“Building Bridges: Global Peacebuilding Efforts”
Prof. Dr. Patrice Brodeur (KAICIID Senior Adviser)
International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS), Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore, June 21, 2019
“Building Bridges: Global Peacebuilding Efforts”
Prof. Dr. Patrice Brodeur (KAICIID Senior Adviser)
International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS), Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore, June 21, 2019
During the first week, part of our training was the afternoon visit to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), with the purpose, among others, of understanding better the difference mediation and arbitration.
As indicated in the pertinent memo, from the Clingendael we would take Bus 18 of the public transport to go to The Hague Central (Den Hag Centraal), and from there we would take Bus 22 to go to the PCA. We were accompanied by two interns, Maxim and Melanie, who would serve as guides.
While we were still walking toward the Clingendael bus station along with our two guides, Damien mounted the bus which left us all! (Public bus leaves and arrives at every station at a particular time, and the driver never reopens the door once closed for departure from one station to another.)
Naturally, Maxim and Melanie were very much worried, thinking that Damien would get lost in The Hague Central, or worse still, in his way to the PCA. Since Day 1 – Orientation Day – Maxim’s favorite maxim he would share to us is this: “If you have difficult question, ask Sharon!” Sharon, by the way, is the training’s overall facilitator who had been in contact with us from the very beginning.
Under this situation wherein one of the trainees potentially gets lost in the urban jungle of The Hague during a chilling winter afternoon, Maxim had no option but to dexterously follow his own maxim. He immediately grabbed his mobile and phoned Sharon: “Hello, Sharon! Damien mounted the bus which left us. He is now alone in The Hague Central. Do you have his number? How about his Facebook account? Is there any other way to contact him?”
Trying to assure Maxim, Sofhie whom we fondly call “Mama Clingendael” or “Mama Cling” for short, said, “Don’t worry, Damien is adult enough to know his options. Either he would immediate alight at the next bus stop and wait for us, or get back to Arendsdorp and relax.” (Arendsorp Complex is our momentary detention center whose de facto warden, Mr. George, is responsible for initiating its infamous two-level sensor-operated door.)
As the bus reached the next station, we were all happy to see Damien, shivering notwithstanding his thick winter garment, just waiting in the said station.
“Look, Damien is here!” we all exclaimed.
In spite of the gloomy winter, Maxim’s face brightened once again. So was Damien’s.
Inside the bus on our way to The Hague Central, I noticed Melanie memorizing our names, making many rehearsals therein. Since then, she has been able to memorize the names of all of us 20. I’m sure, the name “Damien” was the first registered in her mind and could not be erased even by the strong wicked storm that swept the whole Netherlands and some neighboring countries the following day.
Since then, everytime we would take Bus 18 as a group, we would simultaneously ask, “Is Damien around?”
This is one reason why we named our group “Bus 18 Batch”.
1. To be the first is not always good.
2. Always remember that the Bus has specific time to leave and arrive at a given station.
3. While serving as tour guide to a group, never allow anyone to go ahead or be left behind without your explicit consent.
(An excerpt of my forthcoming travelogue, “HUGGING THE HAGUE: WINTER STINT AT THE NETHERLANDS INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS,” Mansoor Limba (Amazon.com, 2018.)
Just last Friday afternoon, I received an invitation to be a Reactor to a Lecture on ‘Global Rectificatory Justice’ to be given today by a distinguished professor. Also enclosed in the invitation was a photocopy of the 22-page chapter 1 (Introduction) of the book which the Lecturer has recently written about this topic.
As the basic idea of ‘rectificatory justice,’ when harm is perpetrated, the victim can claim redress under the moral principle of non-maleficence or ‘do-not-harm’. Building his argument for rectificatory justice around this principle, the author maintains that during the era of colonialism, colonies were harmed in different ways (interventions, war and occupations, slavery and forced labor, genocides and massacres, extermination of domestic religions and cultures, forced replacement of populations, economic dominance and exploitation, and various other kinds of human rights violations), and that individuals and peoples who were victims of these harmful acts have a right to redress.
