Philippine Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza led the Philippine delegation to the International Conference on “The Role of Citizens in Service Delivery and Building State Legitimacy in Fragile and Conflict Affected Situations” organized by the World Bank’s Global Programs Unit of the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy on 5-6 December 2016.
The conference drew participation from experts from government, multilateral institutions, academia, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to discuss the nexus between service delivery and state legitimacy in fragile and conflict affected situations.
According to the World Bank, over 60% of the world’s poor population will be found in countries dealing with conflict or areas experiencing issues of fragility.
In the Philippines’ case, areas in Mindanao, the southern region of the Philippines that has long been embroiled in insurgency, hold the highest poverty levels in the country.
Poverty in the region is almost twice the national average.
Secretary Dureza is serving his third stint as Presidential Adviser, having already served as peace adviser for two previous administrations, and is responsible for resuscitating the peace talks with communist rebels.
Already, two rounds of peace talks have already been completed in this Administration with the third round commencing in January 2017.
His optimism in the success of the peace talks stems from his belief that President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s exercises strong political will in ensuring all parties come together in the peace process.
President Duterte has already declared a unilateral ceasefire of offense operations against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army and also released twenty (20) political prisoners based on humanitarian grounds to help facilitate the talks.
The ambition of the Administration, Secretary Dureza noted, is to attain peace by the second year of President Duterte’s term.
Referring to the Muslim separatist insurgency in Mindanao during his speech in the panel discussion entitled “Government Strategies to Build State Legitimacy and Improve Service Delivery in Fragile Situations,” Secretary Dureza explained, “In our work in the peace process, it is very important that we address what we refer to as the ‘historical injustice’ that the Moro had suffered.”
Two separate peace agreements have been signed by two separatist factions, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Furthermore, the two Houses of Congress have been developing their versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the enabling piece of legislation that will give the Bangsamoro region greater autonomy.
“We feel that we can sign one hundred peace agreements, but if you do not include the lives of people, it will all go to naught,” the Secretary stressed.
Apart from dealing with the peace agreements, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) is also carrying out the implementation of development projects as the negotiations continue, which, as the Secretary noted, had not been done in previous peace arrangements.
In fact, socio-economic development has become one of the three (3) main agenda items of the peace negotiations in addition to the end of hostilities and agreement over governance and political elements.
Overlooking the socio-economic aspect of the peace talk, he cites, has contributed to the continuation of the “cycle of victimhood” that attracts youth to support rebel movement.
Through OPAPP, the Government is making a concerted effort in addressing fragility of conflict areas by investing at the local levels and involving people not directly related to the conflict.
In these efforts, the Philippine Government has been engaging the World Bank and other countries through the Community Driven Development approach to improve service delivery and include citizens in the planning and management and implementation of development interventions.
Among the projects the Philippines is currently developing together with the World Bank is the operationalization of the Mindanao Peace and Development Trust Fund, which will provide financing for conflict affected communities to use for the projects they believe are most important to them.
The World Bank currently supports over 180 Community-Driven Development projects in 78 countries throughout the world, with a portfolio of almost $16 billion.