Peace is everyone’s business
Ed Garcia, one of our esteemed GenPeace mentors, also known as ‘Master Yoda’ is not just inspiring GenPeace Youth network. In fact, he has mentored and inspired countless peace advocates from all walks of life. Below is Peter Perfecto’s article published by PDI. –Editors Note
One mentor in my life who probably most influenced my decisions in taking roads less travelled is Ed Garcia. Ed has always championed peace and human rights not only in the Philippines but across the globe, having worked extensively with Amnesty International and having been a part of International Alert for many years now. Though based in London, Ed manages to return to the Philippines regularly to help push our peace process forward even just one little step at a time. He never tires of the effort, always reminding me that peace is everyone’s business.
During his last visit to the Philippines, Ed stayed for over three months to meet various stakeholders in the peace process, help organize the Waging Peace in the Philippines Conference 2011, and even get a small group that included next-generation youth peace leaders to dialogue via Skype technology with a leader of one of the parties in our decades-old conflict. That was Ed’s other consistent message to those who would listen: Keep the dialogue always going and make sure the youth are always part of that dialogue. He, of course, made sure to seek me as the representative of the constructive voice of business on national issues, the Makati Business Club (MBC). He understandably wanted MBC to make the peace process its business, too, and subsequently help get more of the private sector involved.
I most certainly agree with Ed that business groups need to become part of the peace process. The private sector has been both bane and boon to the peace process. In line with the continuing evolution of corporate social responsibility, however, it must become part of the solution and not one of the roots of the conflict. The private sector must become genuine nation-builders and, subsequently, effective peace-builders.
In a 2011 National Caucus on conflict-sensitive business practice, International Alert (IA) explained that “the entry of extractive, energy, and agribusiness companies in rural areas across the Philippines creates both opportunities and risks for improving the living standards of the poor and excluded in our society and the ability of local authorities to govern local economies.” Some of the opportunities highlighted were new jobs, new skills and new livelihoods, as well as enhanced revenue sources for local government units. IA further explained that “there are liability risks that resonate in the eruption of violence and conflict in the areas where companies operate; the increased incidence of illegal ejection or displacement of communities; the inducement of graft and corruption; and the use of abusive security forces and the provision of the means to kill.” The private sector must work to enhance the opportunities and aggressively act to mitigate the risks.
To link arms with the various peace advocates, business can support the following Easter Proposals to Wage Peace that can serve as the first steps leading to the resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF):
1. Easter Talks: Convene facilitated direct talks (or “nontalks”) between the respective chairs of the negotiating panels in the period of Easter (or before) to ensure that conditions are established for the resumption of formal peace negotiations.
2. Easter Releases: Release at least four or five people relevant to the peace process who will somehow be “a collective force for good” in assisting in the discussions on the substantive issues on the agenda of the peace talks. Accept the offer of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform and other civic and religious leaders to receive those released either in cognizance or to provide safe conduct for a temporary stay abroad.
3. Easter Pause: In the spirit of Easter and in the spirit of magnanimity and reciprocity, desist from armed offensives during the period of the talks. The duration and terms of reference of this initial Easter Pause may be negotiated as the talks progress. Establish independent capacities to more effectively verify violations both of human rights and of the provisional truce that has arisen from this Easter opportunity.
The Waging Peace Convenors led by the likes of Ed Garcia, Karen Tañada and Gus Miclat made these proposals last Feb. 27 during the commemoration of the late Sen. Jose W. Diokno’s death anniversary. They called on the government and the NDF to “negotiate a political settlement and pay tribute to the late Ka Pepe Diokno who lived and worked to build a nation worthy of our children.”
The business sector may not be ready to fully support the above calls, but I am certain that a just and lasting peace makes good business sense to all in the sector.
Last Jan. 20, the Eisenhower Fellows Association of the Philippines sponsored a forum on business opportunities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Amidst the conflict, business opportunities were highlighted and the challenges discussed. While conflict seems to not have prevented private investments in Mindanao, the continuing security and land access problems have been key constraints to urgently needed investments. Companies like La Frutera, Dole Philippines Fruits, ArDex Corp., Sumitomo, Mega Sardines, Shemberg, Agumil, Filipinas, Bj Coco Mill, Granexport and NorMin Veggies are successfully operating in conflict areas in Mindanao. More will most certainly venture into the region if the peace process would just reach a final political settlement. But that will only happen if we all make peace our business.
Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is the executive director of the Makati Business Club.