WASHINGTON D.C. — Last September 13 to 17, 2016 the Bangsamoro Study Group (BSG) and the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), in partnership with UNDP and the Netherlands Institute for International Relations – Clingendael Academe, conducted a training entitled “Training-workshop on negotiation and mediation as instruments for conflict settlement for Bangsamoro leaders”.
I was invited to participate in the training together with different young Moro leaders from different ethno-linguistic groups in Mindanao.
Based on the program document, the objective of the training was to provide the necessary skills for negotiation and mediation for a group of leading Bangsamoros from different sectors such as the revolutionary groups, government at different levels, CSOs, and the academe.
The skills mentioned will help the participants identify, discuss, and achieve common grounds on various issues confronting the Moro society and to find alternatives and ways for intra-dialogue.
The resource persons were Wilbur Perlot and Mark Anstey. Both are experts in and practitioners of negotiation and mediation from Clingendael Academe.
Clingendael is a prestigious thinktank involved in the training of diplomats and rebel negotiators from different parts of the world.
They provide public and private sector organisations with in-depth analysis of global developments in the fields of economic diplomacy, international security and conflict management.
Based on the lessons that I learned on the training, I realised that the success or failure of the Bangsamoro peace process is largely determined by one of two factors: the negotiation skills of the conflicting groups’ representatives, or the facilitation skills and expertise of the mediator.
Despite this obvious reality, the importance of stakeholder negotiation and mediation skills is often underestimated by the parties in the peace process. Thus, the Bangsamoro peace process has been ongoing for more than three decades already.
The five days training-workshop was intended for internal mediators within the Bangsamoro communities. Thus, they invited different stakeholders for the the Bangsamoro intra-dialogue.
Focusing on issues within the Bangsamoro, the training aims to hit the inner core of conflict settlement. It provided skills development on the facilitation of a negotiation process, and involves one delicate but primary concern: to minimise the damages incurred by negotiating parties while maximising a common point of agreement.
Moreover, the training emphasised that successful mediators must be aware of their intrinsic motivation, their role, their constituents, the mandates to which negotiating parties must adhere, and the internal and external pressures at play, both in terms of the groups’ dynamics, as well as in light of their own role as a mediator.
On another point of the training, I learned the nature and characteristics of peace-building as an approach to conflict resolution.
The training suggested that mediation should be seen as a particularly important aspect of peace-building efforts, and one that may be used at different phases of a conflict settlement.
As one of the output of the training, we wanted to develop a framework for analysing the circumstances under which mediation may contribute to peace-building by looking in to the different stakeholders within the Bangsamoro intra-dialogue initiatives.
The framework lays emphasis on contextual and perceptual dimensions that the different Moro Fronts, traditional leaders, business groups, and academe with regard to the common good of the Bangsamoro people.
What do we mean by peace-building? Is it different with peacemaking and peace-keeping? I learned in the said training that the three terms are different.
“Peacemaking” aims at bringing about a cessation of hostilities and the creation of a framework that will allow the disputants to pursue nonviolent solutions. In short, it is similar to the work of the United Nations.
“Peace-keeping” aims to separate disputing parties and maintain a state of non-violence between them. While “peace-building” purports to establish the conditions for a sustainable settlement. This distinction between peace-building, peace-keeping, and peace-making was first made by Johan Galtung (1975).
Within the context of peace-building efforts within the Bangsamoro peace process, we can say that successful mediation requires not only a cessation of fighting at the ground level, but we also need to factor in comprehensive peace-building efforts that aim at reviving the region’s economy that have been neglected for several decades, the need to establish participatory governance and accountability of the local and regional officials, improving law enforcement, judicial, systems, disarmament, and demobilisation of former combatants.
Moreover, I also learned that we need to have a deeper analysis of the current context of the Bangsamoro situation. There are different levels and drivers of conflict, thus these conflicts respond differently to different conflict resolution mechanisms. It will be logical to stay that a conflict resolution approach that is sensitive to the context of the Bangsamoro issue, the proper strategy to be adopted, and holistic approach would help us understand when mediation may be successful.
Our government, specially the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process must know the specific rules and strategies of the unique context, the beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, and symbols that make up the Bangsamoro issue in order for the mediators of our government succeed in the whole peace process.