: Harnessing local knowledge for communities' protection from violence in Myanmar

Lead Research Organisation: Leeds Metropolitan University
Department Name: School of Social Sciences

Abstract

Civilians living amidst violent conflict, like everyone experiencing conflict, know who is involved, the history what it makes it worse or lessens the impact on them. They have knowledge that those outside the conflict do not possess. The dominant peace and conflict intervention strategies of international agencies and NGOs begin with assessing the conflict situation using models based on western understanding of conflict trajectories, community resilience and peacebuilding, with an outsiders understanding. Although local people may be involved, their knowledge is rarely informing intervention and support strategies. This research will show the importance of placing local, contested, knowledge in the centre of intervention strategies, empowering and enabling local people and potentially making interventions more effective.
The research takes a case study of local conflict knowledge in Karen and Mon areas of Myanmar, training local researchers to use storytelling, arts and craft approaches to enable local people to represent and share their knowledge in culturally appropriate ways, through which they share their understanding of the conflicts, violence and peace strategies. The content of what they produce will be mapped onto the existing conflict analysis of the local partner in order to analyse the themes and gaps.
The local partner is Nonviolent Peaceforce, an NGO who provide unarmed civilian peacekeeping and protection of civilians to local communities around the world. They have been in Myanmar since 2012 and the results of this research will enable them to be more able to capture and use local knowledge about the conflicts, violence and peace to inform future project choices.
This international and innovative research will impact on local people by making their voices louder and clearer, on Nonviolent Peaceforce interventions by potentially making them more effective, and on academic and policy approaches to conflict analysis, 'the local', and the types of knowledge used in understanding conflict and peace. It crosses peace and conflict studies and arts disciplines, adding methodologically and to the way we teach about conflict knowledge.

Planned Impact

The structure and nature of this research has been developed with an understanding that local people will directly benefit from the participation in, and results from the research, as well as the local partner, other international NGOs, academics, and practitioners in the developments and challenge to current conflict analysis, and overall on future effectiveness of interventions.

In Myanmar, the two local researchers will be trained in participatory methods and data collection, which will directly benefit them, and also be building capacity for future research. Local participants will benefit because by collecting their knowledge in culturally appropriate ways we will influence the provision of suitable interventions, and a recognition of the value of local knowledge. Through the printed report we will disseminate their voices to other local and national actors.

The local partner, Nonviolent Peaceforce, will benefit from the local knowledge of the workshop participants which will add to their understanding of the complexity of the situation and have additional insights into locally generated peace approaches. The findings from the workshop will be mapped onto their current analysis so it will be clear where there are opportunities for further investigation.

There will be an impact on other peace and conflict intervention and support agencies. Whist we won't be mapping directly onto their analysis, the dissemination of the results will include talks, teaching and written materials that will enable them to be more able to gather, value and use local knowledge in their planning.

Outside Myanmar, our research will contribute to a changing understanding of the value and role of local knowledge in conflict analysis. This will have an impact on programme staff in UN agencies and International NGOs by making their projects more relevant to local people and more effective by valuing local capacity. It will have an impact on policy staff who devise and update conflict analysis systems and approaches, and on the teaching of conflict analysis.

The final booklet and online exhibition of the art works created (and have the consent from participants to use) will be available for future research and as teaching materials, or resource on cultural understand of conflict.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Aberystwyth mini exhibition 
Description "Raising Silent Voices", fieldwork-related mini-exhibition, Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University, October 2017 - ongoing. This uses the artwork by some of the participants from Kachin art workshop 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact It has prompted debate on the role of art in research in international politics. 
 
Description The key findings from our research so far relate primarily to the methodology and context of the research in terms of Myanmar and analysis for international interventions. The second objective of our research depends on further analysis of the data and reporting/sharing with the local partner and building the research methodology into a conflict analysis framework.

This year, the research was primarily involved in collecting data from people experiencing violence in Myanmar (Yangon, Kachin and Rakhine), but through an innovative methodology of arts workshops run by local researchers or those experiencing violence from the conflicts.

