LAST February 18, 2020, the United Nations and the Embassy of Japan organized a forum entitled, Friends of Bangsamoro, which was held in Cotabato City.
The purpose of the forum was for key stakeholders to share developments on the aspects of normalization, intergovernmental relations, and the budget of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority as well as identify the needs and gaps of the current peace process.
As I listened to the input of the speakers from the key officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace and Reconciliation and Unity, I had a deep thought that peace building is a process that cannot be done overnight or even within 36 months of transition.
After the event, the friends of Al Qalam and the Z Group had a session on discernment and reflection. For this week's column, I would like to share with my readers the output of our session.
The normalization process seems to be very political, organic or bureaucratic, and procedural as well as focused on the rebel leaders who are now running the government of the region. As a result, the process is slow and dragging. This pace is understandable because of more than five decades of conflict and since the communities and the MILF were running a politico military structure. If we don't understand this situation, our first impression would be that the entire term of the BTA will revolve around this overwhelming process instead of moving forward and bringing about swift, concrete and do-able actions by the leaders of the governance.
We understand that, in armed conflict-ridden areas, communities where there are women, children and elders are most vulnerable, bearing and suffering from the brunt of the armed conflict situation. Where are they in this transition? Are they not included in this normalization process?
Normalization should be understood as being a process that would involve the communities going through healing, but, at the same time, it should be taking concrete actions that would gradually bridge the many gaps and address the roots of the armed conflict while building the confidence of the communities in their new government. The leaders should ensure their ideas on, understanding of, and appreciation of the conflicted situations of the communities as well as the solutions offered are valuable to the decision-making and platforms of actions of their leaders.
On the intergovernmental relations: our impression was the presenter was very frustrating as he was not giving updates but adding confusion by overly focusing on other issues and concerns instead of the most pressing ones like a) the demanded clarity between Barmm authorities and the local governments; b) the much needed appropriate transfer of funds and the smooth and peaceful turnover of government functions, documents, properties etc to the current dispensation.
However, what are the top 3 or priority areas that can swiftly turn-around the socio-economic condition and the generally negative image of the Muslim autonomous region?
Major economic zones and growth centers are already laid down as integral part of the spatial strategy. However, what are the concrete platforms of actions to increase investors' confidence, to encourage private sector initiative and to generally create and improve the Business climate?
As of now, people are focused on the political track even though we must also look at the normalization track. Let us all be realistic and properly assess the situation on the ground. Undoubtedly, peace building is a process that needs a proper system to operate.