After disaster strikes and other stories: The political construction of Typhoon Pablo in insurgency affected communities in Mindanao

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway, University of London
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

Disasters, such as the Asian tsunami (Sri Lanka & Indonesia), the Indus Floods (Pakistan) and on-going droughts in the Horn of Africa, have increasingly taken place in parts of LMICs affected by violence and conflict. Yet, surprisingly, very little is known about the way in which people living amidst conflict interact with the state, with insurgent groups or the military in the aftermath of the disaster and how this is experienced in their 'everyday' lives. The question this research seeks to address is how are climatic disasters locally constructed in communities living with conflict in LMICs? In so doing, this project will help understand the complex political space where development interventions in disaster recovery and rehabilitation take place. Fitting perfectly within the framework of the PaCCS and the GCRF this project project will address a tangible gap in conflict and disaster research. It's findings will have a significant impact in the design of development policy aimed at improving welfare of communities living in LMICs.

This research project is unique and innovative in the political space that it is interested in studying - the intersection of disasters with conflict. The approach it follows is innovative and risky, drawing together social science scholarship and methods with arts and humanities methods. Additionally in working with non-academic partners proficient in visual methods, this research allows me to build capacity as an early career scholar, interested in developing an interdisciplinary approach to studying the disaster and conflict space in LMICs.

Based on physical and digital ethnographic research in two barangays (villages), in Surigao del Sur and in Manguindanao provinces, in Mindanao this project will politically construct Typhoon Pablo that devastated the southern Philippines in 2012. This region has been facing a protracted armed insurgency between the communist New People's Army (NPA) and the Islamist, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the state. Though political geography often discusses disasters as a manifestation of state "weakness" that fracture the social contracts between the states and their citizens, allowing insurgent groups to capture this space, my previous research shows such a narrative as being too simplistic. It fails to take into account the complex, haphazard and informal ways in which state-citizen relationships have been forged, invented and reinvented in the postcolonial world.

To explore this complexity, my ethnographic fieldwork will also include twenty digital stories from community members who were affected by Typhoon Pablo and have been living amidst an active insurgency. I will be working with local partners Swito Corp based in Davao City Mindanao, who run an exciting start-up using digital storytelling as a medium of engaging local communities, particularly in areas of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Additionally a community NGO in Mindanao, PeaceBuilders Community Incorporated (PBCI), with grassroots networks will be collaborators on this project.

This will be one of the first research project exploring local construction of a disaster in a conflict-affected region in an LMIC, such as the Philippines. It is therefore not only an innovative piece of work but in providing a contextual and socially relevant framework through which to understand the disaster and conflict intersection, but can be used to design policy interventions in Mindanao and beyond. Additionally, this project will also be one of the first to use digital storytelling as a method of ethnographic data collection. Thereby, enabling participation of respondents in developing their own digital storyboards and driving their own narrative. A guiding framework in this regard will be provided by the specialist company Limetools Ltd in the UK, experienced in using media and digital storytelling for policy work thereby improving capability of Filipino partners as well.

Planned Impact

Impact for think tanks and international development institutes
(i) Pioneering research (data, approaches and methodologies) on political construction of climatic disasters that moves beyond grand narratives of 'fractured social contracts' and 'disaster diplomacy' in conflict affected communities in LMICs
The call for this project asks for research that will make a "transformative contribution to advancing the fields of conflict and international development research", is "innovative and ambitious" and develops cross-disciplinary "approaches between the arts and humanities and social sciences".
(ii) Presenting research findings on a very relevant and challenging issue for the Philippines, and a number of other LMICs: increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters in countries struggling with enduring conflict and insecurity.
This project call is also aimed towards research that is "internationally focused" and makes a positive impact "welfare (broadly defined) of populations in, and/or economic development of, LMICs.

Impact for Filipino partners, research participants and civil society
(iii) The project collaborations include two Filipino partners; a social impact start-up Swito Corp and a community based NGO PeaceBuilders Community Inc (PBCI), and a UK based digital storytelling and behavioural change specialist company Limetools Ltd.
The call asks that research engage with "the specific cultures, histories, faiths and beliefs" of people. This research project will therefore be working with communities through "non-academic partners" who are known and trusted by the community. Additionally, UK collaborators Limetools Ltd will provide guidelines for the digital stories that will build "future capacity for cross-disciplinary and internationally collaborative research" within Swito Corp having a lasting impact beyond the scope of the project.
(iv) Findings from this research are of direct relevance and interest to project collaborators PBCI who design and deliver trainings in conflict resolution in these communities. Other NGOs and agencies working in these areas in the Philippines and the research participants themselves.
This project contributes towards the calls aims to support research that is "collaborative with non-academic partners in LMICs or in international organisations concerned with supporting international development" while also meeting the ODA requirements of "supporting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development".

