Travel

Bus 18

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.)

Worried and making the wildest speculations on what would happen to Damien, we all mounted the next bus.

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”.

Tips:
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.)

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Mediating ‘Insider Mediation’

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’.

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20 Spoilers

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.)

 

     

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Wicked-Strong Storm

Wicked-strong storm coming from the North Sea recently slammed into the Netherlands, tearing off roofs, flipping trucks, tipping stacks of empty shipping containers, blowing pedestrians in the street, and prompting flight cancellations and havoc at the airports.

In the Hague, we witnessed even big tall trees being literally uprooted in our way to attend the morning session of training at the Clingendael.

(An excerpt of the forthcoming travelogue, “Hugging the Hague: Winter Stint at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations,” Mansoor Limba (Amazon.com, 2018.)

     

     

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Sinbad – The Hero or the Villain?

As in other negotiation and mediation trainings, the first case introduced to us 20 trainees from 13 Asian, African and Central/South American countries is the controversial “Crocodile River Story”:

“Once there lived a woman named Abigail who was in love with a man named Greg. Greg lived on the opposite side of a crocodile-infested river. Abigail wanted to cross the river to be with Greg, but the bridge had been washed out by a heavy flood the previous week. So she went to ask Sinbad, a riverboat captain, to take her across. He said he would be glad to if she would consent to go to bed with him before the trip. She refused and went to a friend named Ivan to explain her plight. Ivan did not want to get involved at all in the situation. Abigail felt her only alternative was to accept Sinbad’s terms. After she had been to bed with him, Sinbad fulfilled his promise and delivered her across the river to Greg. When she told Greg about her amorous adventure, Greg cast her aside with disdain. Heartsick and rejected, she turned to Slug with her story. Slug, feeling compassion for her, sought out Greg and beat him brutally. Abigail was overjoyed at the sight of Greg getting his due. As the sun set on the horizon, people heard Abigail laughing at Greg.”

Each of us was instructed to rank the characters in the story from 1 (who you think is ‘best’) to 5 (who you think is ‘worst’). Then we were divided into small groups with three or four members each, and each group was asked to come up with a common ranking. Thereafter, members of each group were asked to select their group representative to negotiate with the representatives of other groups to come up with a common ranking.

I’m sure, you can now expect the outcome of the exercise:

For the subgroup where I belonged, three of us agreed on ranking Sinbad as the number 1 (‘the best’) on the basis of rational choice theory and material cost-benefit analysis, but one us firmly stood his ground of ranking Sinbad as the number 5 (‘the worst’). In the end, we failed to agree on a single ranking.

And the same disagreement was the outcome of the representatives’ long, emotionally-charged negotiation.

     

What is your take?

Is Sinbad the best, or the worst?

Tips:
1. Before negotiating with the other parties, the criterion/criteria must be clarified upon. Technically, it is called “Rules and Procedures.”
2. Nothing is agreed upon unless something is agreed upon.

(An excerpt of the forthcoming travelogue, “Hugging the Hague: Winter Stint at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations,” Mansoor Limba (Amazon.com, 2018.)

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Back to School Again

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 UNDP-sponsored short course on negotiation and mediation as an instrument of conflict resolution being regularly conducted by the Clingendael Institute (the Netherlands Institute of International Relations).

Naturally, I said resoundingly, “Yes!”

So I immediately filled up the online form for about an hour and then clicked “Submit”!

Hopeful to be accepted, but not necessarily expecting.

Two weeks after, I received an email of my application’s acceptance.

Back to school again.

This time, in the Hague. In the Clingendael.

Tips:
1. Knowing a hyperlink is one thing; clicking it is another.
2. In applying for a fellowship, be always hopeful, though not necessarily expecting.
3. There’s no harm in actually submitting an online application even if you are not sure of being accepted. Who knows, you will have your luck!

(An excerpt of the forthcoming travelogue, “Hugging the Hague: Winter Stint at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations,” Mansoor Limba (Amazon.com, 2018.)

