CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (February 1, 2020) — The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) called on the youth of Mindanao to act as agents of peace and development as the nation continues to face challenges at the local and international fronts.
“The youth can do so much more with your vast potential to do great things. We encourage all of you to play a more active part in helping build a culture of peace and development,” said Ariel Hernandez, co-chairperson of the Joint Normalization Committee, during the culmination of the OURmindaNOW Summit 2020.
The JNC is among the joint peace mechanisms of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which through OPAPP, coordinates the implementation of the Normalization Program under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement signed between the GPH and MILF in 2014.
According to Hernandez, the island-region’s youth “come from an incredible lineage of visionary leaders who have aspired and worked very hard for a more just, peaceful and progressive Mindanao — one that is free from violence and conflict, and capable of realizing its full socioeconomic potential.”
“The journey of these outstanding leaders – both past and present – continues through each and every one of you. And this summit is one of the best avenues to channel your creativity, talent and ideas in order to come up with innovative ways to achieve the aspirations of every Mindanawon – and Filipino,” he said.
Organized by Equal Access International Philippines, the three-day summit with the theme “Bridging Generations of Peace Influencers,” gathered youth leaders from across Mindanao and provided them an opportunity to discuss the importance of collaboration, coordination and communication in pushing for a more peaceful and progressive Mindanao.
Peace tables: Open spaces for dialogue
Hernandez highlighted the various efforts being carried out by OPAPP through its various peace tables, which he described as “platforms or open spaces wherein we can raise key issues, offer insights, and share best practices based on the principles of mutual trust, respect, and solidarity.”
“Through these peace tables, we have been able to reach out to the various revolutionary groups across the nation and engage them in peaceful and productive conversation. The beauty about these peace tables is that they provide both sides the opportunity to present their views without fear of being judged or criticized,” he explained.
“Over the years, these peace tables have enabled us to resolve situations of conflict and build bridges of hope, peace and understanding among stakeholders,” Hernandez added.
Combating violent extremism in Mindanao
However, he cautioned the youth leaders to be vigilant, as there are “spoilers of peace [who] remain by our doorstep and continue to promote the culture of fear, mistrust and violence among our people,”
“We are all aware that the threat of violent extremism and armed rebellion remains a harsh reality, and is something we cannot ignore and turn a blind eye to,” Hernandez said.
“There is no room for compromise, especially if the safety and security of our families are at stake. We need to cast our doubts and fears aside and confront this menace head on,” he stressed.
This is the reason, Hernandez pointed out, why OPAPP’s peacebuilding initiatives in Mindanao are anchored on preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE) through the implementation of conflict-sensitive and peace promoting practices (CSPP).
“Based on the work we are doing in Marawi and other parts of Mindanao, peacebuilding initiatives that are anchored on PCVE are undoubtedly among the most effective ways to neutralize the threat of violent extremists and communist groups, and bring enduring peace to our communities,” he said.
“The strength of these efforts lie in their ability to address the main drivers of conflict, which fuel hatred, animosity and discrimination. Once these drivers are eliminated, trust, respect and confidence among the people is restored, creating an atmosphere where genuine peace and development can take root,” Hernandez added.
Over the past three years, OPAPP has been implementing the Social Healing and Peacebuilding (SHAPE) Program in Marawi and other areas affected by the 2017 siege. The program aims to promote social cohesion and reconciliation among residents, while mainstreaming the culture of peace, mutual understanding and solidarity among the people.
Through SHAPE, OPAPP, in partnership with its peace partners which include national line agencies, local government units, civil society, security sector, and the foreign donor community have been carrying out initiatives such as peace conversations, inter-faith dialogues and peace fairs which seek to help the victims recover from the tragic incident and rebuild their lives. ###