Since I cannot physically attend the Lecture due to another commitment set earlier, let me take this platform to share my immediate observation:
‘Rectificatory’ justice is yet another ‘cool’ modifier for the word ‘justice,’ the others being ‘distributive,’ ‘compensatory,’ ‘transitional,’ and many more. As you may have no qualms in agreeing, justice is such a concept that whenever you attempt to modify it, you will definitely run the risk of delimiting and restricting its meaning. Even without modifying it, justice which essentially means “putting everything in its proper place,” distributes something, compensates something, provides a transition, and of course, rectifies something. Justice is no justice at all if it does not imply all these things.
On our way to the airport the other week, a Lebanese friend of mine was narrating his visit to selected places in Rwanda where post-conflict ‘transitory justice’ is being enforced. “As you see, we coin the term ‘transitory justice’ whenever the Authority cannot or is not willing to implement justice in the strictest sense of the word,” he told me.
MAKATI CITY (MindaNews/4 February) – One lazy afternoon, I received an email from a friend who shared a link and asked me if I’m interested to apply for a United Nations Development Program (UNDP)-sponsored short course on negotiation and mediation as an instrument of conflict resolution being regularly conducted by a think-tank in the Netherlands.
Naturally, I said resoundingly, “Yes!” So, as it was the deadline for submission of the application, I immediately filled up the online form for about an hour and then clicked “Submit”! I was then hopeful to be accepted, but not necessarily expecting.
Two weeks after, I received an email of my application’s acceptance with much jubilation. “Back to school again,” I told myself, “and this time, in The Hague-based Clingendael Institute.”
Literally means “a valley in the dunes” and located in a 17th century manor house surrounded by a large park, Clingendael, or the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, is a leading think-tank and diplomatic academy in the world, whose primary aim is to contribute to a secure, sustainable and just world.
As a result of fusion of five smaller institutes in January 1983, Clingendael is unique for its multifunctional character of regularly conducting a host of integrated training, research, and educational consultative activities under a single roof.
Since 2015 Clingendael has been partnering with the UNDP in its initiative since 2004 to support insider mediation capacity-building in about 40 countries, by providing mediation and negotiation trainings.
Attended by 20 participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Lebanon, Libya, Malawi, Maldives, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Venezuela, this fourth batch of “Negotiation and Mediation Training as an Instrument for Conflict Resolution for Insider Mediators” was a combination of interactive simulations to improve the participants’ skills and case studies to help them reflect on both the theory and practice of mediation.
In a bid to provide the trainees with an in-depth understanding of how negotiations work so as for them to effectively facilitate a negotiation as a mediator, the first week was primarily focused on negotiation training (discussions on negotiation theory, strategies and simulations), while the second week concentrated on mediation and the specific role and skills of insider mediators and their role within the UNDP framework, with particular emphasis on understanding modalities for inclusivity and ownership of the peace agenda.
The classroom training sessions were also ideally interspersed with an educational visit to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Peace Palace in The Hague and to Von Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
After our training session on stakeholders- and negotiators-mapping on the second week, I saw myself accompanying three fellow Southeast Asian trainees and the representative of an international non-government organization (NGO), in going to Utrecht by train to meet with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, NDFP senior adviser Luis Jalandoni, NDFP Peace Panel Chairman Fidel Agcaoili, and NDFP Peace Panel member Connie Ledesma, in order to listen to their narratives and concerns on the stalled negotiations with the Philippine government.
The following day, three of us trainees from the Philippines were invited at the embassy by the Philippine ambassador to the Netherlands, His Excellency Mr. Jaime Victor B. Ledda, for a casual discussion on various issues including our two-week training and the peace process with the NDF.
Listening to the two narratives, I observed that each camp has identified its own ‘culprit’ of the stalled peace process: the Philippine government’s principal (Pres. Rodrigo Duterte), or the lack of enabling environment for the peace talk.
This personal observation inevitably calls to mind the concluding remark of our trainer on conflict analysis: “Conflict analysis, therefore, is not about the conflict per se; it is rather about you; it is about your perception of the conflict!” In other words, it is not about the story, but rather your narrative of the story.
Paradoxically, after almost two weeks of training on ‘insider mediation,’ our last trainer told us, “If you are an ‘insider mediator’ then you don’t exist!” As he clarified in the open forum, the reason for this claim is that every mediator is invariably a stakeholder in the conflict he or she is mediating and that mediating is becoming a lucrative business for some ‘mediators’.
In short, it is mediating ‘insider mediation’.
