RDG Conference Report of Eduardo T. Gonzalez

Write up about the Conference

Conference Theme: Intersecting Belongings: Cultural Conviviality and Cosmopolitan Futures 

The European Association for South East Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) is an international initiative to foster scholarly cooperation within Europe in the field of Southeast Asian studies. In line with previous EuroSEAS conferences, the meeting in Lisbon covered a wide range of Southeast Asia topics in all fields of social sciences and humanities.  It brought together hundreds of specialists of Southeast Asia from all over the world, and hence was a good opportunity for networking among academics.  Jose Ramos Horta, ex-President of Timor Leste and Nobel laureate, as well as Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal, were invited as keynote speakers. There were 96 panels, which covered themes as varied as migration and identities, economy and development, conflict and cohesion, democracy and civil society, popular culture and heritage, environment, and spirituality and religions. There were a number of general sessions, but the Lisbon Euroseas was such a huge supermarket of events that included dozens of venues for panels, “how to get published” workshops, exhibitions of new books and places to meet with many old and new colleagues.

Feedback on paper presented

The paper presentation received commendation from the convenor, Rudiger Korff of the University of Passau, Germany, as a “well integrated and cohesive” summary.  It stimulated a good discussion among Indonesian, Italian and Filipino participants in Panel 25 (Conflict and Cohesion in Southeast Asia).

Future directions of research presented

The paper will be expanded and refined to include insights from other successful Asian peace pacts, and may be useful resource material for the ongoing peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF.  A shorter version of the paper will be published in the Asian Studies Journal

Potential foreign collaborators

As Euroseas does not have its own publication, I will tap the International Political Science Association for research dissemination/publication.  I am currently a member of IPSA RC 30, or the Research Committee on Geopolitics.

Other important contacts and insights

I met some academics with whom I was able to share common my research interests.  One was Mina Roces, of the University of New South Wales, convenor for the panel on migration and identity. Another was Sharon Quinsaat, who’s doing her PhD at the University of Pittsburgh and interviewed me on my experience as a political activist while studying in the US in the 1980s. Yet another was Gabrielle Weichart of the University of Vienna.  All reminded me of the importance of non-state institutions in shaping peace and resolving conflicts in war-torn areas. I take off from ex-Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, who exhorted scholars of Southeast Asia to be closer not to civil/government authorities but to the NGOs, who hold the key in effective peace mediation processes in Southeast Asia

Short write-up of one’s participation (to be used to feature/publicize the grantee’s participation in the conference)

Dr Eduardo Gonzalez presented his paper entitled “Is Asymmetric Autonomy the Right Answer for Southern Philippines? Lessons from Aceh’s GAM and Mindanao’s MNLF” at the 7th EuroSEAS Conference, held July 2-5, 2013, at the Technical University of Lisbon’s School of Social and Political Sciences – ISCSP, in Lisbon, Portugal.  The paper evaluates the prospects for an enduring MILF-PH peace pact by examining the lessons and insights from two successful asymmetric autonomy agreements: the 2005 Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM)-Indonesian government deal and the 1996 MNLF-PH peace pact. The paper traces how both rebel groups made a dramatic shift from demands for independence to self-government, each with the brokering initiatives of a third party (the Crisis Management Initiative, backed up by the Finnish government in the Aceh conflict, and the Organization of Islamic Conference, represented by Indonesia, in the Mindanao conflict).  It analyzes the key dangers and risks that arise in the aftermath of peace deals: ethnic remobilization, rival factions competing for power, uneven implementation of shariah, and decommissioning dilemmas.