The conflict in Mindanao has by some estimates cost the lives of at least 120,000 people since the 1970s and displaced two million people. While the conflict stems from a separatist rebellion, it has generated internecine violence most recently in 2010, when a leading clan from the region slaughtered 58 persons including 34 journalists in one particularly deadly incident.
The HD Centre praises President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines and the Chairman of the MILF Al Haj Murad for their ‘courage and determination'. David Harland, the Executive Director of the HD Centre, said: ‘The Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have taken an historic step with this agreement. It ushers in a new chapter in the search for peace in the troubled region of Mindanao. This agreement creates for the first time a Ministerial form of Government in Mindanao, a Basic Law that will be developed and written by the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao, the graduated decommissioning of MILF forces and the gradual transfer of law enforcement of the Philippines from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to the local Police.'
The HD Centre also commends the two negotiators from each party, Marvic Leonen for the GPH and Mohagher Iqbal for the MILF, as well as the peace process facilitator, the Malaysian Government and its representative, Tengku Datu Bin Ghafar. David Gorman, who represented the HD Centre in assisting the peace process and was present at the talks for the last four years stated: ‘Marvic Leonen and Mohagher Iqbal demonstrated the critical combination of tenacity and creativity in finding common ground, yet never failed to represent their Principals' interests. Furthermore, without the persistence and careful managing of the process by the Malaysian facilitator, we would never have an agreement'.
The HD Centre also recognizes the lead the GPH and MILF took in ensuring women participated in every aspect of the peace talks. Two out of five of the Government's panel members were women as were all four members of its Secretariat. The MILF also had two women advisors.
The HD Centre supports the Bangsamoro and Filipinos as they work together to make this agreement a reality on the ground. ‘Peace does not only come with an agreement.' David Gorman said. ‘The real test will come as the Parties seek to implement the agreement effectively, comprehensively and inclusively among all the Bangsamoro'.
The HD Centre is the ad-hoc Coordinator of an International Contact Group (ICG), which has been advising and supporting the parties in the talks with the Malaysian Government, since 2009. This ICG includes four states, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Kingdom as well as four international NGOs, the HD Centre, Conciliation Resources, Muhammadiyah, and the Asia Foundation.
The HD Centre has offices in Manila and Sulu, Mindanao and has been working on the peace process since 2005.