The UNFC’s Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) and the government’s Peace Commission (PC) held their sixth round of talks at the National Reconciliation and Peace Center office in Yangon on 10-11 August 2017. Following pre-talks in Chiang Mai, this was the first formal meeting since the UNFC’s Second Congress held in June. The Second Congress included the election of a new UNFC Central Executive Committee (see Annex 1) and was followed by the appointment of new members to the DPN (see Annex 2). The DPN-PC talks focused on the UNFC’s 9 Points proposal for strengthening and signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) (see Annex 3).
Background on the UNFC’s 9 Points
The UNFC proposed the 9 Points to strengthen the implementation of the NCA, enabling the UNFC members to sign the NCA. The UNFC proposed the original 8 Points to the new government more than a year ago. The 9th point was later added, stating that the UNFC would sign the NCA once the 8 Points were agreed. The issues addressed in the 9 Points focus on areas where implementation of the NCA requires strengthening. The 9 Points do not seek to alter the NCA document itself; they strengthen the parties’ commitments to fully implement the NCA in a way that will make it sustainable. The UNFC’s underlying concerns that the 9 Points seek to address are primarily the importance of stopping hostilities throughout the country, carrying out a tripartite political dialogue, and ensuring implementation of effective monitoring and dispute resolution mechanisms. These are the basic concerns for achieving long-lasting peace that the DPN has been trying to negotiate for over one year with the NRPC and Peace Commission.
Update on the Sixth Meeting
Following the fourth meeting on 3 March, the DPN and Peace Commission announced an agreement in principal on the 9 Points. The task now is to turn that agreement into something practical. Given that the Peace Commission has agreed in principal to the 9 Points, there must be a way that the parties can implement such an agreement, and the DPN seeks to reach an understanding on those details in order to sign the NCA.
The recent 6th DPN-PC meeting in Yangon advanced the talks on the 9 Points, but did not reach a full resolution on the proposals. The talks were also aided by the presence of observers from the signatory EAOs. It has been reported that negotiation was completed for the first four points. DPN leader Khu Oo Reh cautioned that as long as any point was not fully agreed, then there was no agreement. The negotiations cannot be measured quantitatively, since they are part of a package of issues that are necessary to achieve trust in the implementation process. The DPN and PC agreed to take the remaining issues back to their respective leaders prior to the next meetings.
Review of Points Five Through Eight
Points five through eight include important issues that still require additional talks to resolve.
For point five, the DPN, PC, and JMC teams have been working toward achieving the required agreement on the Code of Conduct, JMC TOR, and JMC SOPs.
For point six, regarding international involvement in the JMC, the NCA provides for international actors to support the JMC through providing technical assistance, advice, and observers, and the JMC is required to be transparent. The DPN continues to seek creative solutions that are mutually agreeable to strengthen the implementation of these points to improve the JMC’s functioning and the likelihood of the NCA and peace process holding for the long-term.
Point seven is about establishing a dispute resolution mechanism. The current NCA implementation mechanisms have faced difficulty in resolving disputes between the parties. Multiple serious issues have created deadlock and harmed trust. For example: the failure to agree on a way to hold all ethnic-based national level dialogues and the failure to establish all JMC-State offices. The parties to the peace process will face larger challenges in the future, and we all must be prepared with a more effective dispute resolution mechanism. Again, the government has agreed in principal to these points, and has in earlier talks indicated certain possible ways to implement them. The DPN strives to move forward with a real agreement on these points as soon as possible.
Point eight relates to the implementation of development projects and international humanitarian assistance. Similar to the preceding points, this point seeks to reaffirm and strengthen commitment by the parties to effective implementation of the NCA. The need for agreement on issues related to development projects and humanitarian assistance has become even clearer since the 9 Points were first proposed.
Final Steps to Build Trust and Way Forward to NCA Signing
As part of the agreement on all the 9 Points, the parties will make them legally binding. Given that the purpose of the 9 Points is to improve NCA implementation, thereby increasing confidence in the agreement so that the UNFC can sign the NCA, it is necessary that the government, Tatmadaw, and DPN not only find mutually acceptable words for the 9 Points, but that they also commit themselves to implement the 9 Points as they move forward with NCA implementation. The 9 Points can only serve its purpose if it is binding on the parties. If any party does not want to implement the 9 Points or be bound by them as part of the NCA process, then instead of building confidence in the NCA the ongoing negotiations may harm confidence.
