Draft­ing of na­tion­al­level di­a­logues’ terms of ref­er­ence un­der way

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

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.

Photo: Aung Khant

Par­tic­i­pants in the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence ar­rive at the con­fer­ence hall on Au­gust 31.

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