Talking peace with Miriam Coronel-Ferrer

In March 2020, HD’s Senior Programme Manager for the Philippines, Iona Jalijali, interviewed Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, former chief negotiator in the Philippine peace process and member of the Standby Team of Senior Mediation Advisers at the United Nations. Among other things, Ms Coronel Ferrer discussed the impact of COVID-19 on peacemaking efforts, her shift from negotiating on behalf of a government to providing mediation support, and the Women, Peace and Security agenda. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected peacemaking efforts around the world? The near-global lockdown has stalled efforts to get processes going. It has also not stopped opportunistic attacks from happening. But it has forced groups and states to rethink their priorities, given the scale of the human tragedy and the disruption in the world order. We saw this rethinking in some conflict-affected countries, where governments and/or armed groups responded to the call by the UN Secretary-General for a global ceasefire. Any humanitarian pause occasions relief and generates some public support for an end to wars – mind shifts that are so essential to generating momentum. Ceasefires and lockdowns do not, however, lock in the antagonists to a peaceful, political track. When this pandemic is over, peacemaking work remains to be done. Hopefully injustices resulting from state ineptitude in dealing with the pandemic will be channelled into powerful democratic reform movements, and not into armed mobilisations.