The Enniskillen born chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, Peter Sheridan, left for a volunteering trip to the Philippines this week.
Mr. Sheridan, a former Assistant Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, is taking part in a VSO voluntary placement. He left on Monday and returns next week.
His experience in policing in Northern Ireland over a period of 32 years will be useful to him during his trip to the Philippines.
He had been responsible for strategic direction and management of a number of different interdisciplinary branches. As Assistant Chief Constable, Peter played a critical role in the significant change processes within Northern Ireland policing, which was a major step in the progression towards peace. It is in this context that Peter will work with the Civil Military element of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), advising them on best practice in dealing with the post conflict situation following the truce between the Filipino Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The southern regions of the Philippines have been ravaged by internal strife since the 1960's with the MILF seeking greater autonomy from the federal government in Manilla. Only in recent times has significant progress been made which saw an agreement signed between the Filipino Government and MILF which establishes an autonomous region to be known as Bangsamoro.
VSO Ireland has been working with VSO in the Philippines for many years on this peace programme and was grateful to Dominic Hannigan TD, as Chair of the Good Friday Agreement Committee, who undertook a very successful and highly regarded trip in 2011 which brought increased impetus, from all sides in the conflict, to find a way forward.
This short term, high impact placement of Mr. Sheridan is part of a series of placements of eminent volunteers from Ireland to countries across the developing world. Peter will take part in five meetings with civil military officials, address three groups of students on their role in building peace and take part in many one-on-one meetings with peace partners across the region.
There is an ongoing debate within the Armed Forces of the Philippines regarding their role within community policy and in particular their role in peace building. This debate and its final outcome will have significant implications for the bedding down of the peace process in the region. Mr. Sheridan will use his experience gained from Northern Ireland to change attitudes within the AFP.
As part of his placement, Mr. Sheridan will deliver a series of addresses to military and police academy students about the importance of policing in resolving internal conflicts in countries such as The Philippines and how the conflict in Northern Ireland and the cross community nature of the PSNI can be used as a template for countries emerging from internal conflict.
Speaking before he left this week, Mr. Sheridan said: "I am looking forward to this placement with VSO. I feel that my experiences in Northern Ireland in the PSNI and my recent work with Cooperation Ireland will give me a unique insight into the issues facing the Filipino people and allow me to bridge the gap between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front."