Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Foreign donors affirm support to Mindanao peace, development

By Bong Garcia Jr.
The Business Mirror

ZAMBOANGA CITY—The foreign donor community has reaffirmed support for Mindanao’s peace and development, citing the need to move the peace process and harmonize convergence of foreign aid in the region.

They also agreed to address the need to pursue a negotiated peace settlement between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and improve harmonization of official development assistance as priority agenda for Mindanao.

Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco) chairman Virgilio Leyretana Jr. said the agreement was reached at the 2008 Philippines Development Forum (PDF) held on March 26 in Clark, Pampanga.

Leyretana said that World Bank Philippine country director Bert Hofman has emphasized in his statement at the forum that addressing conflict in Mindanao is critical in alleviating poverty in the poorest regions.

Hofman further noted as positive development the ongoing review of the 1996 peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front according to Leyretana.

Citing conflict cessation as a key to poverty reduction, improving donor coordination is seen to be a critical mechanism, particularly in the delivery of donor assistance in conflict and impoverished communities.

Hofman said the donors agreed to work through a unified strategy and mechanism for conflict-affected areas so that assistance is used effectively during and after the peace process.

He added that peace-building efforts and community-driven development programs have shown great promise in delivering the much-needed basic services in poor and conflict-affected areas.

During the forum, some of the major donor agencies renewed commitment for a continued support to peace and development initiatives in Mindanao.

The United States Agency for International Development affirmed its support to the government’s peace and development agenda by focusing on improving education in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, while the European Commission said it would support in improving the health sector.

Likewise, the Australian Agency for International Development said it would work with relevant parties to build the foundation for peace in Mindanao.

Leyretana said that also in the pipeline is Japan government’s plan to invest capital and technical assistance to Mindanao through the Japan Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development project.

“The overwhelming continued support of our donor partners and a stronger voice in the Philippines Development Forum offers a major impetus and stronger commitment in our collective pursuit of the Mindanao peace and development agenda,” he said.

Leyretana also shared that Medco was able to initiate a convergence mechanism of Project Management Offices (PMOs) with implementing units in Mindanao to develop a “community of practice” for sharing of lessons learned and good practices in local peace-building to other donor projects, media and local government units (LGUs).

Hofman also said that strengthening the capacity of the LGUs is critical to the peace and development efforts in Mindanao.

It can be recalled that the Mindanao Trust Fund Reconstruction and Development Program (MTF-RDP) was put together in response to increasing LGU accountability in the local peace-building process.

Early this year, the community-driven development strategy of the MTF-RDP was endorsed to Mindanao municipal mayors.

Moving the peace process and improving donor coordination were among the priority agenda pushed by the Mindanao Working Group (MWG) for endorsement at the PDF level.

The MWG, a government-donor mechanism for discussion on Mindanao peace and development interventions, has emerged as an important subgroup of PDF since 2003, following a strong request by Medco and the Mindanao donor community to put a special subgroup on Mindanao concerns.

The PDF is an interactive and participatory forum among members of the international donor community, national government agencies, legislative branch, civil society, academe and business groups that aims to develop a consensus and generate commitments on the country’s development initiatives.

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