Local women’s participation is a necessary ingredient for the success of the implementation of the peace agreement in the Philippines

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Local women’s participation is a necessary ingredient for the success of the implementation of the peace agreement in the Philippines

March 27, 2019 by Mallika Iyer
Edited by Mavic Cabrera-Balleza
 
The conflict with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) has been framed purely from a militaristic point of view,” stressed a participant at the National Peace Forum organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), the Center for Peace Education (CPE) at Miriam College, and the Young Women + for Peace and Leadership (YWPL) in Manila, Philippines on March 6 th, 2019.
 
The National Peace Forum convened key stakeholders from national government, civil society organizations, security sector, academia, local government, youth organizations, and faith-based organizations to analyze the prospects of an informal peace process with the CPP-NPA-NDF; and reframe the response to the conflict into one that address its root causes. With the aim of de-escalating the weaponized approach to the peace process, participants discussed Tracks 1.5 and 2 activities that could be conducted by local women-run civil society organizations in collaboration with key stakeholders in barangays (local government). Through these activities, local women will work to bolster the informal peace process between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF and advocate for the resumption of an inclusive, formal peace negotiation after repeated failed attempts over the past 30 years. 
 
Given the recent ratification of Bangsamoro Organic Law through plebiscites held in January and February 2019, the National Peace Forum addressed the way forward in the implementation of the peace agreement signed in 2014 between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government of the Philippines. The ratification of Bangsamoro Organic Law, which grants the region greater political autonomy, brought new hopes to the implementation the peace agreement with MILF. The formation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) following the plebiscites is a most welcome development. The BTA will be responsible for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). 
 
Local women’s meaningful participation 
The National Peace Forum aimed to identify effective mechanisms to ensure local women’s meaningful participation, leadership, and influence in the BTA and the full implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law; as well as in the informal peace process with the CPP-NPA-NDF.
 
Maisara Latiph, a member of the Bangsamoro Tranistion Authority explains the status of the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
 
Local women, who make up part of the approximately four million people [1]covered under the BARMM, must meaningfully participate in the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. The Bangsamoro Organic Law has provisions for the participation of women in the Bangsamoro Cabinet and mechanisms for consultations for women and marginalized groups that would contribute to a more equitable and prosperous future for the country. “The narrative of extremist groups will prevail if we do not support the peace process,” Maisara Latiph, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority stated. Local ownership of the effective implementation of this law will be necessary in order to support the region’s transition from rebellion to governance. Participants of the National Peace Forum suggested inter-ethnic community dialogues to create an inclusive, gender-sensitive, and peaceful vision of the Bangsamoro region as a first step.
 
Continuing challenges
The peace processes in the Philippines require active and sustained participation of local populations and strong commitment from government leaders and other stakeholders. Despite the few gains as in the case of the peace process with the MILF, big challenges remain. Some of these challenges include the continuing violence (such as the bombing of Jolo Cathedral on January 28 th, 2019); the attacks against Lumad (indigenous people from Mindanao) communities; prolonged militarization; increasing radicalization due to active recruitment by extremist groups associated with ISIS; and politicians who continue to divide Muslims and Christians for their own political gain.
 
The voices of women, Lumad (indigenous people in Mindanao), LGBTQIA+, youth, and other marginalized and vulnerable groups are essential to changing the narrative of violent extremism and armed conflict which has served as an obstacle to the success of the peace agreement with the MILF and the resumption of the formal peace talks between government and CPP-NPA-NDF.
 
The National Peace Forum is part of a three-year initiative to help build sustainable peace in the Philippines by enhancing the capacities and increasing the opportunities for local women and other historically marginalized groups to meaningfully participate in informal peace processes with the CPP-NPA-NDF and implementation of the peace agreement with the MILF. GNWP, CPE, YW+PL and their partners in local communities believe that increasing the meaningful participation of local women as key influencers and decision-makers in peace negotiations and the implementation of existing peace agreements will promote, protect and fulfill women’s rights, gender equality which in turn can lead to sustainable peace and development.
 
 
The National Peace Forum and its related activities are supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.