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MYANMAR: Building Cooperation Across Generations in Political Parties

As the 2015 elections approach, political parties are increasing their level of activity to make sure that they are competitive and dynamic in the coming polls.  Political parties will face the challenge of persuading youth to join and participate in political party activities.  Given the relatively recent return of political parties on the scene, and the restrictions on student involvement in parties, extra effort may be required to engage youth in party activities.

Report by  DIPD Youth Coordinator Ran Lunn Aung

Bridging the generation gap 

To discuss the generation gap in parties and develop strategies to bridge the gap, DIPD convened a dialogue platform bringing together party youth and party leaders on January 25th.  At this platform, representatives of political parties and alliances including the Union Solidarity and Development Party, National Unity Party, National League for Democracy, the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation, and the Federal Democratic Alliance, including both party youth and party elders, deliberated on how to bridge the generation gap between elders and youth to unlock the full potential of youth in political parties.

U Myo Nyunt a member of FDA Secretraiat (2)

Photo: U Myo Nyunt a member of FDA Secretraiat

During the dialogue session, youth and party elders shared experiences of how their party incorporated youth, identified different structures for youth participation, and included young people in mainstream party structures. Some parties also engage young people through sports activities, scholarship and training programs, holding meetings to discuss issues of importance to youth, and training for youth party members.

Increasing communication and mutual understanding

To build more constructive relations between party elders and youth, dialogue participants made a number of suggestions. Holding meetings between party elders and young people (including both party youth and non-party youth) could help increase communication and mutual understanding between elders and youth. Regular communication by party youth about their activities and by party elders about party activities and issues would help each side appreciate what the other is doing.  Party elders and leaders could also provide more opportunities to young people to work as volunteers in the parties.  Finally, one party elder suggested that the party elders should not be afraid to let the youth take risks and make mistakes, but should only provide them with guidance and support.

U Hla Thaung a member of CEC and youth committee of NUP (2)

Photo: U Hla Thaung a member of CEC and youth committee of NUP 

DIPD also proposed opportunities for youth to participate in party activities, such as communication, campaigning and policy development.  Thet Swe Win of the Centre for Youth and Social Harmony encouraged both youth and elders to take responsibility to build trust and increase opportunities for young people to participate in parties.  He also identified areas where party elders and party youth can work together on policy issues, such as the creation of the National Youth Policy and through participation in youth forums.

Trust is key

A lack of trust between party elders and youth continues to hinder the ability of the generations to work together to build strong parties. A youth leader from Federal Democratic Alliance remarked that, “Now what we can see is the elderly will think that [youth] are very young and inexperienced, while youths hold the view that elders have already become antiques.”   Creating platforms within parties for party elders and youth to discuss how to build trust and create more opportunities for youth will help parties unlock the full potential of youth to contribute to party decision-making, leadership and policy.  DIPD will continue to host dialogue platforms to bridge the generation gap and build consensus on how youth can contribute to building representative and democratic political parties.

For more information, please contact Hanne Lund Madsen, Senior Adviser at DIPD, or (+45) 38 40 28 02 and Khin Thazin Myint, Myanmar Programme Coordinator, or (+95) 9 421 009 560.

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