Political dialogues are the way forward

The following is the address delivered by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the 2nd anniversary of the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivering at the 2nd  anniversary of the signing of NCA. Photo: MNA
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivering at the 2nd anniversary of the signing of NCA. Photo: MNA

Nationwide ceasefire Agreement
We are gathered here today to mark an important event in history. Today, we celebrate the second anniversary of the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).
When our Government took over responsibility of the State in 2016, there were already some signatories to the NCA. Pursuant to the NCA, the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC) was established. The JMC is tasked to coordinate the compliance of all signatories to the NCA. The NCA also established the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee-(UPDJC) which is responsible for drafting a framework for political dialogue and provides a necessary platform for this undertaking.
I am happy to report that we have successfully established in a systematic manner the monitoring mechanism both at the State and Local levels, while increasing the participation of civilians in the JMC. On political dialogue, we have successfully launched the Union Peace Conference- 21st Century Panglong which has brought about the agreement of 37 fundamental principles on Federalism signed as Part One of the Union Accord.
Despite criticism of the NCA, there has been noticeable progress. We have successfully decreased conflicts in the regions of the Ethnic Armed Organizations signatories and as a result, the socio-economic lives of the local people have significantly improved. It is our ethnic peoples who are enjoying the fruits of peace.
Although the JMC is not a perfect mechanism, the existence of the JMC alone is a step towards the culture of negotiation to settle disputes among armed groups. We need to assess and reform the process of JMC and dispute settlement mechanisms on this second anniversary of the NCA.
On Political Dialogues, the UPDJC has successfully launched the Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong with wider participation and inclusive of the various groups ie. Government, Parliament, Tatmadaw, Ethnic Armed Organisations, Political Parties, National Races representatives, stakeholders, and Civil Society Organisations.

STOCK-TAKING
If we take stock of our post-independence history, you will see that we have experienced the Parliamentary era, Revolutionary Council era, Burma Socialist Programme Party era, State Law and Order Restoration Council/ State Peace and Development Council era, U Thein Sein Government era and our current Government era. It is during our current era that political dialogue has been initiated and political agreements have been successfully negotiated. Based on the experiences and lessons learnt from the past, we strongly believe that political dialogues are the way forward. The current political dialogues, however, are still far from perfect. It needs the participation of all remaining ethnic armed organizations. After the second session of the 21st Century Panglong, the Government, ethnic armed organisations and political parties have respectively taken stock of these political dialogues and have agreed that there is a necessity to review these dialogues for enhanced engagement.
We also now have a more systematic approach regarding the NCA such as the monitoring and dispute settlement mechanisms. This said, there is still room for improvement and enhanced coordination since this is our first experience. Although the political dialogue has been initiated for the first time in our history and political agreements have been reached, we still need to work together to achieve positive results based on our experiences.

NON-SIGNATORIES
When the government initiated the peace process, some groups were still under negotiation and some had not accepted the NCA yet. For those non-signatory groups, we are ready to welcome them and look forward to initiate peace negotiations. Our political dialogues were aimed to achieve fundamental principles acceptable to all. Our government welcomes all non-signatory groups to participate in the process of formulating the principles towards a Democratic Federal Union in the future. In fact, the NCA is not an end in itself, but just the first step towards national reconciliation in the country.
I would like to reiterate today that the NCA opens the door for political dialogues which will pave the way to the Union Peace Conference. Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my appreciation to everyone who made great efforts leading to the establishment of the NCA including former President U Thein Sein.
The previous government initiated the negotiations that led to the signing of the NCA. Our government proudly carries on this process. With full accountability, we have adapted the peace process to make the best of the existing circumstances after holding several discussions with the ethnic armed groups, political parties, civil society organizations and stakeholders who are deeply involved in the peace process. Our main objective is to achieve the age-old dreams of peace and national reconciliation of the people.
This is the second anniversary of the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and we have held the second session of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference. We aim to conduct the third session of the Peace Conference this year and have started preparations. The Peace Conference will continue to discuss the unfinished fundamental principles on Federalism as raised at the 2nd session as well as to formulate new principles. We plan to hold two sessions of the Peace Conference in 2018.
At the upcoming sessions of the Peace Conference, I urge all of you to finalize all the fundamental principles on Federalism. Once we have agreed on the fundamental principles, we can continue to discuss and elaborate on their details.
We will need to continue our dialogue on the division of power, allocation of resources and revenue between the Union, States and Regions, and the powers as described in the additional tables to the Constitution. These are about how we will divide our state powers in our future Federal Union. If we are able to conclude the discussion on fundamental principles during the upcoming sessions of the Peace Conference, we would have a strong foundation for the Federal Union.
We all accept that the root cause of the ongoing internal armed conflicts in the country is the result of not solving political problems by political means. We all agree that a federal system is the only solution for the internal armed conflict which has been unresolved under successive governments. The opportunity to end the conflict by political means is in our hands right now. Part (1) of the Union Accord reached at the 2nd session of the Union Peace Conference proves that crucial political agreements can be reached if all political partners negotiate on the basis of mutual understanding and mutual trust. The people of Myanmar have great expectations on the upcoming 21st Century Panglong.
The nature of political dialogue is that there will always be ups and downs. Like any peace talk that are being held across the world, there will be times when peace is within reach and then fade away. The national reconciliation and peace efforts of our country cannot be perfect all the time. Difficulties and challenges will remain. In sprints, the strong wins; however, in marathons, only those who are determined and committed emerge victorious. Our road to peace is a marathon, and to successfully complete it, we need determination, good attitude and in addition, a will.
We need the will for our future generations. In the upcoming decades we need to think about what kind of country or what kind of Union we want our children to inherit. We need to think whether we should leave a country besieged with armed conflicts and differences, which is deprived of happiness due to lack of national reconciliation or peace, and looked down upon for lagging behind other countries.
We need to face our future, and we need to be brave both in our thoughts and in our actions. Let us walk towards an end to all wars and conflicts in our Union where we have not had a single moment of complete peace since Independence. Let us try our best to continue the ceasefire mechanisms. Let us cooperate with every organization which desires peace to resolve political problems through dialogue for eternal peace. Let us work together to show how much we love and value peace and to face the judgment of our next generation and history without guilt and with honour.

Conclusion
In conclusion, it is our inherent responsibility to work towards national reconciliation. Even though we come from different groups, we have held political dialogues based on the Union spirit of “One Team, One Vision”. We all have been walking on the same path together. We will achieve our ultimate goal of peace if we collaborate with each other with mutual trust and understanding.
It has been two years since we signed the NCA. There is no reason to retreat. We only need to go forward and pave our way towards our desired goal. We need to support each other with consideration and empathy whenever we face hardships and challenges during our journey. It depends on all of us to build a Democratic Federal Union which will bring about national reconciliation and peace. We need to be cautious that, if we fail to grasp this chance to work together towards our goal, our people’s expectations will be in vain.
I would like to conclude by wishing that today’s anniversary will be a source of empowerment and renewed strength for our journey towards peace.
Thank you all.

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