Out of the shadows

International Alert recently launched a new book called Out of the shadows: Violent conflict and the real economy of Mindanao.

The book presents the results of research into the linkages between violent conflict and the informal or ‘shadow’ economy in Mindanao, the conflict-affected region in the southern Philippines.

Funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the research sheds light on a number of economic activities: the trade in illicit firearms, kidnapping for ransom, informal land markets, illicit cross-border trade, the traditional credit system and illicit drug markets.

Although shadow economies are an important feature of the economy in Mindanao, they have largely been overlooked in the analysis of Mindanao’s conflict dynamics. As a result, little is understood about their impact on armed violence and governance in the region.

This study addresses a number of questions: What explains the resilience and thriving nature of shadow economies? How do these economies affect the prospects for peacebuilding, development and democratic change in the region? What are the implications of this for policy?

The various case studies provide compelling evidence of the dynamics of Mindanao’s informal economy and its interaction with violent conflict. The research argues that, in order to fully comprehend and address the region’s political and economic challenges, the informal economy needs to be incorporated into the broader analysis of Mindanao.

Undersecretary Gerundio C. Madueño receiving his copy of the bookThe book was launched on 15 January in Manila. This was preceded by a public forum, which aimed to familiarise a diverse group of stakeholders with the outcomes of the study. The researchers presented their findings and discussed these with the audience. Among the participants were representatives of government agencies, the Australian, British, Norwegian and Malaysian embassies, and national and international organisations.

During the event, copies of the book were presented to Undersecretary Jose Lorena of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Undersecretary Gerundio C. Madueño of the Department of Agrarian Reform (pictured receiving his copy), and Sam Chittick of AusAID.

The research findings will now be widely shared and discussed with stakeholders in government, civil society, the business sector and international community.

Out of the shadows is available from various branches of National Book Store in the Philippines.

Top photo: © James T Phan