Com­mit­tee formed to pre­pare for CSO peace fo­rum

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­

MEM­BERS of the govern­ment and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions (CSOs) have formed an ad hoc com­mit­tee to pre­pare for a planned peace fo­rum to be ar­ranged for and led by the lat­ter.

A meet­ing be­tween civil so­ci­ety groups and a govern­ment com­mit­tee formed to en­gage with CSOs and led by Yangon Re­gion So­cial Af­fairs Min­is­ter U Naing Ngan Lin was held on Novem­ber 6 at the Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Peace Cen­ter in Yangon to dis­cuss prepa­ra­tions for the peace fo­rum.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, terms of ref­er­ence for the peace fo­rum, which were pre­vi­ously pre­sented by CSOs to the govern­ment, were dis­cussed. The tem­po­rary prepara­tory com­mit­tee is made up of 39 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from a va­ri­ety of CSOs.

Ko Sai Aung Myint Oo, a mem­ber of the Na­tional Eth­nic Youth Al­liance who at­tended the meet­ing, said talks be­tween CSOs and the govern­ment’s en­gage­ment com­mit­tee would con­tinue to de­cide when the fo­rum will be held.

“There are dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives among us on the date when the fo­rum should be held. We still need to con­firm a date,” he said.

The size of the fo­rum has been set by the govern­ment at 500 par­tic­i­pants, a cap that had ini­tially dis­sat­is­fied some CSOs at the meet­ing, ac­cord­ing to Ko Th­win Lwin Aung of the Gen­uine Peo­ple’s Ser­vants or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Their ob­jec­tions were even­tu­ally dropped, how­ever, af­ter it was agreed that CSOs would be al­lowed to hold ad­di­tional smaller fo­rums in or­der to pre­pare for the main one.

“We are afraid that more voices from around the coun­try could not be col­lected. But we were able to agree with the govern­ment’s team that CSOs will have smaller fo­rums ahead of the main fo­rum so that we can have more di­verse in­put and voices,” Ko Th­win Lwin Aung said.

In May, State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told her peace team and mem­bers of the Union Peace Di­a­logue Joint Com­mit­tee (UPDJC) that a sep­a­rate civil so­ci­ety fo­rum should be held to al­low CSOs to more ef­fec­tively play an ad­vi­sory role in Myan­mar’s peace process, as a com­ple­ment to the Union Peace Con­fer­ence.

Daw Doi Bu, a mem­ber of the govern­ment’s com­mit­tee for en­gag­ing with CSOs, said the fo­rum would be part of broader na­tional-level di­a­logues that are “top­i­cally based”.

Per the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue frame­work, three types of na­tional-level po­lit­i­cal di­a­logues are to take place – eth­ni­cally, re­gion­ally and top­i­cally based.

The UPDJC, a tri­par­tite com­mit­tee that was tasked with draft­ing the frame­work for po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and will over­see those di­a­logues, has rat­i­fied the terms of ref­er­ence for the CSO fo­rum.

Stake­hold­ers deemed el­i­gi­ble to par­tic­i­pate in the na­tional-level di­a­logues in­clude rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the govern­ment, the hlut­taws, the Tat­madaw, eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions that are sig­na­tory to the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment (NCA), regis­tered po­lit­i­cal par­ties, eth­nic rep­re­sen­ta­tives, CSOs and “other ap­pro­pri­ate in­di­vid­u­als”.

The next meet­ing of the ad hoc prepara­tory com­mit­tee for the CSO peace fo­rum is sched­uled to take place on Novem­ber 11.

Daw Doi Bu said par­tic­i­pants in the Novem­ber 6 meet­ing pro­posed that the agreed-to, smaller, top­i­cally held na­tional-level di­a­logues and the CSO peace fo­rum be held at least twice be­fore the sec­ond it­er­a­tion of the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence – also known as the Union Peace Con­fer­ence – which is ex­pected to con­vene in Fe­bru­ary.

“In the first [smaller fo­rums], CSOs should form com­mit­tees and or­gan­ise other nec­es­sary tasks such as col­lect­ing voices and top­ics of dis­cus­sion, and agen­das to be brought to the fol­low­ing main CSO fo­rum,” she said.

The govern­ment will not in­ter­fere with the man­age­ment of the peace fo­rum, ac­cord­ing to Daw Doi Bu, and will in­stead let the prepa­ra­tion com­mit­tee ar­range and or­gan­ise the fo­rum. Fund­ing for the fo­rum has yet to be dis­cussed.

“Not only CSOs that have na­tion­wide net­works but also CSOs that rep­re­sent a spe­cific lo­ca­tion or re­gion are to par­tic­i­pate in the peace fo­rum. We want to in­clude as many groups as pos­si­ble,” she said.

Top­i­cally held na­tional-level po­lit­i­cal di­a­logues or the CSO peace fo­rum will have three top­ics of dis­cus­sion – on eco­nomic, so­cial, and land and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

Un­der the um­brella of eco­nomic is­sues, fed­eral bud­get­ing and taxshar­ing are the cur­rently pro­posed top­ics of dis­cus­sion. Re­set­tle­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons (IDPs) and preser­va­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment are the pro­posed sub­jects for the top­i­cally based “so­cial” and “land and en­vi­ron­men­tal” is­sues, re­spec­tively.

The subtopics of “pol­i­tics” and “land man­age­ment”, un­der the broader “land and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues” cat­e­gory, have been granted for dis­cus­sion only at eth­ni­cally and re­gion­ally held na­tional-level di­a­logues.

The sub-top­ics of “na­tional de­fence, dis­ar­ma­ment, de­mo­bil­i­sa­tion, and rein­te­gra­tion and se­cu­rity sec­tor re­form” and “re­li­gious mat­ters” have been cat­e­gorised as “se­cu­rity” and “so­cial” is­sues, re­spec­tively, and are up for dis­cus­sion only at di­a­logues in­volv­ing NCA sig­na­tory armed groups, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the govern­ment at the Union-level.

De­spite lim­its on the dis­cus­sion top­ics, Ko Th­win Lin Aung said most CSOs are sat­is­fied with the cur­rent set of pro­posed top­ics and sub-top­ics on the agenda for the peace fo­rum, given the pledge to al­low the fo­rum to be man­aged by CSOs.

“We can ar­range things and still have a free fo­rum with less govern­ment in­ter­fer­ence. But we have to co­op­er­ate and co­or­di­nate with the govern­ment’s com­mit­tee,” he said.

Daw Doi Bu said the pres­ence of civil so­ci­ety groups in the na­tion­al­level po­lit­i­cal di­a­logues would as­sist the govern­ment over the course of the peace process.

“There are some CSOs that spe­cialise and study cer­tain sec­tors. Their pres­ence in the peace process is, I think, very help­ful. The govern­ment will need their as­sis­tance, ex­per­tise and opin­ions in some of the ar­eas to be dis­cussed in the peace process,” she said.

As laid out in the frame­work for po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue, work­ing com­mit­tees formed in or­der to or­gan­ise the na­tional-level di­a­logues are to carry over the re­sults from those di­a­logues to the Union Peace Con­fer­ence.

Photo: Aung Khant

Hun­dreds of del­e­gates at­tend the first day of the Union Peace Con­fer­ence in Nay Pyi Taw on Jan­uary 15, 2016.

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