Filipino Communities as Peace Builders
MedNet is pleased to publish another issue of The Mediator. This newsmagazine records the significant speeches, presentations and activities of the “National Conference on Community-based Mediation: Filipino Communities as Peace Builders” which was successfully conducted on September 12, 2008 at the Bayview Park Hotel, Manila.
The conference aimed to enable the participants to appreciate the different perspectives and models of community mediation based on experiences of various actors in different conflict situations; analyze community mediation in the Philippines using the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) framework; identify common advocacy areas and lessons and coordination in the promotion of community mediation; agree to develop a compendium of mediation cases for resource center on community mediation. The Asia Foundation’s projects, according to Dr. Steve Rood in his inspirational message, illustrate the foundation’s continuing commitment to support initiatives for the resolution of disputes while empowering parties and communities. A recent successful project with support from USAid involved resolution of clan conflicts or ridos in Mindanap. Mr. Rood shared that one valuable lesson from the peace process in Mindanao was to take equal attention to national policy considerations as we are to the community level.
Prof. Ernie Garilao’s keynote speech included the bridging leadership process, community conflict concepts and interventions, and tools for mediators such as systems thinking, use of multi-stakeholder processes and creativity. He urged mediators to address both the effects and the cause of conflicts so as no to become part of the cause and not to make some changes in the existing system so as not to face the same issues.
Ms. Dinky Soliman, in her inspirational message, identified the worsening poverty situation, the growing sense of powerlessness and hopelessness, the increasing horizontal violence, and the resurrection of ethnic divides as challenges to peace-building. She sees community mediation as a path to hope since mediators are working on bridging divides, building the value of the common good, and identifying the resources of conflict. She challenged mediators to tread the critical paths to mediation – to challenge the ways of war, build peace with cacophony of a just democracy, aim for just solutions for the common good, and use power gracefully.
The nine case studies were originally written and presented using a case digest format. I retained the format for easy reading and to preserve and highlight the strategies, lessons learned, and recommendations.
Common strategies used by the mediators were conflict mapping and research, community visits, facilitating focus group discussions and dialogues, identification of issues, and discussion of options to resolve the conflicts. A memorandum of agreement was signed in some cases, and mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of agreement were set up. In one case, mediators trained community leaders in negotiation. Other cases employed shuttle mediation due to circumstances marred by violence.
Among the contributory factors to a successful mediation process were the open communication between and among stakeholders; awareness, openness and political will of the LGU and other government agencies to collaborative engagement; trust and confidence of the parties in the mediation process; skills of mediators, including active listening and probing; and involvement of families in the process. In the Sumilao experience, the knowledge of the farmers of the laws and their case contributed to the legitimacy of their claim and to generate support from the communities. The case clearly illustrates the effective use of metalegal strategies to raise the farmers’ negotiating powers.
Summaries of the study on the barangay justice system, the workshop results, excerpts from the participants’ conference evaluation, and some photos can also be found in this issue.
MedNet extends its gratitude to the conference coordinators and secretariat, Ateneo student volunteers, members, speakers, presenters, guests and partners Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE), Miserior, and Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF), who all came together to make this event and publication possible.