In a gathering of around 500 peace advocates and practitioners here in the city over the weekend, various government agencies including the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) spearheaded a nationwide dialogue on local governments' and civil society's pivotal role in achieving a just and sustainable peace across the country.
"I'd like to convert this now from conversations into actions. I'd like to challenge you to continue doing; seeing to it that there is action in your inputs," said OPAPP Secretary Jesus G. Dureza during the culmination of the first Peace and Development Agenda Summit, with the goal of building a multi-sectoral constituency of active peace actors.
The two-day event, held at the Royal Mandaya Hotel, is part of the Duterte administration's commitment to transparency and inclusivity in the peace process. Dubbed as National Peacebuilding Conversations, the event is a spin-off of the Social Development Initiatives Summit: Malasakit at Pagbabago led by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary months prior to help operationalize President Rodrigo Duterte's goal of a people-centered security program.
Emphasizing the significance of the government's Six-Point Peace and Development Agenda, the conference provided an avenue for brainstorming and securing support from the hundreds of participants coming from various local government units in conflict-affected areas, national government agencies, civil society organizations and official development assistance partners.
OPAPP Undersecretary for Peace Accords Nabil A. Tan shared that the cornerstone of the peace roadmap is the fundamental dialogue between the government and the Filipino people. "We call on everyone to get on board and participate in their own small but meaningful way. We want to initiate public conversations with different stakeholders. We may not all obtain the opportunity to sit at the negotiating tables, but we can be in the sidelines: pitching our ideas, sharing our concerns in the best constructive and democratic tradition."
"We need you here: to represent the people from your community, and in turn, when you go back to your communities, to represent us. You echo the concerns of our marginalized and underprivileged sectors, in the same way that you cascade our messages to the communities war-torn and scarred as they are by long-standing conflicts," added Tan.
NCMF Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao, meanwhile, stressed the importance of the participants' experience and expertise as essential components of nation-building. Attendees of the event come from different backgrounds, representing a wide array of advocacies such as peacebuiding, economic matters, security, local governance, justice, human rights, and education among others.
"This meeting of leaders, decision-makers, actors, and stakeholders is a fortune; for nowadays, we face challenges in the local arena and the world stage," Lao said.
"This pertain not only to the threats to security but moreover to impediments to the formation or maintenance of a cohesive society that works towards the well-being of all its members, eliminates marginalization, respects the identity of the minorities, and cultivates a sense of trust and belonging," the NCMF secretary added.
Inclusivity through ideas and congressional initiatives
Featured in the summit is the utilization of the open space technology, wherein participants are invited to share their inputs on twenty-one (21) key topics under the peace process, such as the Bangsamoro affairs; human and indigenous people's rights; women's role; education; conflict-sensitive and peace promotion; as well as inter-agency and multi-stakeholder support.
The inputs or "gems" harvested from the conversations were then presented to the OPAPP and NCMF high officials, who in turn responded by engaging the sponsors to support the so-called gems. "We have seen our donor partners helping us in the negotiating stage with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). They are now helping us with the implementation of other agreements such as with the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front). We invite them to focus on providing support to these twenty-one (21) tables that are here with us today," Dureza appealed.
"One of our new shifts in OPAPP now is to appeal already to the donor partners. Government is going to provide support but our donor partners must already align the support and their funding to these tables if they want to be with us," he continued.
The government's head peace adviser added that peacebuilders and stakeholders can craft actionable bills wherein OPAPP and its partners will provide assistance for those to be submitted to the Congress.
"Those who have pending Executive Orders that have not been acted upon before, let's again revise those, and divide them, and then put them back again to the offices where they should be given some action. This is one of the many things that we can do together."
Source: Philippine Information Agency