Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Afghanistan learns from PH experience in peace talks

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Afghanistan learns from PH experience in peace talks

The Philippines will provide technical assistance to Afghanistan in its own peace talks with its local Islamic rebel group Taliban by sharing lessons of its own peace process, primarily in its successful peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

A delegation from Afghanistan is currently on a three-day visit to the Philippines to learn from the country’s peace process, especially in terms of promoting women empowerment in peace talks.

The delegation is composed of 16 out of 70 members of the Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC), which was created last June 2010 and is composed of government officials, former Jihadist leaders, peace activists, and women. The HPC aims to accelerate the process of peace reconciliation and reintegration of elements of the Taliban and other armed military groups in Afghanistan.

“I am very happy that the Afghanistan peace council’s delegates are coming here to learn from the Philippine experience about the peace process,” HPC Secretary and head of delegation Shaila Samimi said.

“We need to learn how women’s roles have been defined and recognized within the peace process in the Philippines,” she related, adding that the meeting with Philippine officials will provide a good opportunity for ”experience-sharing and exchange of information.”

The delegation was received and briefed on the Philippine peace process by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, OPAPP Undersecretary Maria Cleofe Gettie Sandoval, government peace panel chair Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, and government peace panel member and former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani.

During the meeting, the delegation indicated interest in OPAPP’s experience in effective advocacy techniques aimed at promoting gender equality and women empowerment in the peace process, and in responding to gender-related issues and problems within peace negotiations.

Last May 2015, the HPC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UN WOMEN to enhance capacity building and women’s participation in the peace process, emphasizing that the role women play is significant in achieving a just and lasting peace. Part of the MoU’s activities include cross-learning experiences with countries that have a history of successful peace and reconciliation process with a gender perspective such as Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines.

Samimi thanked the peace officials for discussing the Philippines’ experience in peace talks, saying “it was a very constructive session, very important, and we learned a lot, so it was a very happy session.”

“It was very useful for us,” she added.

Dr. Socorro Reyes of the Center for Legislative Development, which coordinated the visit of the Afghan delegation, also highlighted the importance of the meeting with OPAPP officials in helping Afghanistan’s own peace initiatives.

“It was very enriching… [we] covered a lot of topics that [the HPC] has always been trying to get answers on and would help them in their own peace negotiations in Afghanistan,” Reyes said.

Deles for her part emphasized that the Bangsamoro peace process has gained much by learning from the experiences of other countries, and said that the Philippines is ready to give back and share its own experience with other countries working on their own peace talks.

“Our own peace process gained a lot from exchanges with other countries and support from other countries so we are happy to share what we can and continue to learn from your experiences as well,” she said.

Women leading PH peace talks

The Bangsamoro peace process has received national and global acclaim for its gender-inclusive thrust. Just this month the New York-based International Peace Institute (IPI) recognized both Deles and Ferrer as ideal women peacemakers, saying that “based on their (Deles and Ferrer) experiences in helping to bring about the Comprehensive Agreement, women will likely have more contributions to make in this journey toward peace.”

The report also noted that for the Bangsamoro peace process, “direct participation at the negotiation table was combined with official consultations, a transition commission, and mass action.”

“Women negotiators united across the table, both to promote gender issues and to push the overall process forward. They emphasized the importance of this united approach when presenting to the media throughout the talks. They worked to demonstrate progress and build support for the peace process, and to persuade the public that continuing the negotiations was a smarter, better approach than returning to violence,” the report added.

During the meeting Sandoval recognized the crucial role of women in the Philippines’ peace process, and noted that the government continues to actively encourage women’s participation in the peace talks.

“The Philippines, in terms of participation of women in the peace process, has also been very active and has encouraged women to actively sit, actively participate either as formal negotiators, as part of the formal negotiations, or as part of the civil society supporting the peace process,” Sandoval explained.

“Women have journeyed with these processes all along…women play key roles in the peace processes in the country,” she emphasized, noting that in total there are 48 women leaders in the peace talks being conducted by the government.

The Philippines is recognized as being the first in the world to have a major peace agreement signed by a woman chief negotiator, Ferrer, under the purview of a peace process chief who is also a woman, Deles.

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