MANILA Experts on Wednesday urged the United States and international development partners of the Philippines to invest in and engage with the country in achieving long-term and sustainable peace.
The US Embassy in Manila organized a panel discussion on women, peace and security titled Transforming Words into Action", where experts from the government, academe, and civil society are present.
At the forum, panelist Dennis O'Brien, country director of Plan International Philippines, a frontline responder organization in Marawi City, said continuous support and investment in the improvement of life skills, particularly for the youth, are needed in conflict areas.
"Imagine a scenario where people have no job, without income, no educational attainment, despondent maybe, depressed maybe, or even just bored. What's next for them?" he poses a question.
"A lot of their options are not necessarily constructive, these people are the ones susceptible being recruited by armed groups," he said.
To prevent this, O'Brien underscored the important role of the US and other development partners of the country.
"The United States and other development partners should stay engaged and ramp up the investments and stay for the long term," he said.
Dr. Ma. Lourdes Rallonza, special advisor at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), shared the same sentiment. "Be present, be known, be very very obvious but of course not to trample on our sovereignty."
"The notion is that there is guided presence, (that) there is strategic presence. When there is strategic presence, the result would also be equally strategic, the most impactful," she said.
Rallonza said that the country still has an armed conflict situation. She said the term "conflict" is not just the "vertical kind of conflict, we're also talking about horizontal the conflict between people, in tribes and in various communities".
In such situations, women and children are the ones often affected the most, she said. When looking at projects to establish, she put emphasis in attaining "sustainable peace".
"How would you do it when it comes to women, when it comes to indigenous women, how do you do it in women of various communities that have actually experienced violence for the past 50 years? You now actually have a perfect entry pointtransitional justice," she said.
The United Nations defines transitional justice as "justice adapted to the often unique conditions of societies undergoing transformation away from a time when human rights violations may have been a normal state of affairs".
Rallonza said, "We're trying to build sustainable peace, we're trying to make of from a situation of conflict transformation."
Support from partners will be vital to achieve sustainable peace, she added.
"Any country that actually are engaged in conflict situation needs to transform from that culture of violence to that culture of peace and yes, we do need support from other countries," she said.
Source: Philippine News Agency