Davao hosts 1st confab on counter-terrorism in Southeast Asia

Organized by the Zamboanga City-based Western Mindanao State University (WMSU), the Mindanao PeaceWeavers, Initiatives for International Dialogue (IDD), and Cordaid, the Conference on Counterterrorism and Development in South and Southeast Asia is scheduled Monday to Wednesday with around 5O participants from the different countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.

Outgoing presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza was invited to welcome local and foreign participants.

Banking on the experience of civil society organizations in the country, the event shall provide a formal venue for deeper discussion and analysis of the realities faced by CSOs today especially on issues of human rights, social development and peace.

A background of the gathering here notes that "civil society organizations worldwide are experiencing a shrinking of political space to achieve their goals and implement their mission and vision on development," especially in relation to the global promotion of counterterrorism of states.

"A security agenda on both international and domestic levels is affecting the work of development organizations and civil society. This agenda is complex and does not only relate to the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent global 'War on Terror,'" the backgrounder adds.

Thus the "working conference endeavours to further understanding of the effects of counter-terrorism measures (CTMs) on civil society development work in the specific contexts of South and Southeast Asia, and to identify concrete changes evident in the past years since the 9/11 attacks. It will provide a space in which the participants can share experiences, concerns and dilemmas, and delve into the particulars of direct impacts, coping mechanisms and proactive strategies to respond to, deal with or even challenge CTMs."

Conference inputs shall be given by well-known experts in the field of peace and conflict management, terrorism, human rights, and counterterrorism policies.

The panel includes Prof. George Lopez of the JB Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies, Prof. Premindra Singh, Prof. Carol Hernandez of the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies, lawyer Jose Lorena, a consultant for the GRP-MNLF Peace Talks, and lawyer Jose Manuel Mamauag, regional director of the Commission of Human Rights in Western Mindanao whose office also handles cases from the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.

Real-life situations workshops shall be held that will tackle the effects of CTMs, dilemmas, issues and concerns in dealing with CTMs.

The conference in Davao will be followed by a round of policy dialogues between civil society representatives and bi, and multilateral policy officers in Manila on May 29 and 30. (Rick R. Flores/MindaNews contributor)