There are two main processes going on in parallel when it comes to the Myanmar peace process. The first process is the sustained undertakings of implementing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and the subsequent process of holding substantive political dialogues including the Union Peace Conference - 21st Century Panglong collectively by the NCA signatories of the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), the Government of Myanmar, and political parties that have elected Members of Parliaments (MP) in either the Union or regional legislatures. The second process is an attempt by the government to get those of the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that have not yet signed NCA to do so.
From the formal process, after holding NCA implementation review meeting at the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC) on October 26, the secretariat meeting of Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), the key body that leads as well as oversees the current political dialogues, was held on October 28 and 29. There will also be a full UPDJC meeting of 48 members from the three main stakeholders – the government, NCA-S EAOs, and political parties – chaired by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on October 30 and 31. It is hoped that a number of issues including dates for the next 21st Century Panglong will be decided during this UPDJC meeting.
1. Update on negotiations with NCA non-signatory EAOs
Among challenges facing the Myanmar peace process, the most difficult one for the Government is its current negotiation with ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that have not yet signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Without their inclusion and full participation, the substantive political dialogues that attempt to address the root causes of the armed conflict could not move forward as expected. If we trace back to late 2013, the year the NCA negotiation was first started, the negotiation for nationwide ceasefire alone has taken already four full years, and still counting with some EAOs. If the ceasefire negotiation process alone takes this awfully long, one can imagine how long the political dialogue process might take to achieve a Myanmar model of federation. There are two main questions when it comes to the non-signatories. First, is there any possibility that the Government soon will secure agreement with the non-signatories to sign NCA to enter the formal process? And, second, will the government continue moving ahead with the implementation of NCA and political dialogues even if many of the non-signatories are left outside the process?
There are two main groupings among the NCA non-signatory EAOs – Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) and Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC). The government negotiation team – the Peace Commission (PC) – is currently negotiating with DPN for the potential signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. The two negotiating teams held their 7th round of negotiation on October 23 and 24 at the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC) in Yangon. Though a final breakthrough is not yet achieved, representatives of both negotiation teams have noted that enough progress was made on the original 9-point proposal of DPN with amendments reflecting both sides’ positions. They are now aiming to finalize mutual agreement on the remaining issues at the next round of negotiation scheduled for November 8, 2017 in Yangon with the hope of signing NCA by DPN members before the end of 2017.
 DPN has four members. 1. Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), 2. New Mon State Party (NMSP), 3. Arakan National Council (ANC), and 4. Lahu Democratic Union (LDU).
 There are 7 members in FPNCC. 1. United Wa State Party/United Wa State Army (UWSP/UWSA), 2. Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA), 3. Myanmar National Truth and Justice Party/Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNTJP/MNDAA), 4. Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA), 5.Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), 6. Peace and Solidarity Committee/National Democratic Alliance Army of Eastern Shan State (PSC/NDAA), and 7. United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA).
It should be noted that the negotiation with DPN is still promising. However, there has not been any single formal talk between the government and FPNCC since the new alliance was created in late February, 2017. There are two main reasons why the two parties have not been able to meet for formal negotiations. First, the government refuses to legitimize the FPNCC as a political alliance, which is why the government is not willing to hold formal talks with the alliance under the banner of FPNCC. If the government has no policy of recognizing FPNCC first and foremost, the two parties might not be able to begin substantive negotiations. Second, the government does not accept the FPNCC’s early position of calling for a non-NCA tract of negotiations in defiance of the NCA-based process. After the signing of NCA with its agreed seven-step roadmap to attain lasting peace, the government has a firm policy requiring everyone to sign the NCA to join the political dialogue. As such, the government is inflexible and is not prepared to accommodate any demand of negotiation outside of the NCA.
The Commander-in-Chief of Armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is consistently making clear that every group must sign the NCA to enter the formal peace process and join the political dialogue. Any demand that deviates from the NCA process is rather interpreted as a challenge for military confrontation. During the 2nd anniversary of the signing of NCA on October 15, 2017 in Naypyitaw, Honourable State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also reiterates her government policy of adhering to the NCA-based process as the gateway to political dialogues, “The previous government initiated the negotiations that led to the signing of the NCA. Our government proudly carries on this process. I would like to reiterate today that the NCA opens the door for political dialogues which will pave the way to the Union Peace Conference.” Unless FPNCC drops its demand of a non-NCA tract of negotiations as well as is prepared to sign the NCA, it is highly unlikely that the government will even consider the proposal of FPNCC. With the prevalent lack of actual negotiation between the two parties to date, it is unrealistic to expect any progress made between FPNCC and the government. Before they can begin negotiating any substantive issue, both sides must first agree on the process of conducting peace process, the ground rules, and methods of negotiation.
