Wilbur Perlot and Mark Anstey recently travelled to Davao, the Philippines, to train an influential group of Bangsamoro, an ethnic and political group in the southern Philippines. Clingendael Academy trained them in skills of negotiation and mediation to promote their role as Insider Mediators, thereby enhancing the chances of a final and sustainable peace for the Bangsamoro.
Two peace agreements
Many decades of armed struggle and a very long period of negotiations between the main Bangsamoro fighting fronts and the Philippines government are hopefully coming to an end soon. There are now two peace agreements in place: between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
There are, however, still quite a number of challenges to overcome:
- Both peace agreements need to be implemented and shifting political circumstances in Manilla threaten to make the implementation process difficult and long;
- Differences amongst the Bangsamoro on how to continue with the peace process and clear divergence in priorities between MILF and (within the) MNLF threaten the implementation process;
- There is ongoing fighting in the region by different splinter groups which do have ties, or at least identity themselves with, the larger Bangsamoro struggle. These groups are potential spoilers to the peace process;
- Slowness in delivering tangible results of the peace agreements to the people on the ground is a risk for the entire process. Poor communication to constituencies brings along risks of disappointed and disillusioned people turning away from the peace process to seek new ways of (armed) struggle, possibly in connection with the groups still fighting;
- The peace agreements are between the leaderships of the Bangsamoro groups and the executive branch of the government. It is vital that this elite level negotiation process becomes more inclusive during the implementation process. Listening to the voices of women, youth, other minority groups and others in the autonomous region is essential and their needs have to be included in the implementation of the agreements to ensure a sustainable peace.
The Bangsamoro struggle is in a hopeful phase, but considering the above there are still many things that can go wrong. For this reason the Bangsamoro Study Group (BSG) and the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), with support of the UNDP, is setting up an Insider Mediators network in the region. The UNDP has invited Clingendael Academy to train a first batch of participants (32 participated in this training). The training focused on:
- Negotiation skills;
- Mediation skills;
- Differences between negotiation and mediation;
- Roles of the mediator;
- Difficulties being an Inside Mediator.
The group worked in the evenings on how to set up their network, questions of institutionalisation, resources needed, stakeholders to engage and the entry points for the mediators. Many fruitful suggestions came from the evening sessions, which will be taken up in in follow-up activities by the BSG and CBCS. More information on the training can also be found here, on a webpage of the news organization Sun Star, written by one of the participants.
This first Bangsamoro training for insider mediators followed on two previous training programmes in the Philippines for leaders of the M.I.L.F. on the role of negotiations in political transition processes. Clingendael Academy will remain involved in the country, first to train a second batch of Bangsamoro and then to deliver a follow-up training to both batches. Training will enhance their capacity in helping to steer the Bangsamoro struggle to a sustainable peace.
Cooperation with UNDP
The involvement of Clingendael is part of the facility “Negotiation training as a Conflict Resolution Instrument” financed by the Department of Stabilisation and Humanitarian Aid of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Clingendael Academy and UNDP have a long running partnership to support UNDP in their work for Insider Mediators worldwide, which is an important step to increase local capacity for conflict resolution and prevention. In June this year, Clingendael and UNDP organised a first training together for Inside Mediators. For more information about our work for Insider Mediators please do not hesitate to contact Clingendael Academy.