It is difficult to develop in different sectors for a country without peace. Myanmar has been facing civil war since 1948 after independence. Because of the instability and internal conflicts, the country was lagged behind from other developed countries in the region. Even though the country has lots of lands with strategic position, it is challenging to make the country developed due to internal conflicts and insecurities. Thus, peace is essential for further steps of the country development and welfare of citizens.
Peace cannot be made within a short time and of course we need negotiations and trust-building. In order to build trust, we need certain period of time for meetings and discussions.
“Peace and Justice” is involved as goal number 16 under Sustainable Development Goals. The International Day of Peace (Peace Day) is remarked around the world every year on 21 September. In 1981, it is established by unanimous United Nations resolution. Peace Day delivers a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace for all differences and to contribute to build a Peace culture.
This year is the 20th Anniversary of the UN Resolution on the Program of Action on a Culture of Peace. The 2020 theme for the International Day of Peace is “Shaping Peace Together”. 2020 is meant to be a year of listening and learning for the United Nations.
Moreover, the UN has invited millions of people around the world to join UN75, the largest and furthest reaching global conversation on building the peaceful and prosperous future to mark its 75th anniversary.
Globally, the number of people forced to leave their homes due to war, natural disaster, or persecution have reached staggering heights. At the end of 2014, the UN estimated 19.5 million of those have fled their country as refugees and half of them are children. The Global Peace Index calculated the cost of conflict to the global economy in 2019 to be 9.21 trillion pounds ($13.7 trillion) as the result of increased military spending by states and more people driven from their jobs.
People lost their property, families, lives and everything because of violence and are forced to move to other places. Furthermore, conflict leads to a lot of instability and fear in the areas of consequences like lack of food and water, economic difficulties and a loss of a great amount of people.
Conflict and war are both very painful and complicated for those living in them and have terrible, long-lasting effects in the countries where it happens and also in those wanting to help. To stop the difficulties that people are suffering and prevent future problems, it is important to maintain world peace.
In order to get the development in the country, it it essential to have internal stability. “Neither economic development nor peace with Myanmar's ethnic minorities can succeed without the other”, de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi told a forum on the Southeast Asian nation's democratic transition, signaling a more balanced policy approach is on the way. "If we don't have peace, the development will not be durable," Suu Kyi said, adding, "at the same time, if there is no development, we can't get peace; we have to try for both."
Civil war and peace process in Myanmar
The internal conflict in Myanmar is a series of insurgencies which began shortly after the country gained independence in 1948. It has been ethnic-based with several ethnic armed groups fighting Myanmar’s military forces for self-determination. Sixty years into the world’s longest civil war, the transition to peaceful democracy in Myanmar remains evasive. Myanmar has seen a remarkable political progress after long considered a pariah state under the military rule. The old ethnic strife has been boiling in Myanmar in Northern Shan, Rakhine, Karen, Kachin and Rakhine states. A comprehensive peace process seems to be indispensable to an inclusive, stronger union for all Myanmar’s constituents and consistent diplomatic engagement.
The biggest obstacle to peace is to persuade all ethnic armed groups to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Among the 18 groups involved in negotiations after the peace process was launched by the previous U Thein Sein government, only eight parties signed NCA in October 2015. The other groups cannot sign the NCA alone as they have to consult with their alliances. The other two parties: the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and the Arakan National Council (ANC) didn’t sign NCA because of the loss of three of its soldiers and a civilian killed by the military in Devember 2017.
Myanmar needs long-term and flexible approaches not just quick fixes to solve both peaks in humanitarian need and much needed development. The true success of Myanmar’s democratic process depends on the resolution of its displacement crisis and persistent humanitarian challenges, expression of the pivotal need to provide full and equal rights, protections and services to the country’s constituents regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender. Only then can the promise of a prosperous, inclusive democracy in Myanmar and the end to the world’s longest civil war.
In October 2015, in the final months of the U Thein Sein government, eight Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) had negotiated bilateral ceasefire agreements signed up to a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), which was to introduce a comprehensive ceasefire monitoring mechanism and political dialogue leading to political settlement of decades of state and society conflict. In 2016, NLD government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) replaced for Myanmar Peace Center (MPC).
Myanmar’s peace process is highly complicated and a large number of actors are involved with lack of transparency and rapid speed of changes. The current NLD government team may be the best chance for a negotiated political settlement to almost 70 years of armed conflict which has destroyed the lives of minority communities.
Union Peace Conference or 21st Century Panglong
The conference, officially the “Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong”, was held in Naypyitaw from 31 August to 3 September in 2016. The 21st century Panglong Peace Conference is important for its broad inclusion of armed groups and the challenges going forward should not be underestimated. The government should think about adopting a more flexible timeframe for the peace conferences rather than every six months and reassure armed groups by demonstrating a less unilateral approach to the process in general. It is required to make sure that civil society, women and youth have a stronger voice in the process. The attendance of most non-signatories was an important step forward. However, it does not necessarily indicate significantly greater trust in the new government on the part of armed group leaders.
