Talks progress in Philippines but inclusivity key to sustainable peace
Peace talks in Kuala Lumpur between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) come close to bringing the parties to a final agreement. However as recent fighting in Zamboanga City between Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and government troops demonstrates, the peace talks – while a key part of the peace process – are still only one piece of the puzzle. Participation in a wider process by a broad swathe of Mindanao society, not only but including the MNLF and by those less represented in day-to-day politics such as women and indigenous communities, is crucial.
In October 2012, after over 40 years of armed conflict that has stifled development in the region and resulted in the loss of over 120,000 lives, talks resulted in the Government and the MILF signing a Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), which establishes the conditions for replacing the current Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao with a new and more powerful self-governing entity called the Bangsamoro. This agreement outlines a roadmap to peace, with a transition period that runs until national, regional and local elections in May 2016. Parties are currently in final talks to agree two remaining annexes on power-sharing and normalisation.
Although the FAB paves the way for “final and enduring peace in Mindanao” (President Aquino), the Government, the MILF and other parties are aware that the implementation of the agreement will be at least as challenging as the negotiations. The parties have learnt that broad ownership, transparency and inclusivity – essentially, public participation – are key ingredients for a successful peace process. In response to this, Conciliation Resources and partners have launched two new projects, the first focusing on the participation of women into the drafting of the Basic Law of Muslim Mindanao, which will serve as the governing framework of the Bangsamoro; and the second supporting the transition and implementation of the FAB through ensuring broad public participation.
Ensuring an inclusive peace process
Women’s participation is essential for a successful peace process – the peace agreement itself acknowledges “the right of women to meaningful participation”. The challenge is to move from policy to practice. Until mid 2014 a Transition Commission will draft a Basic Law to determine the powers of a new autonomous political entity.
Women in the Bangsamoro, while active in a number of social fields, are part of a society that largely holds to traditional values undermining women’s active participation. Through consulting with women from all sectors of Bangsamoro society – including indigenous women, who form a minority – over the coming two months, the first project will develop an agenda for women in the Bangsamoro that can be translated into provisions in the Basic Law. Funded by the UK Embassy in the Philippines, thirty consultations will take place using an innovative methodology already developed as part of the project
At the same time, supported by EU funding, Conciliation Resources and partners will work on implementation of the Framework Agreement. This project will help ensure that the Basic Law is endorsed by the vast majority of men and women across all ethno-linguistic, religious and other sectors of society; that there is a trusted, accountable and community-responsive regional security force and that the FAB is implemented responding to the needs and priorities of the conflict-affected communities.
Connecting high level talks with public engagement
These projects in essence, help form the remaining pieces of the puzzle – linking the high-level talks with engagement at community level. Project partners represent key groups enabling the promotion of dialogue and confidence-building across ethnic, political and social divides. As a member of the International Contact Group that advises the Government and the MILF, Conciliation Resources has direct access to the parties leading the peace process – both the Government and the MILF have been informed and have endorsed the current project. In addition, some of the project partners have been appointed members of the Transition Commission and the Independent Third Party Monitoring Team, paving the way for a strategic relationship with some of the key bodies implementing the Peace Agreement and meaning that concerns at grassroots level will be linked with policies drafted by decision-makers.
Entrenching Women’s participation in the Basic Law of Muslim Mindanao:
Building peace in Mindanao through public participation in governance:
- Nisa Ul Haq
- Pambasang Kongreso ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK) / Teduray Lambangian Women Organisation (TLWOI)
- Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute
- United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD)
- Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) - Zamboanga, Basilan, Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA)
- Philippine Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASUC)
- Mindanao Business Council
- The Asia Foundation (Philippines)