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Reflections on the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) Regional Committee on Asia Pacific (RCAP) 75th Anniversary (1948-2023)
by Kushelu Chakhesang
Attending the CoNGO Regional Committee in Asia Pacific (RCAP) in Bangkok on 19th and 20th May 2023 was a valuable experience that we deeply appreciate. We would like to express our gratitude to Dr. Ray and Dr. Levi, the CoNGO president, for providing us with this opportunity.
Throughout the event, we had the privilege of observing and hearing about various initiatives and efforts aimed at achieving sustainable development goals. This exposure allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and progress in the Asia Pacific region. The panel discussion on business and labor for human rights
and sustainable development was particularly enlightening. It provided a platform for insightful conversations and exchanges of ideas, emphasizing the importance of collaboration between different stakeholders to drive positive change.
One of the highlights of the event was the ceremony commemorating CoNGO’s 75th anniversary. This significant milestone served as a reminder of the organization’s longstanding commitment to promoting the well-being of communities and advocating for social justice. The celebration underscored the collective achievements and reaffirmed the dedication of coNGO and its members to continue working towards a better future.
Additionally, we would like to acknowledge the hospitality staff at Siam University for their outstanding service and support throughout our stay. Their professionalism and willingness to assist made our experience even more enjoyable and convenient.
Overall, attending the CoNGO RCAP in Bangkok provided us with a unique and enriching opportunity. It broadened our perspective on sustainable development, reaffirmed our commitment to contributing to positive change, and allowed us to connect with like-minded individuals from diverse backgrounds. We are grateful for this experience and look forward to applying the insights gained to our future endeavors.
The United Nations (U.N.) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Civil Society National and Local Implementation and Follow-Up, Siam University, May 19-20, 2023
by Saw “Chris” Than Htut Lynn
Organized by Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (Co-NGO) Regional Committee in Asia-Pacific (RCAP)
The Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) was held at Siam University in Bangkok on 19 and 20 May 2023. It was the event of the 75th anniversary of CoNGO and the event held under the anniversary theme of “Defining the Present, Shaping the Future, Making the Change Now”.
Several NGOs representing each sector of development which is based on the mandate of Sustainable Development by the United Nations presented their progress. The venue for the event was Siam University which holds sustainability concepts in its activities and efforts. Not only in its teaching areas but also in the outside activities in town, the university embraces the sustainability concept as well as persuasion other powerful elites to participate. For instance, planting mangrove trees with Bangkok Governor to respond to land erosion problems. It is obviously seen that the strong enthusiasm for sustainable development of Siam University’s leadership.
According to the presentations of NGOs and panel discussions, the issues about water and sanitation, clean energy, innovation, communities, and global partnerships for sustainable develop-ment are crucial for a sustainable future. In addition, the promotion of human rights education is one of the essential factors for the generations who could embrace the mindset regarding rights issues. Regarding this, human resources factors are also playing a key role. The issue of labor in business and industry is one of the important factors to take into account in terms of human rights and sustainable development. There is a debate between innovation in business and entrepreneurship and the growth of employees’ well-being. The trap could find that employees would never be the business elite who control the small amount of the working financial capital of the nation, region, or world economy and business. Furthermore, taxation imposes mostly on the low-income and middle-class populations who are generally in employee status. Although scholars pointed out to take lessons learns from the previous weakness of the politics and economy, the middle-income trap could be still there.
When the related organizations about labor and human rights took concerns about the issues, one ofthe most important stakeholder groups seemed still to need to be brought to the discussion and negotiation table, the employee’s groups seemed to be still missing to take account and having heard their voices. Otherwise, all endeavors on the issue of labor rights could be tried to achieve without the participation of the key players. Not only the workers in particular issues but also other
marginalized groups should be brought to the table for consideration for sustainable development, such as the groups based on class and gender. Marginalized groups also should have the space.
In summary, the role of NGOs is playing a key role in sustainable development where the areas in which United Nations and states’ intervention could not be reached, such as grassroots. However, it
might still be challenging in dealing with the powerful elites, especially the ones who are economically strong and have particular interests which might not be in alignment with the objectives of NGOs. The economic power and business interests of the private sector may still dominate the
many factors relating to sustainable development. Another factor about poverty may also challenge the sustainability of environmental and social aspects. For instance, clean cooking, which the sustainable development concept holds to respond to the pollution and health of the human, is still an expensive choice for some of the poor regions and populations to use electricity and gases. For some, cooking by using natural resources, such as charcoal or wood, is the traditional way of cooking that they do not wish to abandon.
