RP hosts first NAM event at 'critical period' in its history — Davide

March 12, 2010 11:38 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, March 12 — Philippine ambassador to the United Nation in New York, Hilario Davide Jr., Friday said the Philippines’ hosting next week of the Special Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (SNAMMM) comes at “a critical period” when all avenues leading to the peace process are being explored.

SNAMMM, a thematic sub-session of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), will be held March 16 to 18 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), just across the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Its holding in Manila, on the theme of “Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development,” was declared last summer at the 14th NAM Summit in Egypt chaired by President Hosni Mubarak.

As the DFA's point man in the United Nations, it has been Davide’s job over the years to work the backstage of the Mindanao peace process and rally allies in the NAM, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the League of Arab States (LAS) and the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization (AAPSO) to its causes.

Among these is the well-being of the Filipino Muslim population in Christian-majority Mindanao.

For the SNAMMM, Davide and his staff in the Philippine Mission worked with NAM’s Cooperation Board to get activities coordinated. Along with tolerance of cultural diversity and interfaith communication, disarmament is one of the key agenda of NAM.

As a NAM member herself, the Philippines is often in a huddle with envoys of NAM member-states, who form at least two-thirds (118) of the total UN membership.

In a local television interview this afternoon, Davide noted that SNAMMM was preceded by workshop sessions in February on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT), leading to the NNPT Review Conference in May in New York. This is to be presided by Filipino ambassador Libran Cabactualan, another recognition of the Philippines' able leadership of difficult issues.

Davide remarked that at the Manila workshops of NNPT, member-states of NAM — which bats for disarmament as a road to peace — were also present.

”So NNPT discussions and this interfaith dialogue sessions are really in tandem in our search for peace,” said Davide.

Davide was joined in the TV program by DFA Undersecretary for Special Concerns, Rafael Seguis, who is the Secretary-General of the SNAMMM National Organizing Committee (NOC), as well as chief negotiator of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He is a face “very familiar” to mostly Muslim NAM/OIC diplomats, what with his shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East as GRP burned communication lines in the quest for peace in Mindanao.

The Philippines joined NAM in 1992. As for an observer status in the OIC, Seguis said it’s in the cusp. He added that Manila was chosen to host because of its unique identity as a multi-ethnic, multi-tribal and multi-religious society as well as its wide experience in interfaith dialogues.

In fact, this has been institutionalized in the Ulama-Bishops Conference on Mindanao, according to evangelical Christian bishop Efraim Tendero.

Seguis said 105 countries will be represented at SNAMMM, including 24 NAM foreign ministers and 19 deputy ministers, plus international organizations OIC, LAS and AAPSO and civil society groups espousing interfaith cooperation.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the formal opening of SNAMMM on Wednesday, March 17.

Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, President of the 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, will be the Guest of Honor and is scheduled to speak at the Opening Session of the SNAMMM on March 17.

Other speakers include Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. The Egyptian Minister for Endowment, Dr, Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk, is also attending.

In the evening of opening day, three young people who won SNAMMM/NOC-sponsored essay contest on the theme, “Interfaith initiative: what it means to me and my country," will be presented to the delegates during the gala dinner.

A major sidelight of the three-day conference is a forum of civil society groups of which a Qatari Mofti (priest) will be one of the speakers.

Coordinated by Malacanang’s Presidential Council on Values Formation (PCVF), the civil society event is themed the “Strengthening Partnerships with Governments on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation.”

In separate comments, Seguis said “SNAMMM is the biggest inter-governmental meeting in recent years, and the first of its kind ever to be hosted by the Philippines. It aims to promote interfaith dialogue and cooperation to cultivate a culture of respect, tolerance, understanding and harmony among people of different faiths, cultures and religions.”

NAM member-countries sending foreign ministers to head their respective delegations are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Singapore, Sudan, Suriname, Timor Leste and Zimbabwe.

Sending their deputy ministers are Bahrain, Cuba, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Maldives, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Syria, Tanzania and Yemen.

Other NAM member-countries that will be sending high-level representatives are Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, Chile, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Madagascar, Mongolia, Mozambique, Panama, Peru, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Vietnam.

NAM observer-countries Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia will be represented by their foreign ministers while El Salvador and Kazakhstan will be represented by deputy ministers. Argentina, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Croatia and Mexico will be sending representatives to the meeting.

Attending as guests because they are neither members nor observers of NAM include Albania, Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Holy See, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the United States.

The European Commission and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also have representatives.

A photo exhibit highlighting Philippine-Australia partnership on interfaith cooperation opens on March 17. (PNA)

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