As they are released from the momentary detention at Arendsdorp Complex, 20 are added to the number of spoilers, provocateurs, rebels, and fighters in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Lebanon, Libya, Malawi, Maldives, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Venezuela.
These 20 spoilers identify themselves as “Bus 18 Batch”.
(An excerpt of the forthcoming travelogue, “Hugging the Hague: Winter Stint at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations,” Mansoor Limba (Amazon.com, 2018.)
GUANGZHOU CITY (17 July) – Shortly before boarding the aircraft for my early morning flight to China last week, I made my last Facebook post, thus: “FB Hibernation. I’m about to undergo a few days of Facebook hibernation. Keep in touch by email then. Logging out now…”
This I posted without stating the reason – that I was then about to enter a country wherein Facebook, Instagram, Google (Gmail, Play Store, etc.) and some other accounts cannot be accessed. In particular, I refer to the official invitation to participate in two academic events, viz. (1) a two-day International Conference and Ceremony to mark the 90th anniversary of Southeast Asian Studies and Overseas Chinese Studies at Jinan University and the 50th founding anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and (2) an eight-day Asia-China Peace and Leadership Workshop (Economic Development, Regional Cooperation, and Conflict Transformation) organized by Jinan University’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies.
Both events were or are being held in Jinan University, which is one of the oldest universities established in mainland China tracing back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Mandated to spread Chinese learning and culture from North to South and from Chinese overseas, the university was the first in this country to recruit foreign students and is currently the Chinese university with the largest number of international students.
The conference panels such as “Current Studies on Southeast Asia,” “Studies on Vietnamese History,” “Studies on Myanmar Politics,” “Overseas Chinese Studies,” “Language and Translation,” “Studies on Other Southeast Asian Countries,” “Studies on Malaysian Politics,” “Ethnic Chinese Business Network and Overseas Chinese,” “International Relations in Southeast Asia,” and “Studies on Chinese Malaysians” are interspersed with a keynote speech, a forum on Overseas Chinese Research, giving of awards, and a roundtable on ASEAN-China Relations.
The keynote speech was given by Prof. Anthony Reid of the Australian National University while awards were given to best papers published in Jinan University’s Journal of Southeast Asian Studies and the Yao Nan Translation Prize.
Apart from meeting presenters from the Philippines such as Prof. Rommel Banlaoi of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, Prof. Aileen Baviera of the University of the Philippine Diliman, and two fellow workshop participants from Ateneo de Manila University and Dela Salle University, the most interesting for me was the roundtable on ASEAN-China Relations on the first day, being attended by the consul-generals of the Southeast Asian countries in China.
The Philippines being the current Chairman of the ASEAN, the Filipino consul-general in China, Marie Charlotte G. Tang, delivered the Opening Address to the roundtable. In our personal conversation after the roundtable, it was equally fulfilling to realize that Ms. Tang was then my direct supervisor when I was undergoing practicum in the China Section, East Asian Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the summer of 1995.
The roundtable discussants included Prof. Reid of Australia, Prof. Baviera of the Philippines, and four Chinese scholars headed by Zhang Zhenjiang, Dean of Jinan University’s School of International Studies and the Academy of Overseas Chinese Studies.
For almost two hours, the roundtable discussion significantly centered around the ASEAN’s degree of success or failure, various obstacles to ASEAN integration, and current challenges and prospects of ASEAN-China relations.
In the open forum, I raised the following question:
“Throughout this two hours Roundtable, I was expecting to hear – even a bit – about regional security from a non-conventional framework. By non-conventional framework, I refer to security threats not coming from a neighboring state or states, and a global or regional hegemon, but rather coming from transnational violent actors such as the ISIS.
“As the ISIS is recently losing territorial ground in both Syria and Iraq, the possibility for this group to look for Southeast Asia whose Muslim population is more than those of Arab countries combined together is becoming more palpable. As we all know, a city in an ASEAN country – I’m referring to Marawi City in the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao – has been captured by ISIS-linked groups, and the alleged reports of participation of some Indonesians and Malaysians in the siege must bring a toll of alarm to the region.
“My question is: Is it not high time now to include this security concern to the main agenda of the ASEAN-China relations?”
One of the discussants responded by saying, among others, that there have been already many ASEAN meetings about transnational issues including security threats coming from transnational non-state actors, but in the end she confessed that “But as to whether this concern will become part of the main agenda in the ASEAN-China relations or not, I don’t know.”