It is a good opportunity for the small groups and organizations which are helping society and the environment in different ways in order to leverage their efforts and resources as well as expand their networks by trying to have contact with CoNGO and allied NGOs and keep in touch for more participation.
Reflection on Buddhist Dhamma Seminar: 28 th February 2023, Tuesday
by Saw “Chris” Than Htut Lynn
The topic is “Building Inner Peace Through Non-harming in Theravada Buddhism: The Case of Angulimala”. The presenter, Ajarn Winchana Mopattamthai, shared her wisdom from her experience and findings from her Ph.D. research about the Angulimala who the murderer was and had killed 999 people and met with Buddha to be asked not to kill anymore and stop from killing his 1000 th victim. Then he found inner peace and achieve a peaceful life as a follower of Buddha. The version of the story may differ in some detail from the other Buddhist countries and their stories, although the main concept is the same. Finding and achieving inner peace and turning back from doing bad things could be the main
lesson learned from the seminar and it is never late to come back on the right track for the good life, although there may be criticism and an attempt to revenge for past actions, like Karma. The seminar contributes to the peacebuilder on the specific religious point of view which is related to violence, teaching for non-violence, forgiveness, and repentance, by
learning the history and story from the religion (Buddhism) which is one of the essential areas to learn as a peacebuilder.
“Feminism & Peacebuilding Workshop” in Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, on 7th February 2023, Tuesday
by Saw “Chris” Than Htut Lynn
The meaning of “one fine day” may make clearer when the day on which spend one-day workshop named “Feminist & Peacebuilding Workshop” in Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, on 7th February 2023, Tuesday. The workshop was held at the Center of International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice (IWP) which is surrounded by paddy fields and next to the unique mud house. Ajarn Oyuporn, the facilitator of the workshop led with her rich knowledge about the power analysis within the people and groups, especially in marginalized groups in the region. Nine people from Payap and friends joined the workshop with active participation.
According to the workshop, we have learned that power is the cause of destruction and the source of change. We, the participants, identified the sources of power that we have, then brainstormed what individuals, groups, institutions, and nations have. There are many sources of power such as gender, age, class, race, education, experiences, positions, knowledge, intelligence, relationship and network, information institutions, weapons, and so on. Sources of power that we have or not have affected our choices and opportunities, rights and freedoms, status, security and safety, wealth, health, and happiness. Power over (uses own sources of power to take advantage of, to control, to exploit, or to make the meaning of experiences of another who usually has fewer sources of power), Power-sharing (uses own sources of power to share, to help, or to support other who usually has fewer sources or power, to make its own decision or choices), and Power-within which IWP defines as the ability or the inner strength that individual, group and nation has or can develop and use it to handle difficulties, fear, injustice, violence and respond to such situation nonviolently.
Awareness of the above power dynamics and realizing the “Power-within” that we already have, made us see a new framework, a new understanding, and a new way to see ourselves as a powerful agent to change the conditions that are suppressing us.
Other than the study, the center also provided delicious lunches and snacks at eco-friendly places. Everyone enjoyed it a lot and contributed to the center by purchasing the souvenir that the center displayed.
That place is one of the places I would like to go back to again, for the different topic of the workshop. The lesson-learns from the workshop equipped me with more resilience to face the world. I am thinking to share the knowledge I have with younger generations as well as the marginalized groups in my home country. That would be one of the contributions I could make, within my limited capacities.
Overall, I’ve had many positive experiences and learned a new thing (actually not a new thing, but which we have already inside only did not realize before) from the workshop. The Center and the facilitator made us fresh and prepared to learn in a positive mode. The location is very nice and peaceful. We have felt the meaningful workshop as well as a retreat for a day. Relaxation of the body and mind was a bonus that we had.
Reflections on the Pilgrimage to Doi Suthep
Saw “Chris” Than Htut Lynn, Wednesday, November 16, 2022
The phrase “Last but not least” is more meaningful and appreciated when we took the last Interreligious Pilgrimage as the last visit of the peace lab’s activity. The whole day was full of joys and wisdom especially due to the great intellect of Dr. Le Ngoc Bich Ly, Acting Head of the Department of Peace Studies. Her knowledge sharings about the life of Buddha and belief, culture and practices of Buddhism were not only the assets of the department but also the great learning opportunities for both students and other pilgrimages. It was very impressive. Visiting waterfalls, different Buddhist temples, Palace gardens, and Hmong village together with professors and friends is a sweet moment and memory. Showing good spots to see the view from high elevation from the suggestions of our smart driver who is also a competent communicator with his language skill, was also an extra bonus for all of us. Because of the whole day trip with the requirement of hard physical movements, caring for each other when necessary is also impressive and building stronger relationships among all of us. I had a chance to escape from my daily life with books and computer on that day.