In addition to negotiating and agreeing on the 9 Points, the UNFC expects to participate in the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD) and JMC review processes. These reviews are also intended to improve the implementation of the NCA, and they complement the substance of the 9 Points.
With all points agreed and legally binding on the parties, the UNFC members would be able to sign the NCA.
The DPN continues to seek ways to advance the talks with the government in order to reach agreement on the 9 Points, sign the NCA, and move forward with a stronger peace process. It is encouraging that the DPN and PC held their 6th meeting in Yangon and that they have agreed to hold a 7th meeting in the first half of September. A pre-meeting in Chiang Mai will take place prior to that meeting. The DPN and PC will need to continue to build mutual trust and seek guidance from their leadership on ways to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
In order to achieve this goal, all participants in the talks will need to demonstrate sincerity and good will in the negotiations and intentions toward the peace process. This could be aided by focusing on creative ways to resolve the remaining points, by ensuring that the substantive agreement is then formalized in a legally binding way, and by engaging in an inclusive and constructive review of the FPD and JMC with other stakeholders. Reducing military conflicts, human rights abuses, and humanitarian crises will also support confidence in the political process.
ANNEX 1: United Nationalities Federal Council Central Executive Committee
Name Position Mother Organization
Nai Hong Sar Chairman NMSP
Dr. Khin Maung Vice Chairman ANC
Khu Oo Reh General Secretary KNPP
Col. Hso Aun Joint General Secretary-1 SSPP
Col. Solomon Joint General Secretary-2 LDU
Gen. Bee Htoo Member KNPP
Nai Ong Ma-nge Member NMSP
Twan Zaw Member ANC
Col. Mong Htwam Member ANC
ANNEX 2: Delegation for Political Negotiation Members
Name Position Mother Organization
Khu Oo Reh Team Leader KNPP
Nai Ong Ma-nge Deputy Team Leader NMSP
Dr. Nai Shwe Thein Member NMSP
Col. Hso Aun Member SSPP
Col. Mong Htwam Member ANC
Twan Zaw Member ANC
Na Ve Bon Member LDU
Col. Phone Naing Member KNPP
Maj. Hart Harn Member SSPP
ANNEX 3: United Nationalities Federal Council Members’ Proposal (9 Points)
The UNFC member organizations, which have not yet signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), the signing of which by others took place on October 15, 2015, agreed upon the points mentioned below, for the establishment of a Federal Democratic Union, participation in the review and adoption of the Framework for Political Dialogue and attending the 21st Century Panglong Conference.
1. After reaching this agreement, the government/Tatmadaw is to declare nationwide ceasefire, within 24 hours, and the UNFC member organizations likewise are to declare ceasefire respectively within 48 hours.
2. On the basis of freedom, equality and justice and in accordance with the Panglong Spirit, to establish the Nation of a Federal Democratic Union, which has full guarantee for the rights of national equality and self-determination.
3. In the various levels of political dialogue, the government, parliament and Tatmadaw representatives, the ethnic armed resistance organizations’ representatives and the official political parties’ representatives are to be included, and the ethnic representatives and other representatives, who are appropriate for participation are to be included only in the sectors relevant to them.
4. Provisions of law, including those of the Constitution, are to be drafted and adopted in accordance with decisions arising from the 21st Century Panglong Conference.
5. Agreements are to be acquired, in advance, relating to the ceasefire rules to be abided by the two sides, the military Code of Conduct, Terms of Reference for ceasefire monitoring and relocation of troops, including the Framework for Political Dialogue.
6. A Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee is to be formed with representatives of the government, the ethnic armed resistance organizations and persons respected and trusted by the public, together with an international monitoring team composed of government representatives, acceptable to the two sides.
7. If differences occur with regard to the responsibilities, rules and regulations of the NCA and this agreement, the two sides are to accept the decision of an independent Mediation Commission, composed of local and international legal experts and judges, acceptable to the two sides.
8. If there are projects to be implemented in the ceasefire areas that would have serious impact on the local populations, they are to be undertaken in consultation with the local populations, in accordance with the process and procedures of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) organization and also in consultation and agreement with the ethnic armed resistance organizations concerned. In addition, the international humanitarian assistance is to be managed in consultation by the government and the ethnic armed resistance organizations, in accordance with this agreement.
9. The NCA is to be signed, right after agreement is reached upon the points mentioned above, after negotiation by the two sides.
View the original briefing paper HERE.