This confession, I think, is worth contemplating now, considering the existence of Uyghur Muslim minority issues in China and the threat to the Chinese government as expressed in ISIS media outlets.
Mansoor L. Limba on March 20, 2017
MAKATI CITY (20 March) – In August last year, I flew to Davao City – not primarily to witness and join the week-long celebration of Kadayawan Festival – but to attend two events related to history as an academic field of discipline.
Last week I flew there again – not primarily to join the Dabawenyos in their four-day Araw ng Dabaw (Davao City Founding Day) holidays – but to sit as a panel to a dissertation defense on halal practices in Region 11, to witness the launching of a book on human rights, and finally, to attend, as a representative of the academic sector, a three-day workshop on PVE.
PVE. Yes, it’s Preventing Violent Extremism.
While the topic was already more than enough to send shivers down one’s spine, the insignia “PVE. Reimagine. Redefine. Rethink.” of the UNDP-funded workshop dubbed “Redefining Radicalization: Streamlining PVE/CVE Efforts of Institutions” was even quite intriguing, to say the least.
It naturally elicits such questions as “What is the dominant ‘imagination’ about PVE? What is the conventional definition of violent extremism? What is the common thinking about radicalization? What is the problem with such an imagination, definition and thinking so much so that it demands re-imagination, redefinition and rethinking?”
As early as the first workshop on the definitions and conceptual assumptions of radicalization and violent extremism, three words could easily be identified as implicit culprits, viz. radicalization, violence, and extremism. Are they supposed to be culprits all the time? Guided by this question, the first open forum would border on intellectual jousting coupled with occasional jokes on Moro piracy vis-à-vis foreign intrusion.
If understood to mean “the process of instituting a fundamental and comprehensive change,” is radicalization always bad? Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein were certified radicals who have brought scientific revolutions.
Is violence or the use of physical force always condemnable? Wars of national liberation – prior to, during and after the two world wars – were all violent in nature. George Washington was undoubtedly violent. So was Andres Bonifacio.
Is extremism always blameworthy? In the business world in which mediocrity – or to be average – is a heinous crime punishable by death, extreme ideas and innovative minds are natural recipes for survival and eventual success.
Even in the second workshop that attempted to identify the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ instances of radicalization, there was no sufficient time to appreciate the many grays in between these opposing poles (positive and negative). A knife in motion can either be ‘moral’ or ‘immoral’ while a knife in inertia is ‘amoral’. In other words, a knife used to commit a crime is ‘bad’ while a knife used in the kitchen to prepare foods for hungry stomachs is ‘good’ whereas a sleeping knife is neither good nor bad, in absolute sense.
In short, whenever there are artificial constructs, which are arranged hierarchically such that in the case of opposites in language one term is always privileged over the other, the anomaly of such dichotomies must be dissected.
How about PVE via ‘TVE’?
Meanwhile, from the first session down to the presentations of the three foreign experts on the second day, what can be observed was that the issue of PVE has been mostly treated and discussed through social science lenses – economic, sociological, psychological, anthropological.
On the other hand, what is given less attention is the fact that the main identity and meta-signifier of many violent extremist groups is religious in nature with very strong theological underpinnings.
In the case of ISIS, its main identity is rooted in the notion of ‘Islamic State’ and the revival of the caliphate (khilafah) which is an important theme in Islamic political thought and political jurisprudence.
There is no denying that social injustices, poverty, and psychological factors are significant drivers of violent extremism, but the fact is that these elements are dealt with by these groups within the framework of Islamic metaphors and symbols.
Is it enough to issue a religious edict against terrorism (http://armmrdi.blogspot.com/p/resource-centre.html) in Arabic language (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByHDjAlc3Q7ibE5mbWVYT0tHNjA/view) without translating it into any of the languages understandable to the local youth – such as English and Filipino?
Is it enough to argue that there is nothing Islamic in those groups (https://phisoblog.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/final-paper.docx), by citing a few Qur’anic verses here and there?
If you do so, they could instantly throw you with tens of Qur’anic verses, a double or triple number of narrations from the corpus of hadith (Prophetic traditions), and everything including the kitchen sink from the works of such Muslim figures as Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn al-Jawzi, and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab.
