January 10, 2013 — On October 15, Philippines’ President Aquino signed the Framework Agreement between the country’s largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government, to begin the process of ending 40 years of brutal conflict. The agreement is a significant milestone and presents a road map on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transition and implementation. Although many factors and parties led to this agreement, a unique aspect of the negotiations was the role of other participantsâ€”both local and internationalâ€”including the International Contact Group (ICG), of which The Asia Foundation is a member.
The ICG is a unique body consisting of countries (Britain, Japan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia) and select nongovernmental organizations (The Asia Foundation, Conciliation Resources, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, and Muhammadiyah). Asia Foundation Country Representative Steven Rood reflected recently on the importance of the hybrid nature of the ICG’s role in the peace process “as a valuable response to the growing complexity of long-running conflicts,” further stating “there are clearly roles that can be played by international actors, ways they can help protagonists move toward a negotiated solution that is in the interest of both entities, and connections they can facilitate between domestic stakeholders and the negotiation process.”
The lessons learned from this groundbreaking peace agreement are crucial in their relevance to other complex conflict areas where The Asia Foundation works.