For lasting peace, dialogue must be inclusive of all ethnic groups

The two respective negotiating teams of the government and ethnic armed organizations take a step toward a lasting ceasefire and a political dialogue that includes all stakeholders in the country’s peace process on 31 March 2015.
The two respective negotiating teams of the government and ethnic armed organizations take a step toward a lasting ceasefire and a political dialogue that includes all stakeholders in the country’s peace process on 31 March 2015.

Following strenuous efforts by the government and 16 ethnic armed groups, nearly three years of peace negotiations recently reached a successful conclusion with a tentative agreement on the single text of a national ceasefire accord.
While the agreement can help pave the way to ending more than 60 years of armed conflicts in this multiethnic country, it is only a first step toward political dialogue that is inclusive of all ethnic groups.
However, there is no doubt the historic deal reached on 31 March between the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team representing ethnic armed groups is reason for confidence.
In addition to establishing a new level of trust, it is also a signal that a cooperative political culture can flourish in the country, which has struggled with internecine strife that continues to inflict casualties on all sides.
Now is the time to celebrate the cooperative culture which once flourished when the Panglong agreement was reached during the time of the independence struggle. But, we all know that a certain amount of time is needed to achieve the shared goal of ensuring national reconciliation. Peace is possible if all actors signing the truce deal have a genuine desire for it, putting conflicting opinions aside.
“Despite challenges and criticism, we wrapped up our negotiations with agreement on the draft ceasefire accord, convincing future generations that talks at the negotiating table are the right answer for reaching everlasting peace,” Union Minister U Aung Min, who led the UPWC, said on the final day of the NCA negotiation.
“It is like hill climbing. Once we accomplished our mission of scaling a great hill, we find there are many more hills to climb”, said U Hla Maung Shwe, senior adviser to the Myanmar Peace Centre, told the Global New Light of Myanmar.
It cannot be said that peace prevails unless the ceasefire happens the length and breadth of the nation, NCCT leader U Nai Hong Sar said.
For the ceasefire to work in the long run, much remains to be done, the NCCT leader said, highlighting the importance of all ethnic armed groups’ involvement in the signing of the ceasefire pact.
Both sides had agreed to hold the dialogue within 90 days and a framework process within 60 days after a formal truce deal between the government and ethnic armed organizations. The UPWC expects to sign the ceasefire with 16 armed groups. Myanmar is thought to have 22 ethnic armed organizations.
United Nations special adviser Vijay Nambiar said the signing of an NCA is a first step towards a larger dialogue for settling the political and military issues that will pave the way for an inclusive and harmonious future for Myanmar.
“However, it is a crucial first stage that must be crossed before embarking on the next chapter,” he said.
Myanmar’s ongoing peace process indicates a desire for an end to conflict on all sides.  While the intention is clear, it remains to be seen whether the method undertaken will deliver the desired outcome.
There are many more losers than winners in armed struggles. To achieve lasting peace, dialogue must take place within a framework of pluralism.
In seeking to shape a promising future, players in conflicts must set aside differences and respect the desire for peace of the entire people. Flexibility of approach, in order to find an acceptable outcome for all parties, is essential to the country’s quest for peace and prosperity. GNLM

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