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European models show autonomy as win-win solution for conflict resolution — diplomats
MANILA – Autonomy has proven to be a win-win solution for countries trying to address long-drawn conflict situations, European diplomats said during a Media and Peace Program Roundtable forum organized by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR).
“Granting autonomy to the constituents of the Åland Islands had proven effective in settling a massive political and military crisis in Finland in 1921,” said Dr. Kimmu Kiljunen, Special Representative for Peace Mediation of the Foreign Minister of Finland. “The same impact is what the Philippine government is trying to create with the creation of the Bangsamoro in Mindanao,” he added.
The Åland Islands are an archipelagic region in the Baltic Sea that hosts a population of mostly Swedish descent. It was part of the Kingdom of Sweden until Russia claimed the territory under the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in 1809.
In 1917, Finland declared sovereignty over Åland, whereas the Åland islanders sought reintegration with Sweden. With Finland’s initial rejection of the Åland Islands proposal, political and military tensions arose, until in 1921, the Finnish Parliament offered extensive autonomy to the Åland Islands, assuring the latter that their Swedish heritage, language, and culture and traditions will be respected.
According to Dr. Kiljunen, 97% of the Åland Islands population wanted to separate from Finland back in 1918, yet today there is unanimous acceptance and support for their current setup as an autonomous region.
Adding to the discussion was Thomas Phipps of the British Embassy in Manila, who likewise shared successful iterations of peaceful conflict resolutions and devolution based on the experience of the United Kingdom.
Phipps talked about the Irish-British conflict from 1916 to 1922, wherein Northern Ireland demanded to separate from the UK. Eventually, the parties in conflict agreed to a peaceful resolution which resulted in the UK Parliament granting Northern Ireland the right to self-rule as a devolved government that remained a subordinate of the national sovereignty.
Key to the resolution of the conflict was that “the national government gave the people a say on the issue,” said Phipps. “This commitment was the contributing factor that helped secure the peace in Northern Ireland.”
“In the end, the people chose what they believed made the most economic sense as a people,” he further added. “That meant staying with the UK and receiving the economic and political support they needed while being able to autonomously determine their path to progress.”
The Åland Islands and Northern Ireland experiences share many parallels with the prospective Bangsamoro entity, said the experts. Dr. Kiljunen however made clear that historical contexts and issues in conflict always vary from one situation to the other, so peaceful resolutions successful in certain places and conditions cannot be replicated directly, but rather adapted to suit the particular concerns and interests of the local situation.
The diplomats affirmed that key to the resolution of any conflict is the matter of trust.
“Secessionist sentiments are always rooted in mistrust. By assuring real autonomy in the Bangsamoro (through the provisions in the finalized Bangsamoro Basic Law), the Philippine government will be able to build real trust that will curb any feared intentions of secession,” Dr. Kiljunen said.
For Phipps, “peace in Mindanao can help the Philippines realize its potential to become the world’s 16th largest economy by 2050.”
“If the Philippines can successfully achieve peace through the creation of the Bangsamoro, it can become a positive regional and global example to help put an end to various other conflicts in the world,” he added.
- See more at: http://www.opapp.gov.ph/milf/news/european-models-show-autonomy-win-win-solution-conflict-resolution-diplomats#sthash.wsnwMC4n.dpuf
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