GPPAC-Southeast Asia organised “The Pilot Program of the Regional Training Workshop on Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation” last 25-30 November 2019 in Penang, Malaysia. This training is a partnership project between GPPAC-SEA member Southeast Asia Conflict Studies Network (SEACSN), the Research and Education for Peace, Universiti Sains Malaysia (REPUSM), and GPPAC-SEA’s Regional Secretariat, the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID).

Twenty-five participants and facilitators participated in the 4- day training that included field visits and reflective exercises on peace and security issues in the region. The participants are composed of officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) officials and representatives from ministries of foreign affairs, academics and researchers, civil society members and other peace practitioners from Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and India.

The training program is founded on the basic premise: “Conflict resolution must be concerned not only with issues that divide the parties, but also with the social, psychological and political changes that are necessary to address the root causes, the intra-party conflicts that may inhibit acceptance of a new settlement, the context which affects the incentives of the parties, and the social and institutional capacity that determines whether a settlement can be made acceptable and workable.” Hence, with the realisation that a comprehensive approach and a rethinking of ways we approach and manage conflict situation is important, the program is not only focused on the top down peacemaking approach being practiced in many situations but also from the bottom up process of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. This is an approach that many GPPAC-Southeast Asia members and various other community actors on the ground are currently practicing.

This training program is part of an effort of the GPPAC-Southeast Asia network to expand the knowledge about peacebuilding and conflict transformation among those working in this field, and part of the mission to encourage sharing and cooperation between official and unofficial tracks in peacebuilding efforts in the region. Lastly, it is aimed at pushing for and supporting a core training program on similar themes through the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (ASEAN-IPR). The program includes sessions on Introduction to Concepts and Strategies on Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation, Conflict Mapping and Analysis, Gender and Peacebuilding, Disarmament and Peace Education, Communication and Negotiation, and Mediation and Designing Peace Processes.

Opening the week’s program on November 25, Prof. Dr. Kamarulzaman Askandar, coordinator of the SEACSN and REPUSM and the representative of Malaysia to the Advisory Board of the ASEAN-IPR, shared the GPPAC-Southeast Asia network’s aim of highlighting regional experiences, best practices and lessons learned on the thematic areas of conflict transformation, peacebuilding, and peace mediation, of supporting the ASEAN-IPR’s mandate to compile research on experiences and best practices on conflict management and conflict resolution in the region, and of promoting and enhancing collaborative efforts between ASEAN and regional civil society groups.

At the end of the program, the participants expressed that as a result of the training they have better understanding of peacebuilding and conflict transformation, including sufficient tools to properly map and analyse conflicts; to manage communication in times of crisis; to design mediation processes; and a better appreciation of specific conflict cases in the region. They also suggest to add more lessons learned on negotiation and mediation from specific peace processes. This type of training allowed them to learn together and interact with different actors (govt and non- govt representatives) on peace and security issues in the Southeast Asia. As such, the training program is highly recommended as a good partnership program with the ASEAN-IPR.

The GPPAC-Southeast Asia network will continue building closer partnership and collaboration with the ASEAN-IPR and the ASEAN in general; and will ensure the continuation and expansion of this program as its humble but concrete contribution in celebrating the invaluable grassroots-based expertise on peacebuilding in the region, and in building a mutually-supportive community of practice in Southeast Asia.