The government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have conducted on-off peace negotiations since 1997. These protracted negotiations have allowed an innovative and increasingly complex peace-support architecture to develop, with three core pillars:
- The facilitator: Malaysia, since 2001
- The International Monitoring Team (IMT), deployed since 2005, with participation of Malaysia, Libya, Brunei, Japan, Norway and the EU.
- The International Contact Group (ICG), established December 2009
The ICG is comprised of four countries: Japan, UK, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and four international NGOs: Muhammadiyah, The Asia Foundation, the HD Centre and Conciliation Resources. It is the first of its kind where NGOs and diplomats work together in a formal and permanent setting.
Role of the International Contact Group
The ICG attends and observes negotiations in Kuala Lumpur and is mandated to maintain trust between the parties and ensure the implementation of mutually agreed approaches.
The NGOs are specifically tasked to act as a bridge between the parties, the facilitator, local partners, business and others; provide technical assistance to the parties; and support communications for peace advocacy. The core challenge is to commit to confidentiality while advocating for inclusion and transparency.
The ICG has been able to provide quiet, thoughtful, balanced and respectful support to the parties, the facilitator and the overall talks, ranging from simply witnessing the talks to actively shuttling between the parties to ease deadlocks and suggest ways forward.
Thank you for your sterling performance in the Kuala Lumpur talks this week.
Mary Ann Arnado
Executive Director of the Mindanao People’s Caucus, August 2011
The hybrid nature of the ICG is proving to be an effective model in supporting the peace talks and ensuring they stay on track. International NGOs have technical expertise and also the flexibility to engage with a wide range of actors and explore new ideas; at the same time diplomats provide essential leverage and political and economic support for the peace process.
Through the ICG, Conciliation Resources has been able to play a key role in mediating during the talks themselves and ensuring the voices of civil society are heard throughout the process.
The trend in peace processes and peace mediation is to acknowledge the capacities and contribution of informal participants (both international and local). The Mindanao ICG therefore has strong potential to be replicated for other peace processes.