Impact for international development policy makers and practitioners

(v) Project findings will have direct implications for international development policy in areas of disaster management and peace building. While also presenting an opportunity to explore the ways in which a research tool such as digital storytelling can be effectively used to influence development policy.
The ODA requirements in the field of peace and security clearly state, "Development co-operation should not be used as a vehicle to promote the providers security interests". It is therefore especially important that a counter-narrative to the mainstream approach of "winning hearts and minds" with Western aid in the aftermath of disasters, in insurgency affected LMICs, is presented. The first step in constructing this alternative policy narrative for disaster and conflict affected regions is robust evidence based research.

In the UK, the FCO, DFID and international development organisations working in areas of climate disasters and/or conflict, such as International Alert, Conciliation Resources and ActionAid will be invited to workshops and put on the project mailing list to share findings and updates on research. In the Philippines, this research will be of relevance and interest to the National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council (NDRRMC), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other international development actors investing in conflict prevention and disaster management

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title After Disaster Strikes and Other Stories 
Description We made a short film illustrating the use of digital storytelling (our innovative research tool) to gather data in the field. It captures not only the context of disasters and conflict in Mindanao but also the use of this exciting methodology, especially showing what our digital storytelling workshops with the research participants tended to look like. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Being able to talk about their experiences 'on the record' to a camera was clearly a positive experience for research participants with lasting impacts. Additionally the film has also been extremely useful in research methodology classes where it has been a great teaching resource. Finally, the short film was screened at a school even that took place at Royal Holloway University of London, Department of Geography and all 40-50 students were inspired by this research and it's very tangible impacts in people's lives. A couple of teachers reached out to me after the lecture + film screening to say: "I'm trying to make sure some of the best of them continue with Geography in the sixth form, and I hope beyond. Enrichments like your lecture (and film) are just the thing!". 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xk3PbG2V0GE
 
Title After disaster striked and other stories Part II 
Description We are working on another short film - still a work in progress - that is trying to demonstrate the 'lived experience' of disasters and conflict in the project field site. All characters in the film and actual filming has been done in the community where the research is being done. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact As this is a work in progress - it has not yet been screened. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXivAY6nDtg&t=3s
 
Description This research has enabled a much deeper analysis of people's experience of disasters when living amidst conflict and insurgency. It has revealed just how culturally determined and context specific, rather than universal, 'security' is a concept. In a postcolonial Lower and Middle Income Country, such as the Philippines, the research has highlighted the inequities, layers and complexities of indigenous and postcolonial citizenship. This manifested through the post-disaster relief and reconstruction and has enabled the local government bodies to improve their DRR protocols, clearly improving welfare and economic development in the country. Secondly, this research has helped to build capacity and transfer knowledge to the film-makers and digital media company it was working with in the Philippines, improving welfare and development. Thirdly this research project has allowed me as PI to begin to work on a new academic area of study around 'de-colonising disaster studies', which will ultimately resonate with many postcolonial states, besides The Philippines as well.
Exploitation Route In some ways the findings from my work are already being taken forward in the project I am doing with the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre in South Africa and also through the German funded study currently being undertaken by ODI.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description The findings from this research have provided a basic background through which to engage with the National Disaster Management agencies in the Philippines on indigenous cultures on typhoons in Mindanao. This conversation on improving understanding of disaster risk reduction in indigenous communities has clear impacts on economic security and development in The Philippines. The findings of this research have also enabled contribution to the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2019 (GAR19). This report will further help to strengthen resilience in all LMIC countries. The findings are also enabling new work to be done on this topic by think tanks and governments, such as a study by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) funded by the German government, that is looking to engage with governments in Colombia, Niger, Lebanon and Afghanistan on these issues.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Gave written evidence to the International Development Select Committee enquiry on Climate Change
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
URL https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmintdev/1432/1432.pdf
 
Description Influence on International Development Select Committee (IDC), House of Commons, through year long part-time secondment
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact The conversation on how the IDC can include more Global South research such as, After Disaster Strikes and Other Stories, has now begun. Some changes in evidence taking procedures are already underway,
 