The research findings link to the welfare of Myanmar is through a) the specific empowerment of participants to share their experiences, b) to the local researchers by increasing the research capacity and c) the improved intervention strategies by INGOs because their knowledge will include local voices.

The findings from the methodological innovation in this research are;
1. That cooperative research design with local researchers can subvert the norms of 'using local brokers' provides opportunities and highlights the challenges of dealing with the power and communication issues in local-international researcher collaboration. Our model, where the local researchers lead and carry out the workshops where the data is collected went very well and the participants reported empowerment results through their participation in the
2. The collecting of data through arts workshops produces rich and complex data revealing stories, themes and knowledge which is not demonstrated through interview and focus group methodologies.
3. That knowledge about conflict, peace and protection threats amongst local people is deep and comprehensive. They have a complex understand of the victim/perpetrator dynamic, the threats they face and the possible solutions to reduce threats to family and community. The participants from the north were aware of their own power and agency and their actions showed it being used.

The findings on the context of the research are
1. The complexity of the conflicts in Myanmar are huge, and revealed through the lens of local knowledge, in particular the way in which conflicts exist across and within boundaries of ethnicity and religion and therefore an analysis cannot categorise by these values alone.
2. The initial analysis of the conflict analysis tools most commonly available reveal that 'experience' and 'local knowledge' are not present in the collection of data that informs the analysis, not in the process of analysing it.
3. The local partner is now able to uncover new understanding about the lives of the civilian protection monitors through a focus on lives and experience. This has given them a deeper understanding of the importance of collecting stories from them, and has begun to change their thinking on analysis. In particular they have decided to adopt the methodology internally with their staff.
Exploitation Route At the moment we are working on the routes to present findings to international agencies through their meetings and in Yangon, and to the local partners in Kachin state using presentations, printed media. There are new opportunities emerging to disseminate findings to a larger audience and could include exhibition or film.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description We are making progress on all the outputs identified for ODA Compliance. Our impact has primarily been at the local and national level in Myanmar. The impact on the local researchers: the project has built their skills and experience in research and in particular the use of arts to understand lives and experience. They have also built capacity in research methods which empower the participants and have extended their own understanding of the conflicts. The local researchers organised both arts workshops - including recruiting participants, taught the participants some basic art skills, collecting the data and creating a safe space where people affected by violence feel comfortable talking and sharing their experience. We all learnt a lot about international and local cooperation, power and communication, which has changed the way we work and think. In subsequent research proposals we have written to extend the work we have designed projects still in close cooperation with local researchers, but are better designed and structured. The impact on the local partner, Nonviolent Peaceforce, has been to introduce new ways of looking at the lives and experience of the local people, which has affected the way the discussed the people in staff meetings and also want to use the methodology as an internal tool to better understand staff and their experiences. Finally, because Myanmar is not well known and many assumptions exist about it and because the Rohinga crisis was internationalised, we have all commented on the conflicts in Myanmar, changing the discourse and challenging assumptions people have about the role of the Government, the breadth of the violence and the complexity of the conflicts. Through these discussions we have helped people who might be in a position to help others in Myanmar to have a more nuanced view. We want to continue to support the local researchers and people living amidst the violence so we have applied for Follow on Funding to build the arts workshops into a workshop offered widely but he local researchers, and through ESRC Transform funding to widen the work to other violence affected states.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Societal

 
Description AHRC interview with David Galbreath 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact David Galbreath, the Fellow for the PaCCS initiative, was interviewed by AHRC and included the Raising Silent Voices Research in it.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/research/readwatchlisten/features/in-conversation-with-professor-david-galbrea...
 
