IID was officially founded in August 1988, two years after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. Even earlier, the founders – including the incumbent Executive Director — have been deeply involved in the anti-dictatorship struggle and were at that time engaged in generating international support for the cause. The support solicited was essentially political, technical, material and financial and most of these emanated from Western or advanced and developed countries.
IID’s progenitors however also realized that the discourse on international solidarity had to be “two-way” and not only focused on getting “wherewithal” assistance for the Philippine social movement, but rather be a throbbing dynamic between two parties, or more so, two or more “peoples”. They believed it should be about support and sharing of each other’s oftentimes common as well as each other’s unique experiences, learning, methodologies and stories. This brand of solidarity—south-south, people-to-people internationalism, was more lasting and is the discourse that IID wanted to develop, practice and propagate not only within the Philippine social movement, but also among partners and takers abroad.
Having ousted the dictator Marcos in part due to intense solidarity from overseas, the founders of IID felt that the Filipino people, particularly civil society — was a wellspring of acquired knowledge in the business of social struggle and was thus posited if not obliged to share these to others specially those communities, nations and peoples still fighting to win their own freedoms and development.
It does not mean that there was nothing to learn from those still struggling, as there was also much to, and thus IID’s discourse of south-south people’s solidarity was but an affirmation of how peoples tend to rediscover their passions in their own struggles while involved in the struggles of others.
Stages and Changes
IID has gone through at least five stages in its almost 25 years of existence. The first was the birthing and evolving phase were its south-south discourse had yet to be mainstreamed, where the institution had to plod on despite almost nil resources and support but with a robust attitude and belief in its mission. This was when IID developed and tested its methodologies on dialogue, advocacy, global education and campaigns. This was between the years 1988 – 1992.
The second phase, from1992-1994, was when IID started to make its mark with pioneering programs and projects such as an internship program for Sri Lankan political refugees in the Philippines and with its handling of Asia-Pacific wide advocacy issues such as the debate on the impact of foreign military bases in the region. It was during this period that IID was asked to backstop an Asia-Pacific conference in Manila on the bases and continuing Western foreign influence in the countries in the region. This was the period where IID’s methodologies were honed.
The third phase, 1994-1996, saw IID establishing itself as the pioneering and leading entity for south-south solidarity campaigns and processes in the region. Taking on the East Timor issue, IID led the campaign for their self-determination in the Asia-Pacific through the seminal coalition it established in Manila in 1994 called the Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor (APCET). This was also the period where IID focused on establishing or working with networks, coalitions to pursue its objectives. APCET brought home to the region an issue that was not officially being discussed in the corridors of powers, among governments and even among civil society. Bringing the issue home — so to speak — broke the silence in the region about East Timor and thus contributed to the expansion of the space and discourse on human rights, democracy and governance as a whole. Other issues in the region that needed its own projection, support and solidarity such as Aceh, West Papua, Mindanao and most specially Burma were also at this point initially addressed by IID.
The fourth stage was when IID relocated from Manila to Davao City in southern Philippines in 1996.
This was to further animate its discourse of being a “south-south solidarity” entity at the time that the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) project of these four countries’ governments was taking off. Davao was the center of this experiment which IID and its partners in the “growth” area felt lacked again the benefit of people’s participation.
But transferring to Davao– away from the center, also gave IID the opportunity to further breathe life into its “south-south” discourse. Where better place to be than in an island of myriad, struggling, restless, ascendant, assertive “south” peoples and nations but in Mindanao?
Being grounded in Mindanao also gave IID’s regional campaigns an edge in linking the macro and region-wide campaigns to issues and akin campaigns on the micro level. Conflict, ethnicity, self-determination, human rights, democracy, and governance issues in the region such as of Burma, Aceh, West Papua, Sri Lanka was a daily concern of the various peoples and “nations” in Mindanao. Thus, the regional and macro (East Timor, Burma, Aceh, conflict prevention) and micro (Mindanao) advocacies enriched, complemented and sometimes fed on each other.
It was during this period that IID’s then foremost regional campaign issue achieved its unprecedented victory: the independence of East Timor in 1999!
The move to Davao also proved to be the catalyst of the fifth stage that IID is currently in.
A battleground of unresolved historical conflicts, Mindanao was plunged into an “all-out war” in 2000 launched by the Estrada government against Muslim rebels despite a standing ceasefire agreement. Thousands of civilians were again displaced as the cycle of violence, evacuation, social disruption, relief and rehabilitation came into full swing the nth time around. Concerned community leaders of the so-called “tri-people” of Moro, indigenous and settlers, from various and perennial grassroots conflict-areas were convened by IID to sort out and determine a sustained and comprehensive response to the tired but deadly cycle of war and violence.
This initiative led to a sustained grassroots engagement of the peace process where stakeholders in the communities themselves convened now under the Mindanao Peoples Caucus and accompanied by IID and other civil society supporters and stakeholders engage government, soldiers, generals, rebels, guerillas, donors, missions, media and international monitors with their perspectives of the war, its roots and attendant issues.
This has been the foundation of IID’s current discourse on peace-building and conflict prevention while it continues to sustain its regional networks on lobbying and campaigns on issues outside of Mindanao.
IID’s long experiences in advocacy work in the region further enrich its Mindanao engagement, while the latter grounds its regional work.
IID is thus currently engaged in conflict prevention initiatives in the regional and global levels, informed by its persistent regional solidarity campaigns and rooted by its Mindanao peace-building work.