A group of our partners from the Philippines meeting the Belfast mayor

As Northern Ireland approaches the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement the visit, organised by Conciliation Resources, aimed to support the transition to peace in the Bangsamoro by learning from the successes and challenges of the Northern Ireland peace process.

The trip brought together leaders from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), as well as representatives from the Indigenous People’s communities, civil society, and women’s organisations in the Philippines. They met with government representatives, peacemakers and politicians from Northern Ireland, including the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Tina Black, Alex Maskey, the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and Laurence Simms of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland. 

The group spoke with key political figures from Sinn Fein to deepen their understanding on their political transformation, and Claire Bailey of the Green Party shared her experiences on alliance building. The learning process was further enriched by talks with other key figures in the Northern Ireland peace process including perspectives from academics, former combatants and civil society leaders. Topics under discussion included how former armed groups can transition to become political parties, disarmament, reconciliation and transitional justice and how to ensure women and minority communities are included in the transition to peace. The group also had a tour of Belfast delivered by former political prisoners who shared their personal experiences of the conflict.

Salic Sharief, Jr.  is Conciliation Resources’ Philippines Programme Director:

“There is so much that we can learn from the successes and failures of other peace processes around the world that can help us make progress in the Philippines. This year marks 25 years since the end of the conflict in Northern Ireland, and the country still faces challenges. There is no quick fix for peace, but we can continue to take small steps into a better future for everyone in our country.”

In March 2014, the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a peace agreement, which is intended to end the four decades of conflict and envisioned the establishment of a new self-governing region in Muslim-dominated areas of Western Mindanao, called the Bangsamoro.

In January 2019, a referendum paved the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Government, which will replace the current authorities. Accordingly, the Bangsamoro government will have greater financial autonomy and a more representative parliamentary system.

Nur Ainee Lim, is the Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Social Services and Development in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Government. Speaking during the visit to Northern Ireland, she said:

“This trip allowed us to get out of our comfort zone, open our minds and hearts and be open to new insights and possible strategic improvement in the way that we deal with our constituencies. How we engage with our communities, and most especially to put politics aside even in political situations because the interests and the needs of the people come first.”

Dr. Marjanie S. Macasalong, Chair of the Bangsamoro Youth Commission, also took part in the trip and said:

“I’m inspired by the determination of all sides in Northern Ireland to keep talking. Even though there are very hard issues, they still talk to find a way forward. From the trip, I can see a need to have even more young people trained and involved in the peace process in the Bangsamoro so that we can be sure that whatever gains we have can be sustained.”

Conciliation Resources has been supporting the peace process in the Philippines since 2014 as part of the International Contact Group, providing technical advice to the negotiation parties, and working with partners to ensure the inclusion of women and Indigenous People’s communities in the transition to peace. 

Sha Elijah Dumama is the Bangsamoro Transition Authority Deputy Speaker:

“Conciliation Resources has been there for the Bangsamoro region, and I’m happy that this support continues today. I hope for a Bangsamoro that is progressive, self-reliant and determined. Reaching a state that everyone is free to live a life that has integrity and where the next generation can enjoy the fruits of peace.”

Nur Ainee Lim added:

“We are in this trip together representing every single sector of the Bangsamoro community and we have formed friendships and bonds and political alliances that perhaps in the future would be very good for the people we all serve.”

This trip was made possible through funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, as well as significant support from the Irish Government.