Saturday, April 4, 2015

Normalization process key deterrent to ISIS-like radicalism in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4): Normalization process key deterrent to ISIS-like radicalism in Mindanao

An international expert on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration or DDR underscored the importance of ensuring that combatants learn to ease their way out of the culture and context of conflict and for the government to deliver its commitments for normalization so that a conflict resolution program such as the ongoing peace process in Mindanao would be successful.

DDR expert Stavros "Aki" Stavrou, in a forum with actors involved in the Bangsamoro peace process, stressed that a successful normalization process is the best deterrent to radicalization that is now spreading in the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) areas in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Stavrou pointed out that "the real question is whether ex-combatants have indeed become ex-combatants—that you have taken those people out of the culture and context of conflict."

Providing stability and sustainability to these ex-combatants are important in ensuring they would not be enticed to return to armed radicalism.

"If you are able to attract the most number of combatants possible in the process, then you are in a good position to prevent ISIS-like elements from emerging. But if you don't deliver, you will definitely see resistance," Stavrou said.

The communities also must be involved in the normalization process by ensuring they are sensitive to acting immediately on or preventing a situation that would make ex-combatants return to their old ways. "You need to sensitize both the ex-combatants and the communities properly. You cannot have situations wherein ex-combatants are being taken advantage of again."

"The normalization phase is the time to plant the seeds of development. However, this can only happen when we treat our partners from across the negotiating table with the same respect we'd afford ourselves," said Stavrou.

Aside from the political and socio-economic aspects of normalization, Stavrou maintained that psycho-social interventions were equally important. "The psycho-social component of conflict lingers the most. You need to institute programs to address that in order to put an end to the cycle of conflict and violence,” he added.

The Philippine government has been engaged in a peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for more than 17 years. A milestone was reached a year ago with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that served as basis in the drafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Parallel to the roadmap toward the establishment of the Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is the normalization process which aims, among others, to decommission MILF weapons and allow the group's combatants to return to peaceful and productive civilian lives.

Stavrou provided a rundown of essentials for the normalization process to succeed such as guiding principles, core elements, organizational characteristics and implementation structures as well as possible funding modalities.

Currently working as a senior social development specialist at the World Bank, Stavrou has been at the forefront of reintegration programs with ex-combatants for more than 15 years. He oversaw and implemented normalization-like initiatives in Iraq, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, and Sudan among other countries.

Earlier, government peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer ‎said that "by forging a peace agreement with the government, the MILF has committed to renounce violence and terrorism as an ideology and way of life."

"The full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will ensure that the leaders and followers of the MILF will desist from going the way of the ISIS," she added.

The normalization process, including the decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons, shall be implemented by the executive branch and will coincide with and shall be commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the Parties.

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