     

     

 

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Forthcoming Book – “Hugging the Hague”

HUGGING THE HAGUE: Winter Stint at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. Mansoor Limba (Amazon.com, 2018).

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Question on ‘Regional Outlook on Violent Extremism’

“We have been talking about the narrative and drivers of violent extremism (VE). When we say drivers, we are referring to the push and pull factors that ‘recruit’ individuals to VE. And we tend to pay less attention to VE’s enablers – that is, factors that make VE and its activities ‘resilient’. We are interested to know what UNDP has done so far – from development work perspective – in addressing these ‘enablers’ of VE.”

Supposed question on the Introductory Session about “Regional Outlook on Violent Extremism” by Phil Matsheza, Regional Team Leader, Governance & Peacebuilding, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

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Mergrande Marauders in Jakarta

Look, who are in the picture? Yes. Mergrande Marauders and other KAICIID International Fellows together with KAICIID Advisor Dr. Syamsuddin.

Since these marauders are Anas-trained peace provocateurs, you can already expect what troubles are in store for this regional workshop on violent extremism and religious education in Southeast Asia.

Not in the photo is the queen provocateur, Wiwin Siti Aminah Rohmawati

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‘Conference Paper Presentation 101’ and ‘Conference Panel Moderating 101’?

Before attending a regional workshop on religious education in Jakarta next week, my past two weeks were a series of paper presentations or talks. In a DILG-PPSC jointly organized national training of trainers on preventing and countering violent extremism held in Manila on November 27-29, I was asked to share my working paper on deconstructing media reporting in Mindanao.

Immediately after the closing program I rushed to the airport to catch my 9:40 pm flight bound for Davao City. But sad to note, I arrived at NAIA at 10:09 pm already. Blame it to the traffic jam in the Metro. I booked for the next available flight (around 6 am), but I had to enlist my name as chance passenger for the earliest flight (4 am) that day (November 30) in order to arrive in the next conference venue before the start of the panel session (8 am) where I was invited to talk about the post-Marawi Siege landscape.

The following day (December 1), I had to leave the beach resort (Waterfront Insular Hotel) and climbed up the mountainous part of the city (Malagos Garden Resort) to deliver another talk at the seminar-workshop dubbed “Reporting Marawi, Reporting Violent Extremism” organized by the MindaNews and an institute of Mindanao-based journalists.

Two days afterward, I had to fly back to Manila to moderate the panel on youth radicalization and violent extremism of a forum on the peace process in Mindanao, organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Immediately after lunch, I had to rush to the province of Cavite, outside Metro Manila, to share my thoughts on cultural sensitivity and media reporting in Mindanao at a one-week special course conducted by a national public safety institution.

         

The next day, I flew to Kuala Lumpur to attend the 7th International Conference on Southeast Asia at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya, and to present a paper on Marawi Siege’s security implications to the Southeast Asian region. During the opening ceremony the other day, the convener of the panel on the role of women in conflict zones in Southeast Asia invited me to join her panel, which I gladly accepted, and I talked about the role of women in promoting violent extremism in the Philippines.

     

In all these presentations as well as in previous experiences in conferences, one recurring thing I have observed time and again is the dismal failure of a considerable number of speakers to observe the time limit (usually 15 to 20 minutes), and correspondingly, some moderators’ ineptitude to properly manage the time limit set for each panel. One moderator even emailed me the night before the panel session, asking me to limit my presentation to 10 minutes, while actually allowing my co-presenter in the panel to talk for around 45 minutes and another co-presenter to talk in half an hour.

One panel convener kept reminding me four times to limit my talk to 15 minutes “in order to devote more time to the discussions during the Q&A session”. Yet the same panel convener was around 30 minutes late in the panel, and having designated herself as the first presenter, she had two minutes excess to the 15-minute time limit she herself had set.

In view of these and similar experiences in the remote past, I’m just wondering if there’s a need for a sort of “conference paper presentation 101” and “conference panel moderation 101.”

Please let me know your views and comments.

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