It is highly appreciated to the whole program and the Peace Lab leader Dr. Rey, for his all wonderful arrangement and detail management in before, during and after each pilgrimage. We also learned that the personal network is important for every program to be successful. I also like to thank all of the friends and sponsors (both individuals and organizations) who support us with both financial and non-financial support, such as their remembrance and prayers.
Reflections on the Pilgrimage to the Roman Catholic Jesuit Seven Fountains Retreat Center
Saw “Chris” Than Htut Lynn, Wednesday, November 09, 2022
The Seven Fountains Retreat Center is a good place to visit and worship. It opens to all for worship. Ecologically friendly religious compound welcomed me and made me realize the peacefulness. Father Paul is dedicated most of his life to the Northern Thailand mission. We have learned the Catholic Faith and Beliefs, Liturgy, Structure and the Ways of Living. In detail, we have learned more about The Apostles’ Creed, The Seven Sacraments, and the Main Ways of LIving the Christian Life such as “Lay Life”, “Ordained Life”, and the “Religious Life”. The chapel is decorated with and reflects Thai culture. It is one of the places I would like to go again. Fellowship with coffee before leaving is unforgettable.
Reflections on the Pilgrimage to the Sikh Gurdwara, by Saw “Chris” Than Htut Lynn, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022
“Sikhism practices and believes that all are children of God, the supreme power who creates everything in the world, and no division of religion. It practices the principle of equality and thinks for others. It teaches us to try to overcome and avoid lust, greed, jealousy, egoism, and anger. They also focus on the present time without heaven and hell. The Sikh followers are also being taught not to pray for themselves when they donate to others. The sense of defense, both self-defense, and defense for others seemed to be rooted in their culture, and also became their symbol. Devotion to the supreme power and truly living and serving the community on a daily basis are the significant nature of that religion. Like other religions, Sikhism also encounters the challenge of globalization in their younger generations to follow the practices guided by the seniors.”
Reflections on Storytelling Workshop
by Saw “Chris” Than Htut Lynn, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022
Storytelling is one of the important tools for peace. It can change people’s mindsets as well as shape their way of thinking and doing supportively.
When we tell the story, it should come from our hearts and we need to care for the audience. Audiences’ participation in the story is one of the essentials for successful storytelling. We have to use our voices, actions, songs, and dance to keep people’s focus and create our story more visible.
Unfortunately, when we tell stories that include wars and fights, children tend to be more interested in the fighting parts. Selecting good stories to make the world better is one of the essentials as well as challenges for peace professionals and storytellers.
Reflections on the Wat Suankok Monk Chat
by Myo Aung
It is the first time I hear that a Buddhist monk expresses Buddha as a philosopher and that Buddhism is not a religion. I am very impressed with that.
As a Buddhist, other things are not strange.
The question is echoing in my mind “Why did ‘NOT RELIGION THING’ become ‘ A RELIGION’ ?” I hope that I will get that answer one day.
Reflection on the Changklan Masjid Dialogue by Myo Aung
After this trip, I realized that I should learn more about other religions, at least very basic ones. Because there are a lot of new words for me. So I can not understand their explanation well.
Reflections on the Dialogue at the Mosque with Ajan Jirachai
(Wednesday, September 28, 2022) by Saw “Chris” Than Htut Lynn
There are over 20,000 Muslim persons in Chiangmai currently, 60% are Chinese Muslim, 30% are Indian Muslim, and the rest are others.
A distinction is made between religion and culture. There are many groups of Islam in the world. The Qur’an is common to all Muslims. Different groups have different additional teachings.
Reflections on Creativity, Resilience, and Peacebuilding (Wednesday, Sep 27, 2022)
by Saw “Chris” Than Htut Lynn
- I have learned that we can miss our creativity when we got pressure on our brains. It is very much impressive to learn from the practical perspective of practitioner.
- The tools for creativity of peace are just around us, such as music, arts, performance, sports etc. Although we have different languages and culture backgrounds, these elements are easily understood universally and adapted.
