Just days after voters in Colombia rejected a peace plan brokered by Norwegian diplomats, the Norwegians are moving forward with peace efforts in the Philippines. Representatives for both the Philippines’ government and its communist movement were gathering in Oslo on Thursday and intend to conduct negotiations through the 11th.
The talks were launched in Oslo in late August and resulted in a breakthrough that led to an immediate ceasefire. New challenges loom, with land reform among the thorny issues to be discussed. A large portion of the Philippines’ population is made up of poor farmers who don’t own the land they work on. One of the most important demands from the communist movement is a more fair distribution of land, which has met resistance from wealthy landowners who have had power and political influence.
Elisabeth Slåttum of Norway’s foreign ministry told newspaper Dagsavisen it will be the first time in several years that the two sides “sit down to discuss substance.” She said everyone involved will also try to learn from what happened in Colombia last weekend.
“That agreement (between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas) was good, but the referendum is a reminder that you can’t underestimate critical voices,” Slåttum said. “In this (the Philippines) process, the authorities will have extra focus on getting everyone on the same team.” She said she believed both sides had confidence in one another now, and had agreed to work together.