The peace conference encapsulated both the significant advantages Suu Kyi has for forging peace and the enormous challenges she must surmount. The broad attendance of armed groups gives hope of a more inclusive, successful peace process, but it would be a mistake to think that the fundamental problems have become easier to solve. It will take difficult negotiations to convince most groups to sign the NCA, a sine qua non the government and military have each expressed. The announced scheduling of Panglong-21 conferences every six months artificially limits the flexibility required to secure signatures. Weak capacity in the government’s NRPC peace secretariat makes the job more difficult.
The government should consider adopting a less rigid timeframe and less unilateral approach and take steps to ensure it has the necessary support capacity in place. Armed groups need to recognise that, though they have legitimate concerns about the process, they may never get a better chance to negotiate a settlement. Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed firm support for a federal, democratic solution and has the political authority to deliver.
The Panglong Conference is the start of a process, not its conclusion. After decades of civil war, displacement, land seizures, discrimination, and poverty, the challenges facing Myanmar are both large-scale and complex. They are also interconnected and will require comprehensive peacebuilding solutions backed by the international community.
Role of women in peace process
When talking about peace process, we shouldn’t forget the involvement of women. For years, women in Myanmar have been powerful advocates for comprehensive peace and good governance, calling for reconciliation and democratic transition; demanding legislations that protect women’s rights; and leading civil society initiatives for reform. During the time of conflict and war, women are more vulnerable as rape and gender-based violence actions are used as a weapon. Thus, it is important to have women participation in Myanmar peace process.
For instance, women-led and focused organisations have been conducting mass advocacy campaigns to secure women’s representation and involvement in the process by means of a 30 per cent reservation for women at different levels of political dialogue and peace negotiations. This demand not only arises from the need for affirmative action to facilitate women’s participation in the process, but is also in line with the country’s obligation as a signatory to the Convention to End Discrimination Against Women.”
Third party mediation by women could potentially fill the critical gaps as women in Myanmar are at the forefront of civil society advocacy. Numerous women’s CSOs that raised from areas affected by the conflict are already advising stakeholders in the peace process. They are already contributing towards the agenda of nationwide peace informally. However, their efforts have been consistently marginalised with restricted formal participation in peace talks. With adequate recognition and increased representation, they can make the much needed impact towards reducing, preventing and eventually ending the ongoing armed conflict.
As far as inter-EAO conflicts are concerned, women from different ethnic groups can collaborate to build trust to overcome ethnic and other differences, and pursue programs through well-established CSOs and women’s networks to achieve the mutual goals of peace, reconciliation and equitability. In addition to women’s participation at the grassroots level, a greater participation of women is needed at the top-most decision-making levels for two fundamental reasons:
Firstly, given how the overall agenda of peace negotiations is derived from the high-level bodies, increased and equitable representation of women in these bodies is essential for ensuring that the differential impact of conflict and peace agreements on women, and respect for women’s rights feature comprehensively in Myanmar’s overall peace settlement frameworks and mechanisms.
Secondly, gender equality and equity are among the essential factors that determine the quality and sustainability of peace agreements. Women’s inclusion at higher decision-making levels could serve as an example and even facilitate trickling down of gender equitable practices in the overall structures, agendas and different rungs of the peace bureaucracy. Comprehensive participation of women will also contribute towards the greater legitimacy and inclusivity of the peace process.
Internal conflicts and wars affect more on the minority of people living in conflict zones rather than people from the city. Even though the current government prioritize the peace process by holding the Panglong Peace Conference, the conflicts are still intensifying in certain areas of the country such as Rakhine state. The difficulties in committing the agreement include achieving the broader, longer-term objective of realizing a roadmap toward national reconciliation and a democratic federal union, Myanmar’s administrative structure needs to change to meaningful autonomy to subnational units which are not privileging specific ethnic groups with larger concentrated populations.
General public is not satisfied with the current peace process. Ethnic minorities are having less hopes as they are suffering more because of current uprising conflicts. They want the government to focus more on minority right, self-determination of the State and federalism which are important to reduce development inequalities.
Further step for Myanmar Peace Process
Fundamentally, Myanmar’s peace process can be viewed as having two broad components: a) formal dialogues with EAOs who have signed the NCA; and b) engagement with those who have not yet signed the NCA. Although formal negotiations with the signatory EAOs are ongoing, it is the Tatmadaw’s (military) predominantly militarised approach towards the non-signatory EAOs interspersed with informal discussions and occasional ceasefires that impedes progress. Moreover, existing dialogue mechanisms have been unable to address inter-ethnic conflicts between the non-signatory EAOs. Peace process is way more than a conflict resolution and includes trust building, transparency and mutual relations.
In order to get social inclusion and development, peace process plays essential role not only in political but also in socio-economic sector.