Peace negotiators dialog in Manila


Manila - There are no shortcuts in negotiations, but five veteran international peace negotiators today shared their individual experience in conducting dialogues that resulted in resolving conflicts that led to the signing of peace agreements. They disclosed their respective experiences at the opening of the two-day Roundtable Dialogue with International Negotiators jointly sponsored by Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue held at the New World Hotel in Makati City.

The invited foreign speakers were former Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla; Gerry Kelly from Ireland; Dr. Nureldin Satti from Sudan; Prof. Omar Dajani from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California; and Gov. Irwandi Yusuf of Aceh, Indonesia.

OPAPP Secretary Annabelle T. Abaya opened the program welcoming the delegates to the two-day conference on peace dialogues.

The Philippines is currently engaged in formal peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to seek an end to the long-drawn Mindanao conflict.

In his remarks, Dr. Satti from Sudan said that “the road to the table is a long and narrow one,” adding that “the political will of governments, as well as the support of the regional and international community are important to the negotiations.”

“Trust is established when both parties are able to give a clear description of their intentions,” Satti said.

For his part, Dajani said that “it is better to have weak agreements that can be implemented rather than to have strong agreements that can’t be implemented.”

He also said that “there is a need to transform the discourse of rights and justice” during the talks.”

Kelly, spokesperson for Sinn Fein for policing and justice in Ireland, who was involved in the negotiations with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the United Kingdom, said that “in negotiations, it is important not to take the people, stakeholders for granted.”

He stressed that “it is important to talk and dialogue with them (and) it is also important to have time frames and to document milestones” as well as “the political will of governments.”

At the same time, Kelly said that “facilitators are also very helpful, especially for issues that can’t be address by both parties.”

Yusuf, a former separatist leader, was elected as governor of Aceh in a historic democratic election December 2006.

He was formally installed as Aceh’s first directly elected governor on Feb. 8, 2007.

Yusuf served as vice-chair of the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency for Aceh until it closed in April 2009, when he became the chair of the Aceh Reconstruction Sustainability Agency.

In her welcome remarks, Abaya said that the “ingredients for effective negotiations are the ability to communicate well, creativity, clarity and commitmentIn her welcome remarks, Abaya said that the “ingredients for effective negotiations are the ability to communicate well, creativity, clarity and commitment.”

As a highly trained mediator, Abaya said that “peace negotiators see things differently from different perspectives, but the bottom line is what the Little Prince had said, that it is the heart that sees the essential things.”

“Effective negotiators see things through the heart creating pathways in which agreements can be made,” she added.

Asia, ConflictBen Cal