Description Colloquium at Aberystwyth 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was a presentation by Berit Bliesemann de Guevara "The Joys and Woes of Arts-based Research with Local Associates on Violent Conflict in Myanmar", in a colloquium of the Centre for the International Politics of Knowledge, Aberystwyth University, 11 October 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description EISA conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Berit Bliesemann de Guevara gave the following talk.
"Reflections of Researching War and Peace from Below: Insights from Burma and Syria", at 11th Pan-European Conference on International Relations, 13-16 September 2017, Barcelona, with Birgit Poopuu
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Leeds Beckett Social Science video 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The Dean in School of Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University made a video about the school which featured me talking about my research from Myanmar - I recorded my bit of the video while in Kachin doing fieldwork.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8KaNzn1THPc
 
Description Leeds Beckett Transform 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Leeds Beckett University organised a 'Transforming Research' campaign and my reserach, which includes the Raising SIlent Voices project, was one of the ones featured. It's consisted of a poster campaign in the University, full two pages in the Underhgraduate prospectus and on the website. The campaign was then featured on my personal website and in a social media campaign. In addition the local partner in Raising Silent Voices featured the campaign in their international newsletter
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://leedsbeckett.ac.uk/transform/#chasing-peace-in-a-modern-world
 
Description Manchester seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Raising Silent Voices", Critical Global Politics seminar series, Manchester University, 15 March 2017.
Talk by Berit Bliesemann de Guevara.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Nonviolent Peaceforce Philippines meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Berit Bliesemann de Guevara was invited to facilitate a 'UCP Good practices' workshop in Manila, Philippines. This included practitioners, staff from Myanmar and senior managers in Nonviolent Peaceforce. The event was organised by Nonviolent Peaceforce.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Nonviolent Peaceforce international meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Rachel Julian attended the international Board and Senior Management team meeting of Nonviolent Peaceforce in France. At this meeting new research opportunities were discussed within the context of emerging innovative practice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description On Berit's personal blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Berit recorded the research on her personal website
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.bliesemann-de-guevara.de/research/raising-silent-voices/
 
Description Open day presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The research was highlighted in an Open Day talk for new students in the University. The research was presented by the PI. The impact was that more people knew about the research and highlight specific expertise in conflict and communities in the University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description PaCCS workshop London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Berit and Rachel represented Raising Silent Voices at a PaCCS organised workshop to understand emerging themes, challenges and opportunities for doing better interdisciplinary research in complex conflicts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Rachel was invited to speak at a Policy Late event at the British Academy on Conflict and Disaster. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Rachel was invited to speak on a panel exploring the links between Disaster and Conflict, bringing the expertise from this research project. During the discussion and in the networking afterwards we made links on the importance of understanding the role of local people and use their work and experience as the starting point. The panel members also networked between themselves and agreed to speak on the same panel at Kings at the launch of the Disaster Research network and work together to strengthen the dialogue.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Reported on Leeds Beckett University website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact A media press release and story was prepared by the research PI and put on the University website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/news/0616-new-peacekeeping-research-to-put-local-community-at-heart-of...
 
Description Research blog on Rachel's personal website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Rachel wrote some research blogs to explain the first field trip in November 2016. The purpose was to explain to my students and colleagues why I was going to Myanmar and a little about the process we were following when we were there.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.racheljulian.co.uk
 
Description Research on Aberystwyth website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Aberystwyth University promoted the research through its media work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/interpol/research/researchprojects/currentresearchprojects/raisingsilentvo...
 
Description Seminar Leeds Beckett 16-17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A seminar by Rachel Julian into the methodological insights and cultural basis for the project Raising Silent voices
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at Bath University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dr Rachel Julian gave a talk at Bath University. Title 'How cultural expression of conflict can inform analysis and intervention strategies in Myanmar.'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.paccsresearch.org.uk/event/raising-silent-voices/
 
Description Uppsala Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Berit Bliesemann de Guevara gave a talk "Researching Violent Conflict Where/When It Happens? Fieldwork Impressions from Burma", Hugo Valentin Centre research seminar, Uppsala University, 27 April 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Uppsala talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Berit Bliesemann de Guevara gave a talk. "Power - Trust - Ethics: Research relationships in the Raising Silent Voices project in Myanmar", workshop Research Brokers in Zones of Conflict, Research Node Conflict and Method, Uppsala University, 15-16 June 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Women's Day talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Living in the Midst of Violent Conflict: Women, Violence and Refuge in Myanmar's Kachin and Rakhine States", International Women's Day conference, Gender Research Group, Aberystwyth University, 8 March 2018.
By Berit Bliesemann de Guevara
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017