Bangsamoro Leaders Continue Taking Lessons on Peace from Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement

“There is so much that we can learn from the successes and failures of other peace processes around the world that can help us make progress in the Philippines.”

— Conciliation Resources’ Philippines Programme Director Salic Sharief, Jr.

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Conciliation Resources’ Philippines Programme Director Salic Sharief, Jr. highlighted the importance of taking lessons from other countries’ peace processes and continuing the journey for security, stability, and development.

The dialogue on making peace and sustaining it. (Credit: Conciliation Resources)

“There is so much that we can learn from the successes and failures of other peace processes around the world that can help us make progress in the Philippines. This year marks 25 years since the end of the conflict in Northern Ireland, and the country still faces challenges. There is no quick fix for peace, but we can continue to take small steps into a better future for everyone in our country,” Sharief said in a statement on the website of the ICG member.

Bangsamoro Parliament Floor Leader Atty. Sha-Elijah Dumama-Alba led the Philippine delegation from the BARMM that included Labor Minister Muslimen G. Sema, Deputy Speaker Atty. Omar Yasser C. Sema, MP Marjanie Macasalong, MP Laisa Alamia, MP Forilyn Mendoza, Social Work Deputy Minister Nur Ainee Lim, Development Academy of the Bangsamoro (DAB) Director Hisham Nando, Prof. Abdullah Adam, and Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) Chairperson Guiamel Alim.

Dumama-Alba acknowledged the vital role Conciliation Resources has been playing in the search for peace in Mindanao.

“Conciliation Resources has been there for the Bangsamoro region, and I’m happy that the support continues today. I hope for a Bangsamoro that is progressive, self-reliant and determined. Reaching a state that everyone is free to live a life that has integrity and where the next generation can enjoy the fruits of peace,” she said.

Conciliation Resources sent them to learn from key politicians and peacemakers involved in the Northern Ireland peace process as the Good Friday Agreement is about to be a quarter century old in just a few days over a month from now.

“We are on this trip together representing every single sector of the Bangsamoro community and we have formed friendship and political alliances that, perhaps, in the future would be very good for the people we serve,” said Lim.

The Bangsamoro leaders met with and listened to Northern Ireland government representatives, peacemakers, and politicians impart the lessons of the UK peace process, among them, Lord Mayor of Belfast Tina Black, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly Alex Mackie, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland’s Laurence Simms.

They also took lessons from key political figures from Sinn Fein (the political arm of IRA that fought with the UK government) to deep dive in their understanding on their political transformation, and Claire Bailey of the Green Party shared her experiences on alliance building.

“The learning process was further enriched by talks with other key figures in the Northern Ireland peace process, including perspectives from academics, former combatants and civil society leaders. Topics under discussion included how former armed groups can transition to become political parties, disarmament, reconciliation and transitional justice and how to ensure women and minority communities are included in the transition to peace. The group also had a tour of Belfast delivered by former political prisoners who shared their personal experiences of the conflict,” Conciliation Resources noted.

At least one member of the delegation to UK also spent time in a prison.

“I have experienced being in prison as I serve and fought for the self-determination of the Bangsamoro and now that we are in the transition, we cannot afford to be disunited and lose the grip in the gains of the peace process,” Sema, one of the stalwarts of the MNLF, recalled as he emphasized the importance of being united.

It is easy to see that Conciliation Resources, an international organization with wide experience in the art of making peace and helping war-torn communities transition to a life without conflict, is truly committed in seeing this transition succeed, providing “a space for co-existence, respect and mutual understanding.”

Might as well be because as Alim said, peace processes is not only about signing of agreements or legislation. “Belfast has its own process not too different from what we have in the Bangsamoro, but one thing is certain — there are no quick fixes to rebuild (a) decades-old conflict.” (✓)

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