Arguing with each other is in itself peace

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - October 13, 2019 - 12:00am

I once asked an active peace negotiator what was the point in talking “peace” which seemed to go nowhere. It seemed ineffective. Arguing seemed to go on forever. But that is the point, he said. As long as protagonists talk they keep the peace. It would be a mistake to think that the only way to achieve peace is to go to war or to win over one’s enemy.

Talking about peace is itself a process that makes it possible to keep when conflicts arise. That is true whether it is between individuals or countries.

I am writing about Valdivia, a place at the foothills of Moscow where President Duterte gave a speech on the theme of peace. I was guided by an article written by Harold H. Saunders of the Kettering Foundation on the “The Future of Peace”. The article was entitled “Peace Process: Sustained Dialogue to Transform Deep-Rooted Human Conflicts.”

Arguing or discussing a conflict issue is in itself a peace process no longer about how much time it took. It prevents violence. Talking about peace is a process which itself is “peace” . Conflicts that are not talked about and protagonists who do not speak to each other becomes an excuse for violence.

Here is what Saunders said:

“Many of the deep-rooted human conflicts that seize our attention today are not ready for formal mediation and negotiation. People do not negotiate about identity, fear, historic grievance, and injustice. Sustained dialogue provides a space where citizens outside government can change their conflictual relationships. Governments can negotiate binding agreements and enforce and implement them, but only citizens can change human relationships. Governments have long had their tools of diplomacy – mediation, negotiation, force, and allocation of resources.

“A Public Peace Process provides citizens outside government with their own instrument for transforming conflict. He then outlines who among ordinary citizens can come in bringing about peace. He outlines a systematic approach for citizens to use in reducing racial, ethnic, and other deep-rooted tensions in their countries, communities, and organizations.”

In his outline I was struck about how little I knew of Valdivia or the Valdivia Discussion Club until President Duterte visited Russia.

The Valdivia Discussion Club is a Moscow-based think tank and discussion forum, established in 2004. It is named after Lake Valdai, which is located close to Veliky Novgorod, where the Club’s first meeting took place. In 2014, the management of the Club was transferred to the Valdai Club Foundation, established in 2011 by the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, the Russian International Affairs Council, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and Higher School of Economics.

Valdai Forum was held on Oct. 3 during President Duterte’s visit on the theme of “The World Order Seen From the East.”

The forum is organized by the Valdivia Discussion Club, one of Russia’s prominent and respected think tanks and discussion groups. Top Russian and international officials, as well as policymakers, academics, and journalists gather at the annual Valdai Forum.

In his speech, Duterte said:

“For over two decades after the end of the Cold War, Philippine foreign policy hardly evolved. Russia, for instance, remained on the margins of our diplomacy. I viewed this as an oversight of strategic proportion. A result of bureaucratic inertia. A symptom of blind attachment to bygone views and assumptions.

And a massive failure to grasp change and seize new opportunities.

The Filipino nation, of course, deserves better.

Thus, when I assumed the presidency in 2016, I vowed to correct this.

In 2017, I visited Russia for the first time. Although it was cut short, I believe it led to meaningful and historic developments in our relations. When I say it was cut short, I had to go home because Marawi, a city in Mindanao in the Philippines was a brewing, evolving into an endless violence. We intend to stay [on] this path and that is why I am very glad to be here for the second time.

I thank President Putin for the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to a robust and comprehensive Philippines-Russia partnership. I am also grateful to the Valdai Discussion Club for this honor to speak before you on a topic of great importance to us – that of order and change in world politics. I’m talking about fairness and equality [for] a stable global order.

The liberal global order built after the Second World War was the Pax Americana – appears to be under challenge. As the 21st century unfolds, the legitimacy of this order is increasingly questioned, its appeal weakened, and its hold over countries diminished. I see two key factors that could explain this situation. First is the combination of exceptionalism and double standards that we have seen time and time again and again from the beginning of the very vanguards of this current order.

The great Russian novelist Lev Tolstoy wrote: “All happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This is the same line for nations. Developing countries like the Philippines, with our own histories, face different challenges and in our problems that would require different sets of solutions.

Yet, some so-called friends act like they know the answers to our problems and impervious to our [specificities] socio-economic and political conditions.

They create rules and norms for almost everyone, and some refuse to be bound by the same. Think of the UNCLOS, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and even the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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