Description Paper accepted for publication in the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2019 (GAR19)
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in systematic reviews
URL https://www.preventionweb.net/files/66211_f325finalsiddiqidisasterriskreducti.pdf
 
Description The research provided empirical research for international donors to take action on disasters and conflict
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact The report was written for the influential international development think tank Overseas Development Institute (ODI), funded through a German government (GIZ) grant. This case study report, while on Colombia, came out directly from my Philippines project and has contributed to the German government's changed practices in delivering aid and support in conflict-affected disaster areas.
URL https://www.odi.org/publications/11414-doble-afectacion-living-disasters-and-conflict-colombia
 
Description Newton ODA Funding
Amount £30,000 (GBP)
Organisation Newton Fund 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 03/2017
 
Description Royal Holloway University of London internal QR funding
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Holloway, University of London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 08/2019
 
Title DST method 
Description Digital storytelling (DST) is a qualitative, participatory and decentralised research method that allows research participants to control their own narrative and tell their own story. They are able to use, pictures, illustrations, multimedia and other medium they might like to construct their 'lived experience' of a particular event or situation. While DST has now been used by a number of different disciplines and professions, it's value as an ethnographic research tool has not really been explored. This project is transformational in trying to examine just that. 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact It allows research participants to particulate in the data collection processes in a direct and decentralised way. The interviewer is no longer in charge of noting and interpreting their words and actions but rather it is the participants themselves. The images, pictures and greater illustrative ability of this method also allows deeper and more meaningful conversation with participants. 
 
Description Developing an exhibition 
Organisation Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre
Country South Africa 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution My research team from the Philippines and I will be travelling to Johannesburg to extend some of the work we have done in the Philippines, on co-creating digital stories of disasters in insurgency-affected areas, to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) community living in exile in South Africa.
Collaborator Contribution The Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre was responsible for connecting me to this network from the DRC and also for providing, the space at The Centre to hold a digital storytelling workshop with them and then screen the stories at a public 'launch' event.
Impact We are currently working on two outputs: 1) To hold a digital storytelling workshop with the DRC community at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre (JHGC). At this workshop, we will co-create individual stories of environmental disaster and armed insurgency in the DRC. 2) To organise some sort of display or screening of these stories at the JHGC
Start Year 2018
 
Description Swito Corp 
Organisation Swito Corporation
Country Philippines 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution I provided Swito Storytelling with the aims, objectives and interview protocols for this research project. I was able to work with them, in person and remotely, to create the kind of digital storytelling and filming method that was appropriate for my research project. To help us in this endeavour, I also hired the services of a UK sub-contractor to provide a basic storytelling framework that I was able to share with Swito Storytelling and help build their capacity to work on such research projects in the future.
Collaborator Contribution Swito Storytelling is a small social enterprise company in Mindanao, Philippines. They are project partners on this research project and have contributed towards the successful use of digital storytelling as a research method. I have been working in collaboration with them to conduct effective digital storytelling workshops in the communities and also to learn more about this research method. Being connected to the wider digital media community in Mindanao they have also provided a lot of support in finding the right film-makers, interpreters etc. They are currently also working with me to organise the impact events in Manila and Davao (capital city of Mindanao) for May 2018.
Impact 3 Digital Storytelling workshops in Mindanao. 2 took place in local communities and 1 at the municipal Disaster Risk Management Office in the area. Also, the two short films on the project and it's methods. Finally, we are in the process of organising two impact events in Manila and Davao City for policy makers and the wider public.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Conference in UK Parliament 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This research and it's findings were presented at the AHRC-GCRF-IDC Mobilising Global Voices conference in UK Parliament, where MPs and other policy makers asked me questions and engaged on the subject matter.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description On the panel of a German government funded event on climate security 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Planetary Security conference brings high-level policymakers from across the world to The Hague to plan action on climate security. In February 2019 I was invited to present my perspectives, based on this research, at the event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://bit.ly/BestofPSC2019
 
Description Policy maker workshop and film screening in Manila 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a workshop to discuss the emerging findings of our research with the policy-makers and practitioners on this subject in the country's capital city of Manila.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Policy maker workshop in Davao 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop was a discussion between the research team, on the emerging research findings, and NGOs, local government and other policy practitioners who work on this subject area in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. The feedback indicated that a number of NGOs were looking at this issue in a new light as a result of our research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Research exhibition in UK Parliament 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This research project was part of an AHRC-GCRF research exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall of the House of Commons where MPs and their staff were able to see it's objective and purpose.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019