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Burma/Myanmar: Geneva Call and partners conduct a first humanitarian workshop with the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army

11th October 2016 | Burma-Myanmar - Humanitarian norms

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From 9 to 11 October, Geneva Call conducted a workshop for the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) on humanitarian norms in co-operation with the Karen Community Based Network Group and three international agencies near the Thai-Burma/Myanmar border.

The engagement with DKBA started in 2014, however, this workshop marked the first time that Geneva Call had led an activity specifically for the DKBA. The DKBA is still active and controls some territory in the east of Karen/Kayin State.

Through this workshop, Geneva Call sought to promote understanding of relevant international standards—particularly with respect to children, gender and landmines. To better highlight ongoing and potential responses to this range of humanitarian issues, Geneva Call welcomed crucial workshop contributions from its partners Save the Children, the International Labour Organisation and Danish Church Aid.

Senior and mid-level DKBA members took part in the workshop alongside members of community based organizations that work in areas under DKBA control. Together, the participants developed a series of concrete suggestions to guide the DKBA towards better cooperation on humanitarian issues. Geneva Call will now liaise with DKBA leaders and other stakeholders in an effort to take these ideas forward with a view to improving the situation of civilians in areas under DKBA control.

Although a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, the DKBA has had limited exposure to international humanitarian norms. Mainly due to its complex history, the DKBA seems to have been viewed as “off-limits” by many actors. 

In 2010, most of the forces belonging to the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, which had been active since 1994, converted into a government-backed border guard force. However, a major faction refused to do so and became the DKBA.