April 30, 2013: Upon receiving the invitation relayed by the United States Agency for International Development or USAID Sapan Program and Youth Care Thailand, the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) leadership sent its Deputy Secretary General for Administration, Mr. Datuan M. Magon, Jr., MAIS to share the UNYPAD’s milestones since its inception in 2004, its experiences on youth empowerment, community organizing and peace advocacy in the International Conference on the Role of Youth in Strengthening Democracy and Governance held at the Grand Sukhumvit Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand on April 26-27, 2013 attended by 160 youth leaders from different parts of Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.
The aim of the conference is to bring together Youth leaders from Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines to discuss challenges and opportunities in promoting good governance and citizen actions.
On April 26, Mr. Magon’s presentation anchored on UNYPAD’s background and Vision, Mission, Goals and Objectives (VMGOs). He explained to them that UNYPAD’s existence was a product of hard work, patience and perseverance. “Almost all of us experienced the horrible effect of conflict”, he said.
Aside from focusing on community and youth empowerment, he further explained that UNYPAD also been playing a very important role in the Government of the Philippines (GPH) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process.
“We have been working in the ground to provide them proper information on the current status of the negotiations”, he said. “There have been situations that we were to go out to the streets and rally in support of the peace process”, he added.
“We have always been assuring that our organization remains impartial to both GPH and MILF, but in terms of issues, we are on the side of the Bangsamoro people because they are the reason of our existence”, he stressed.
On April 27, he delivered his second topic entitled “Youth and Community Organizing: The UNYPAD Experience” wherein he shared some tips and strategies they adopted that have resulted to the establishment of 18 UNYPAD provincial chapters all over the Philippines.
Before proceeding to his main discussion on the topic, Mr. Magon presented first the brief history of Mindanao conflict and important roles Bangsamoro youth have to play for the peace resolution of the conflict.
“In organizing youth and community, dedication and sincerity are the most important. You have to love what you are doing, you will encounter many challenges… not all the time you will succeed, sometimes you will fail… you will learn a lot and these lessons will provide you maturity and wisdom as you go along the way”, he ended.
Asked about his insights on the South Thailand insurgency during the open forum, Magon elaborated, “The Bangsamoro problem and the Melayu Muslim dilemma in Southern most provinces of Thailand are political problem. The bombings and killings that are now happening are just a product of the deeper situation. This cannot be solved by infrastructure development or any counter-insurgency measures. Since it is a political problem, the solution must be political,” he said.
“We must have to dig-up and solve the root-cause of the problem,” he added.
He also emphasized to South Thailand Youth leaders who attended the conference the need to establish strong organizations that would penetrate their grass-roots. He also suggested to them to organize strong networks of all Patani (South Thailand) based organizations because it will help them a lot as seen in the successful experiences of Bangsamoro and Aceh assertions. Bangsamoro organized the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations, and Aceh has New Aceh Consortium.
One of the highlights of the activity was the formulation of a network for all organizations including their international guests. A committee was tasked to draft its concept paper and rationale but for the meantime they choose administrators to facilitate discussions who came from the participating organizations.
Among other international speakers invited are: Anthony Luigi B. De Vera from Youth Vote Philippines, Lawrence Angelo B. Catigbak from One Million Lights projects, Ms. Yet Sokha and Mok Sokha from Khmer Youth Association in Cambodia and Renny Dwiastuti and Marni Lucinda from Red Nose Foundation in Indonesia.
SAPAN has been very active in supporting youth empowerment in Thailand for the advancement of genuine democracy in their country as its goal is to foster constructive civil society engagement with the Royal Thai Government as a means to build consensus for democratic political process and to mitigate extremism.
One of the facilitators admitted that in Thailand, youth are not yet empowered as compared to youth in the Philippines.