Drafting of nationallevel dialogues’ terms of reference under way
THE writing of draft Terms of Reference (ToR) for three different national-level political dialogues has begun as Myanmar’s peace process gets down to nuts and bolts after the largely symbolic 21st-century Panglong Conference concluded earlier this month.
A handful of representatives from government, signatory non-state armed groups to the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), and political parties discussed the ToR for the national-level talks at a three-day meeting that ended on September 19.
The nine-member working group was formed last week to begin drafting the ToR for national-level dialogues, consisting of three representatives each from government, NCA signatories and political parties.
In a meeting last week, the government’s chief peace negotiator, U Tin Myo Win, said preparatory tasks are being prioritised so that these national-level talks could begin next month.
“We will define timelines and what topics should be discussed in national-level talks,” said Sai Kyaw Nyunt, a member of the working group representing political parties, who added that the ToR would also include “how the three types of dialogues should be held and how their results should be carried over to the Union-level dialogue, or the Union Peace Conference”.
He said the working group could take one month to complete the draft.
“There will be three different ToR – for ethnically, regionally and topically held national-level talks. Under the six major sectors to be discussed, we have to set which topics and subtopics should be related to which kind of talks,” Sai Kyaw Nyunt said.
The “six major sectors” referenced are politics; security; economics; social issues; land and natural resource management; and “general”. The working group this week is attempting to hash out which of these sectors is appropriate for the ethnic-regiontopic ToR trichotomy.
Sai Kyaw Nyunt said participants also debated whether the topic of “security” should be discussed at the national-level talks, which are meant to serve as more inclusive preludes to the high-level Union Peace Conferences that the government has said will be convened every six months.
A wide-ranging discussion this week on the ToR included the dialogues’ objectives, definitions, rights and responsibilities, leadership and eligible stakeholders, as well as how talks should be held and topics to be discussed.
The ToR will seek to add greater structure to a process that is vaguely outlined in the framework for political dialogue approved in December.
Representation at the nationallevel talks will be divided among government, the Tatmadaw, ethnic armed groups, registered political parties, ethnic representatives, civil society organisations and “other appropriate individuals”. This mirrors the taxonomy employed for the Panglong Conference, though the national-level talks will bring more stakeholders into the process.
The national-level talks’ outcomes – described in the political dialogue framework as “proposals and suggestions” – are to be submitted to the Union Peace Conference. If the government sticks to its pledge, the next Union-level conference will be held in late February or early March.
After reaching agreement on a draft, the matter will be brought to the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee, a tripartite body consisting of representatives of government, ethnic armed groups and political parties, which has the authority to ratify the ToR and any amendments to the framework for political dialogue, as well as to oversee the forthcoming dialogues.
The ToR working group is scheduled to meet again later this week.
Participants in the 21st-century Panglong Conference arrive at the conference hall on August 31.