While it is negotiating with the non-signatories for the signing of NCA, it is clearly evident that the government of Myanmar is committed to proceeding the ongoing political dialogues with the 8 NCA signatory EAOs, political parties, and other relevant stakeholders. Honourable State Counsellor was once again revealing her true intention with the ongoing political dialogues in her remarks during the 2nd anniversary of the signing of NCA on October 15, 2017, stating firmly that she wants to get all key basic principles of the Myanmar federation – “fundamental principles on Federalism” – adopted from the next rounds of conferences coming up this year and 2018. Her speech sends a strong signal to the world that her government would move forward with the political dialogues and its agendas unabated, with all groups already inside the formal process.
For the 8 NCA signatory EAOs and the government in particular, delivering concrete outcomes towards advancing the cause of peace through the political dialogues is essential, and that doing nothing to implement the NCA mandated activities is simply not an option. The stake is too high for not following through the NCA agreement and the subsequent process. The problem with doing nothing, or inaction to implement NCA at this stage, can be catastrophic for the entire peace process since the signing of NCA would be seen as a hollow process. Among other negative effects, there can be no strong incentive for the non-signatories to join the process. Therefore, as signatories to NCA fully believing that a peaceful mean of political dialogue is the only plausible way forward, in a country that has almost a 70-year long armed conflict, they have a vested interest in pursuing the political dialogues to produce a concrete substantive outcome at all cost to demonstrate that all the mechanisms they have jointly created are really functioning, and that there is a gradual and steady progress made towards establishing the ultimate goal of a genuine federal and democratic Union of Myanmar. After all, there is no better option available as an alternative to achieve the desired outcome of lasting peace and federation than the current approach. Therefore, it is most crucial that all stakeholders, donor countries and supporters of the Myanmar peace process play an effective role in supporting the political dialogue process.
1. The ongoing political dialogues and attempt to secure the Union Accord
The overarching theme and goal of the peace process is to sign the peace agreement, which is called the Union Accord (UA). According to NCA 7-step political roadmap and agreed Framework for Political Dialogue, there will be a series of political dialogues and Union Peace Conferences, which will produce a common agreement that shall be signed as the Union Accord at the end of the peace process. In line with the goal of establishing a federal Union of Myanmar, this Union Accord shall be composed of all agreed basic principles covering the five thematic sectors chosen for the political dialogues: politics, security, economics, social and land and environment. The question is how soon the expected Union Accord can be achieved? What actions have been already taken to achieve the Union Accord? Who is involved in leading this process of achieving the Union Accord?
As stated above, the 8 NCA signatory EAOs, political parties and the government of Myanmar are already undertaking the process of political dialogues and Union Peace Conferences - 21st Century Panglong in order to secure segments of agreements on the chosen five thematic sectors in piecemeal, which would be signed as the Union Accord. There are 37 points of agreement made regarding four sectors including politics, economics, social, land and environment during the last Union Peace Conference - 21st Century Panglong held in May, 2017. Now, there is an ongoing preparation made to achieve more agreements at the next Union Peace Conference expected to be held in December.
Since the signing of NCA in 2015, members of the NCA signatory EAOs have been at the front and centre for the holding of political dialogues, Union Peace Conferences, and the overall implementation of NCA. With the dual intentions of preparing the draft Union Accord and effectively leading the overall peace process, they have undertaken series of actions reviewing all the mechanisms and the NCA implementation processes since late June of this year under the leadership of Peace Process Steering Team (PPST). They also convened various meetings and organized workshops preparing a draft position paper encapsulating their proposed key principles and policies for the Union Accord. Once they adopt their own version of the draft Union Accord, they will openly and widely consult it with their respective constituencies, and also present it to other stakeholders in the process, for negotiation in the political dialogues. All of these deliberations and undertakings have been undertaken with the sole objective of facilitating the process of securing a Union Peace Accord, which is the ultimate goal of the Myanmar Peace Process.
As the agreed clauses in the expected Union Accord shall be the basis to amend all laws, including the constitution, any and all groups and persons that are not inside the process, either collectively or individually, can prepare to present any idea they might have to key parties involved on the basic federal principles for Myanmar, so that their advice and voice can be included in the Union Accord.
 1. Signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. 2. Drafting and adopting the “Framework for Political Dialogue” by representatives of the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and Ethnic Armed Organizations. 3. Holding national political dialogue based on the adopted Framework for Political Dialogue, and negotiating security reintegration matters and undertaking other necessary tasks that both parties agree can be carried out in advance. 4. Holding the Union Peace Conference. 5. Signing the Union (Pyidaungsu) Accord. 6. Submitting the Pyidaungsu Accord to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw for ratification. 7. Implementing all provisions contained in the Pyidaungsu Accord, and carrying out security reintegration matters.
 As for the security sector, conference delegates only exchanged their viewpoints on the given topic with no agreement made in line with the strict directive given by senior leaders of the process.