- It is important to notice the moment in our daily lives and most of the creative mindsets are coming when we consider for others.
- Resilience are kind of bouncing up (bounce back but not to original place but to the place where something good or more improved).
- We have to care ourselves (self-care). We have to re-connect with ourselves and it is to know ourselves more. Resilience is to deal with the situation, not running away. We need to connect with the community and more rely on the resilience of that community rather than ours, to walk longer journey. Resilience is also a life-long journey and keep walking with a regular small step daily. Be consistent but not intensive.
Reflections on the Talk of Ven. Dhammananda (September 14, 2022)
Saw “Chris” Than Htut Lynn
- I could learn and confirm that fortune telling is not a traditional Buddhist way and not the teaching and guiding of Buddha. However, fortune tellers can heal the souls of people who are suffering and in need.
- Our happiness is our own and not necessary to put in others’ hands.
- We need to consider after doing things such as “am I really happy?”
- Forgiveness is powerful. The female monk can forgive Myanmar as well as apologize when she arrives at Shwedagon pagoda, the most famous pagoda in Myanmar, for what she has learned in her childhood about the Myanmar people.
Reflections on An International Seminar on Education under Attack: Culture, Resistance, Conflict, Education, National Security, and Peacebuilding in Southern Thailand
Saw “Chris” Than Htut Lynn, Tuesday, September 6, 2022, 13:00-18:00
- Designated language in the conflict area is one of the sensitive issues if there are a people with multiple cultures and backgrounds. It (language) is the one of the root causes of conflict in Southern Thailand, rather than religious issue which is used to be misunderstood as the root cause of conflict. Thai language is official and powerful for good future, such as job opportunities & higher education.
- Multicultural Education is important for the conflict reduction and resolution as well as for national security. However, the challenge is that it does not discuss conflict transformation, including conflict’s root causes and reconciliation processes.
- Teaching the sensitive related issues (e.g., Patani history in this case) about conflicts at young age could be risky. Children’s ability to conceptualize (critical thinking) would not be ready.
- “Wai Khru”: Pay respect to the teacher. Paying respect to elders used to be practiced in the family to the children even before sending to school. Many countries have respects to the teachers even there is no Wai Khru. It is very simple but need to understand the real concept.
- Decentralization of education system to the multi-cultural existence region (conflict area) could be a good option. However, readiness of local/regional capacity of “how to” is also important. Otherwise, it might go back to centralization, such as curriculum development.
- Culture fluency project activities are useful for awareness of culture and communication by building a bridge for connecting differences. It approaches how to live with diversity in the context of violent conflict. Cultural fluency is a skill, not knowledge.
- For sensitive case and due to cultural aspect, choosing the words wisely such as using “dialogue” instead of “debate” is more polite and appropriate, but “debate” is also important to practice for making clear of the situation too.
- In solving the problem or peace talks, apology-first is decent choice. But that apology should be sincere. It is good to put in the first, but next steps should be followed in some issues.
Sharing a thought
Can peacebuilding subject/education fit in all levels of education, such as primary, secondary, and tertiary? Different approaches of teaching peace should be designed to introduce in the education system, even the usage of the word “peacebuilding”. It should be replaced with other terms for basic level (early ages) such as friendship, harmony, etc.
I have been here in Thailand for some years already and used to think that Thailand is a peaceful land without conflicts. Furthermore, I never know that religious differences can cause problems in schools or universities. Attending this seminar makes me aware of the conflict present in Southern Thailand and the complications in the educational system in Patani.
I have learned from the presenters that it is essential to be sensitive toward other religious beliefs. Whether in the institution or society, respecting one another’s differences is the key to a peaceful society. Instead of coercion, celebrating differences, and giving space for one another would lead to peace. I have also learned new concepts such as Multicultural Education, Cultural fluency, etc.
It is comforting and impressive to see local scholars dealing with the current issues and developing plans to bring solutions to the conflicts.
Honestly, I am not very familiar with Thailand’s contents such as peace, religion, and the southern Thailand conflict. It is my first time listening to conflict, promoting multicultural education, and peacebuilding in southern Thailand from many perspectives.
Some late questions came to my mind after the seminar.
What is the difference between culture and religion?
Why just multicultural education? Why not multi-religious education?
What are the interpretations of multicultural education among teachers?
How did the different interpretations lead to the gap between implementation and the policy purpose of multicultural education?
These questions are really helpful for my studies and for future readings.