The 2023 Ramon Magsaysay Awards, known as the "Nobel Prize of Asia," recently named a Filipina peace builder negotiator as one of its awardees.
The theme, “Transforming Asia, Inspiring the World,” seeks to recognize outstanding Asians for their transformative leadership and contributions to different societies.
Miriam Coronel-Ferrer is a political science professor at the University of the Philippines (UP), and a former United Nations (UN) senior mediation adviser.
She co-founded the Southeast Asian Women Peace Mediators (SEAWPM) in 2020 “to ensure the protection of women’s rights during armed conflicts, mainstream the gender perspective in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and advance the role of women as peacebuilders at all levels.”
She was honored for her persistent belief in the transformative impact of nonviolent strategies in peacebuilding, her intelligence and courage in triumphing over challenges to convey the truth that peace can be won and sustained through inclusion, and her unwavering commitment to harnessing women's power to create a just and peaceful world.
In a press conference on Monday, Sept. 4, held for Magsaysay awardees via Zoom, Coronel-Ferrer admitted that being a female peacebuilding leader is "difficult".
Nonetheless, she said the context of democratization and the women's rights movement in the Philippines made it somewhat “easier.”
When prompted to define inclusivity in peace-building, she replied: “When discussing inclusion, there are two things to consider. The first involves the process, which means the big question is who is involved. It's hard to talk to everyone. So, you do need a variety of methods.”
She stated that to be able to do that, it is necessary to ask mutual friends to get the information and get the feedback that goes into decision-making.
“The other side is the substance relating to inclusion is what kind of agreement, for example, does this guarantee the different societies or for the whole country,” she said,
Coronel-Ferrer likewise underscored the growing role of women in peace negotiations by having their owns seats at the negotiating table. "Sometimes, when you package your group as a women's group, you get stuck with women's issues. So what you want to do is really deal with the hard stuff which has usually been dealt by men," she said.
"Yes, we are women. We are mediators who bring in the women's perspective, but don't box us only in women's issues. I think that's one of our core messages when going around the region and other parts of the world to be able to follow through on some of the initiatives that we have started,” she added.
Coronel-Ferrer also pointed out that peace was “what you make for people”.
“Peace is like the umbrella because it puts together all of these elements, and if some of the elements are not there, then it cannot be real peace. So, think about it as an umbrella that puts together all the social movements, all the individual struggles that we do. To make a better life for everyone. It's the umbrella that we want,” she averred.
As such, working towards building and sustaining peace is an essential duty in a world divided and threatened by violence.
Coronel-Ferrer, together with other 2023 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees Eugenio Lemos, Ravi Kannan, and Korvi Rakshand, will receive the prestigious award at the Presentation Ceremonies at the Metropolitan Theater in Manila on Nov. 11.