Closing Remarks at the ASEAN-IPR Symposium on International Humanitarian Law by H.E. Elizabeth Buensuceso
AMBASSADOR ELIZABETH P. BUENSUCESO
Chair, AIPR Governing Council
Your Excellencies, fellow members of the ASEAN-IPR Governing Council and the ASEAN-IPR Advisory Board, officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), leaders of the International Red Cross movements across ASEAN Member-States, including the Philippine Red Cross, distinguished delegates from all ASEAN Member-States coming from the religious, think tanks, the academia and private sector organizations, dear fellow peace seekers, peacekeepers, peacemakers, and peace lovers, good evening.
My name is Elizabeth Buensuceso. In Spanish, buen means good and suceso means event or news — I am Elizabeth Good News. Today I bring you three (3) pieces of good news. The first piece of good news is that, after several years since its creation in 2012, I am officially announcing, on behalf of the ASEAN-IPR Governing Council, the operationalization of the ASEAN-IPR Secretariat and that we have selected the ASEAN-IPR’s first ever Executive Director. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, Ambassador Rezlan Jenie, the Executive Director of the ASEAN-IPR. Were going to sign with him the contract and the host country agreement in a little while. It is now official and we can now rest assured that we will have a robust ASEAN-IPR in the next few years.
The ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (ASEAN-IPR) is the ASEAN Institution for research activities on peace, conflict management and conflict resolution. As outlined in its Terms of Reference (T0R), adopted by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in 2012, the ASEAN-IPR is mandated to undertake a number of activities including research, capacity-building, developing a pool of expertise, networking and information dissemination. Similarly, when speaking of ASEAN-IPRs role in the greater context of preventing conflicts, one cannot separate it from the framework of the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) under which it serves. To recall, ASEAN-IPR was established under Provision B.2.2.i of the APSC Community Blueprint. Its establishment was a follow-up to the ASEAN Leaders’ Joint Statement on the Establishment of an ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation adopted on 8 May 2011. It is important to note that ASEAN-IPR’s mandate also includes the promotion of activities under such APSC Blueprint.
The APSC Blueprint 2025, together with similar Blueprints of the Economic and Socio-Cultural Pillars, provides action lines that aim to complete, within a specific timeframe, key measures towards the vision of an ASEAN Community that is politically cohesive. One of the key elements of the APSC Blueprint 2025 is its vision of a peaceful, secure and stable ASEAN region. It is this element to which ASEAN-IPR primarily contributes.
Despite the absence of a Secretariat and lack of resources, ASEAN-IPR has, in the past four years, undertaken a number of initiatives, such as workshops and symposia, covering a broad range of peace-related topics.
In 2014, we made an inventory of peace and reconciliation processes existing in the whole ASEAN Region. We conducted in Cebu City a very interesting workshop on Strengthening Women’s Participation in Peace Process and Conflict Resolution, — dont worry, there were also men who participated in this gathering. The year before, we conducted a Symposium on the Plight of Women and Children in Conflict Situations, held in Tagaytay, here in the Philippines. Lastly, in Myanmar last year, we held a Symposium on Principles Mechanisms and Practices of Peace and Reconciliation Processes. Now that we have a full-fledged Executive Director, we look forward to accomplish more in the coming years.
The results and recommendations of these initiatives have been published and disseminated to relevant stakeholders. They serve to enrich the body of knowledge that underpins the on-the-field efforts of international peace practitioners, like you here in this hall.
It will interest you to know that currently, eight (8) of the Governing Council members are also their respective countries Ambassadors to ASEAN. In this way, there is the advantage of a direct route for the recommendations to become policy realities. Also, the Committee of Permanent Representatives, which is composed of the Ambassadors of Member-States to ASEAN, have direct contact to external dialogue partners of ASEAN, and we are very close to the ASEAN Secretariat, the major players in the implementation of the mandates of ASEAN-IPR. The newly installed Executive Director has had extensive experience himself in the area of peace processes and reconciliation. We are grateful for the kind and wise advice provided by the Advisory Board on the way forward.
ASEAN-IPR is in its nascent stage of development. Now that we have settled the administrative requirements of its formal launch, we have laid down some concrete plans to implement its mandate and in this endeavor, we are glad to have been assured of the partnerships of ASEAN’s external partners and those from the various sectors of civil society, such as those we find here in this Symposium.
ASEAN-IPR is honored to be the collaborator of the OPAPP and the ICRC in the conduct of this unique and timely Symposium. We are in business, and we look forward to doing business with you.
The second piece of good news is one that you have been part of in the last two days. We have heard in the various sessions and the inspiring messages from our keynote speakers, views, comments, and recommendations on how we all aspire to become part of an international family of peace-makers and peace lovers. Despite the all-too frequent gloomy and devastating news of trouble and conflict and hatred in our world today, there are people such that we find in this august hall — religious leaders, academics, humanitarian workers, legal and law enforcement officers, government officials, diplomats, health-care providers, educators and other segments of civil society. They are people who are determined not to be overwhelmed by the many complex and brutal faces of war and conflict, but are focused on one thing: the upliftment of human dignity and the provision of humanitarian assistance to every human life, particularly that of the vulnerable, the weak, those people who had nothing to do with the conflict in the first place. This is the glue that binds us together. This is the magnet that makes us adhere to each other and as long as we are not side-tracked in our singular goal to help human lives caught in the poisonous web of conflict, war and evil, we have reason to hope.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ exhorted his disciples thus, Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. What does it mean to be blessed. It means that making peace and seeking peace is a reward in itself. Those of you, practitioners of peace, know what I am referring to. There is a higher sense of joy and satisfaction in knowing that we, in one way or another, have caused another life to be spared from the suffering and pain of war and conflict, relieved the burden of our brother or sister, have not allowed the triumph of evil and hatred to reign in our world, but we have wiped the tear from the eye of a crying orphan, soothed the bruised hearts of the widows and the elderly. Moreover, we have brought hope to those whose lives had been devastated by war and conflict.?
Sometimes, people ask, why do people humanitarian workers like those in the Red Cross — persist in working in dire and punishing circumstances brought about by conflict. Are they masochists ? Then this sermon comes back to me. Are these people such masochists that they enjoy working in such conditions ? The Sermon on the Mount says, Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God. Theres a feeling of blessedness, satisfaction and joy in being able to help. Being children of God is bearing the genes or the DNA of God, the Prince of Peace and Love. Thats the second good news – we dont despair; there is much reason to celebrate!
The third piece of good news is the best of all. I want to declare that this is the official conclusion of our important symposium. On behalf of the organizers of this fruitful event, the ICRC, the OPAPP and the ASEAN-IPR, we thank you all for your active participation, your unflinching determination to win the battle against the malignant forces of evil, hatred, conflict and war; and your unwavering love for humanity. I reiterate our thanks for the partnership and support of the governments of Norway and Switzerland to this Symposium. I thank all the staff and officers who worked behind the scenes to ensure that we have a successful event.
I wish you all a safe journey back to your respective homes, families and countries, and hope that, as Senator Gordon told us last night, you will go home with something to bring home to your family, your officemates, your countrymen and yourself, determined more than ever to make life a little better for those less fortunate than us. Thank you, maraming salamat po!