Civil society groups play an important role in conflict prevention and peace management. This was demonstrated by the establishment of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), a global civil society led network which seeks to build an international consensus on peacebuilding and the prevention of violent conflict.
In Mindanao, as in elsewhere, civil society groups have worked together with communities in strengthening local base response as well as in ensuring the protection of civilians in situations of armed conflict.
The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) welcome the signing between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of a framework of agreement on the formation of the International Contact Group (ICG), in recognition of the role of international non government organizations and interested countries in the peace process.
According to the agreement, the ICG will consist of “interested countries accompanying the peace process preferably drawn from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the European Union (EU) as well as accredited international non government organization (s) to be invited by the parties in consultation with a third party facilitator.”
GPPAC would be an ideal INGO to be considered as one of the International Contact Group given its track-record in conflict prevention and in fostering dialogue and solidarity among peoples. Another is the World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA), an organization of Asian democrats committed to support democratic initiatives and protect democracy activists and processes in the region which is currently having its 3rd biennial conference in Seoul, Korea this week. It has offered to become a member of the ICG if invited even as it will continue to help in the Mindanao peace process.
As the GPPAC initiator for Southeast Asia, and a founding steering committee member of WFDA, the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) along with its partner Mindanao organizations, like the Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW) will continue to engage in the process of dialogue among grassroots communities and with stakeholders and decision makers in the region. It will also dialogue with presidential aspirants and other candidates for the 2010 elections to ensure the Mindanao Peoples Peace Agenda (MPPA) that it is currently evolving be considered in their platforms.
GPPAC was established in 2003 in response to the call made by the United Nations for an international conference of civil society organizations working in the field of conflict prevention. Since holding its Global Conference in 2005, GPPAC has worked to strengthen civil society networks for peace and security by linking local, national, regional, and global levels of action.
It has also endeavored to establish effective engagement with governments, the UN system and regional organizations; and to carry out projects on awareness raising, network building to strengthen and increase capacity for prevention of violent conflict, knowledge generation and sharing on approaches and methods for conflict prevention and peacebuilding and early warning and response.
We remain committed in our effort to mobilize international and local support for the peace process in Mindanao. As we offer our partners in the GPPAC and WFDA networks to sit as an accredited INGO in the ICG, we also call for the creation of a National Contact Group (NCG) in order to allow active participation from local stakeholders and peace advocates as well. We believe MPW along with its member networks will be ideal for this role.
As we look forward to the eventual resumption of the peace process, IID calls on both the government and the MILF to sustain its Suspension of Military Offensives (SOMO) and Suspension of Military Actions (SOMA) respectively; and to work not only for a framework of agreement but a concrete plan of action on the establishment of a mechanism on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. They can build on existing civil society mechanisms already on the ground such as the Bantay Ceasefire.
While we laud the GRP and the MILF for recognizing the role of civil society in the peace process, we continue to challenge both panels to remain true to their word and ensure greater participation from the people throughout the process. We call on both panels to continually forge venues wherein all stakeholders may engage the parties for a more meaningful dialogue towards peace. Moreover, we reiterate our call for both sides to uphold the primacy of the peace process. The ICG – and an NCG- can only be as effective as the commitment of the government and MILF to genuinely dialogue for peace. The public deserves no less. (30)