As such, in order for any PVE program to be considered comprehensive, there is a logical need to understand the ‘theology of violent extremism’ (TVE) – the same language these groups astutely use to convey their message and gain recruits.
On hindsight, unless these two points, among others, are addressed, PVE will remain a conceptual prison that necessitates Derridean ‘deconstruction’ and ‘double reading’ – and thereafter, re-imagination, redefinition and rethinking.
Mansoor L. Limba on March 13, 2017
MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /13 March) – Through a last-minute intervention by a mighty Pen, I was able to attend the 2017 founding Philippine International Studies Association (PhISO) International Conference on International Studies held at Far Eastern University (FEU), Manila.
With the theme “Disciplining the Discipline: The History, Theory and Practice of International Relations in the Philippines,” the three-day conference became a pioneering venue for presentation of papers at various panels such as “Critical Perspectives in Security and International Relations,” “Great Powers and Institutions in Global Politics,” “Non-state Actors and Transnational Relations,” “Challenges to the Concept of the State in East Asia: History, Rivalry, and Migration,” “Revisiting the Role of Non-state Actors in International Relations,” “The International Politics of Middle Eastern Societies,” and “Maritime Security among State and Non-state Actors in East Asia.”
Simultaneous with the conference presentation of papers was the holding of a workshop with the theme “Exploring Global South Contributions in International Relations” in collaboration with Global South Caucus on International Studies (GSCIS) by the International Studies Association (ISA). Aimed at serving as a critical academic platform “for thinking and doing IR differently and beyond the Global North’s IR perspectives,” the workshop advances “cosmologies of diverse ways of contemplating the ‘international’ as a form of study, discipline, and reality,” PhISO website would inform us.
Inspired by postmodernist Richard Ashley’s critique of ‘anarchy problematique’ in existing IR literature, my workshop paper examined the Qur’anic concept of ‘mustad‘afin’ (the downtrodden) as expounded by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s founder and reflected in the Iranian constitution vis-à-vis the Westphalian notion of nation-state sovereignty.
The paper presentations in both the conference hall and the workshop room were delectably peppered by two roundtables – “The Philippines and the International” and “Pedagogy, Curriculum, and Syllabus Development of International and Global Studies” – as well as three keynote speeches given by UP Diliman IR/IS professors, Dr. Clarita Carlos, Dr. Herman Joseph Kraft, and Prof. Frances Antoinette Cruz during the Opening Ceremony, Welcome Dinner, and Closing Ceremony, respectively.
Outside the walls of the conference hall and the workshop room, I would spend my light moments chatting with other participants or members of the secretariat beside the registration and information table, sipping hot coffee at the snacks room, or flipping through selected books at the book exhibit participated in by SAGE Publications, University of the Philippines Press, Ateneo de Manila University Press, De La Salle University Publishing House, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Far Eastern University Publications, Ateneo de Davao University Publishing Office, and Vibal Publishing.
For me, the center of attraction in the book exhibit was the booth of Liberland. Proclaimed for the first time on April 13, 2015 by a Czech right-libertarian politician and activist, the seven-square-kilometer Free Republic of Liberland, as I learned then for the first time, is a ‘sovereign’ state located between Croatia and Serbia on the west bank of the Danube river – though receiving no recognition yet from any member of the United Nations!
The ground-breaking conference, successful as it was, all started with a single person – the PhISO founder who is a young Mindanawan. As revealed by Prof. Carlos in her keynote speech, whenever she would meet him abroad many years back, her former student would never digress from talking about a national international studies association in the country. For me, more impressive than founding PhISO itself is his conspicuous magnanimity in not styling himself the founding president. He just settled with the vice presidency on publication, a position he is much competent in given his external publication experience and linkages.
On my way back to Makati City while reflecting on the points shared by the PhISO President in her closing ceremony’s keynote speech, I can’t help but ask myself, “Is the Philippine International Relations/International Studies discipline ready to be disciplined?”
The veteran gatekeepers of the discipline and vanguards of Philippine diplomacy and foreign service may say, “We have been disciplining it these decades through our works!”
The young IR/IS students from various universities and colleges, who constituted the bulk of conference participants, may counter, “Is there really the Philippine IR discipline, in the first place, to be disciplined?”
[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at email@example.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]