Int’l community lauds GPH-MILF peace pact, hails Philippines for giving hope

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/07 October) – The Philippines is “demonstrating new ways to address old wars, “ giving hope “for other places with protracted armed conflict, such as Myanmar and Kashmir,” a member of the International Contact Group (ICG) said as the international community welcomed the Framework Agreement reached between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Saturday night.

In a press statement, Kristian Herbolzheimer, Philippines Programme Director of Conciliation Resources, said “one of the most protracted conflicts in the world is being brought to a close after 15 years of negotiations” and local ownership and public participation would be “the key to successful implementation.”

Emma Leslie, also of Conciliation Resources, was teary-eyed as she rushed out of the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses hotel here to catch a flight home Sunday afternoon. She left after listening to President Aquino’s Address to the Nation streamed live from Malacanang.

“It is an amazing, historic day. Of course I’m crying because it shows the leadership and the vision of amazing human beings particularly President Noynoy (Aquino), (MILF) Chairman (Al Haj) Murad (Ebrahim),” Leslie told MindaNews.

She also described as “amazing human beings” GPH peace panel chair Marvic Leonen and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal and paid tribute to the facilitation of Malaysia. “Today shows how peace processes can work. However, it’s the first step for a long road ahead which will have many bumps and many rocks for us to continue to work. So it’s the next chapter,” she said.

Dr. Steven Rood, Executive Director of The Asia Foundation said he was “very emotional as two peoples that I love – the Bangsmoro and the Filipinos – may have a chance of living productively together in peace.”

Mindanao peace process leads way

Herbolzheimer said the Mindanao peace process “has learned the hard lessons of past failures” but has also developed an “innovative peace-support architecture that can inspire other peace processes elsewhere.”

He was referring to the ICG which he describes as a “hybrid facilitation support body, with both states and international NGOs” as members; and a “hybrid monitoring body on the ground, bringing together internationals and locals, civilian and military, states and NGOs.”

The ICG is composed of four states : Japan, United Kingdom, Turkey and Saudi Arabia and four international NGOs: Conciliation Resources, The Asia Foundation, Muhammadiyah and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

The International Monitoring Team (IMT) on the other hand is a joint effort by Malaysia, Brunei, Norway and the European Union with a Civilian Protection Component composed of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center; the Mindanao Peoples Caucus; the Muslim Organisation of Government Employees and Nonviolent Peaceforce.

In a statement, the ICG praised President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim “for their courage and determination” and said the agreement “ushers in a new chapter in the search for peace in the troubled region of Mindanao.”

“The ICG acknowledges and appreciates the hard work and tenacity of the two Parties as well as the Malaysian Government and its facilitator, Tengku Dato’ AB Ghafar Tengku Mohamed,” the statement read.

Courage and Determination

“With its commitment to accommodate Bangsamoro demands for greater self-rule, the Philippines is following a global trend of increased decentralisation in response to the diverse and multiple identities of its people. At the same time, MILF’s pragmatism and negotiation skills challenge prejudice that all too often links political Islam to radicalism and violence. Both parties have shown courage and determination in settling the demands for self-determination for the Muslim population in south-eastern Philippines,” Herbolzheimer added.

The Framework Agreement, he explained, is not the final step of the peace process but a new phase by which the Government and MILF “now work as partners in the implementation of its provisions.”

“This is the most fragile step in any peace process. Expectations for rapid change are high while structural reform inevitably takes time. Inclusive, cross-sector public participation in the process must be maintained. Civil society, religious leaders, media, the business and the security sector all have a key role to play in securing a sustainable peace,” he said.

Herbolzheimer urged the international community to “maintain a smart and respectful support to the agreement’s implementation: allow for local ownership and guidance; assess the right balance and timing for political, technical, and financial support; coordinate to avoid doing unintended harm; and keep a long-term perspective in mind. “

Embassies, Foreign Ministries’ statements

The United States immediately issued a statement welcoming the agreement.

US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas said the successful implementation of the agreement “would improve security, stability, and development for the people of Mindanao.”

The United States, he said, has long supported peace and stability in Mindanao and “will continue to look for ways to support the people of Mindanao as they accelerate broad-based and inclusive growth.”

“We fully support the ongoing peace process and hope the parties can continue to avoid violence as they work toward a final resolution that will last for generations and benefit all the people of the Philippines.”

Australia, which has been contributing to peace and security in Mindanao through support for basic education, governance reforms and strengthening community resilience, also welcomed the agreement.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the agreement offers hope that conflict “could be drawing to a close.”

“This agreement is testament to the commitment of both the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to the concept of a peaceful settlement,” he said.

“I particularly acknowledge the leadership of Philippines President Benigno Aquino, who has been a strong advocate for peace,” he added.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in a statement called the agreement “an important first step toward the realization of the final agreement concerning the Mindanao Peace Process.”

“In the meantime, because the Framework Agreement leaves the resolution of several important issues to future negotiations, it is expected that more difficulties must be overcome to reach the final agreement,” it said.

Japan hosted the meeting between President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in a hotel near the Narita airport on August 4, 2011, where both leaders agreed to fast-track the peace process so implementation can be done within the Aquino administration.

Japan, it said, will “continue to lend its full support to the Mindanao Peace Process” through the dispatch of experts on development to the IMT, the intensive implementation of economic cooperation projects in former conflict-affected areas through the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD)), the participation in the ICG, among others.

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland also welcomed the agreement, and recognized “the important role played in this process by the Government of Malaysia as facilitator, the members of the International Contact Group, which comprises the Geneva based ‘Center for Humanitarian Dialogue’, as well as the members of the International Monitoring Team.”

“Switzerland is hopeful that the two parties will adhere to the provision of the Framework Agreement in view of the establishment of the Bangsamoro in the region of Mindanao,” and hopes that conclusion of the agreement “will contribute towards the resolution of other internal conflicts and positively influence the stability in the country.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2012/10/09/tl-community-lauds-gph-milf-peace-pact-hails-philippines-for-giving-hope/

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