Leading up to DIPDs Multiparty Youth Seminar in Yangon on 28-29 January 2016, young politicians met Danish colleagues to discuss challenges facing youth participation in Myanmar politics.
With the recent elections in Myanmar the number of youth represented in national parliament and in regional and state parliaments have increased, but many challenges still remain regarding youth participation in politics.
In the meetings Eva Flyvholm (MP for the Red-Green Alliance), Alexander Ryle (International Secretary for the Liberal Alliance Youth) and Esben Korsgaard Poulsen (former International Secretary for the Social Democratic Youth) had the opportunity to discuss and share ideas with youth representatives from the three parties USDP, NLD and NUP, and from the three alliances UNA, FDA and NBF.
A need for strong youth wings
An issue raised by all the political parties and party alliances in Myanmar was the absence of strong youth organizations, which can accommodate youth participation and be a forum for the capacity building of young politicians. Most of Myanmar’s 92 registered parties are still very new organisations, and often youth find it difficult to get involved in central decision and policy-making processes, despite most parties having established youth wings.
Drawing on the Danish experience, both Esben Korsgaard and Alexander Ryle shared how the Danish youth parties are organized as independent entities and offered insight into the benefits of having strong and independent youth parties:
“Because we in youth parties have our own board and budget, we can also make our own decisions. We often see ourselves as a watchdog, keeping watch of the mother party’s political line [..] and we can criticize them, if we want”, Alexander elaborated.
Eva Flyvholm also took the opportunity to underline the benefits of having an independent youth party:
“We cooperate with the youth party to a large extent, especially during election campaigns, and the youth party also has the freedom to create their own their own campaign”.
A culture of collaboration
With the results from the recent parliamentary election in Myanmar in mind, the delegation discussed the possibilities of cross political dialogue and collaboration, asking specifically about the inclusiveness of the dialogue process.
A member of the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation’s (NBF) youth committee underlined his hopes for a broad inclusion process under the new government and better opportunities for all ethnic groups in Myanmar. Furthermore, he described how the NBF has moved to draft a framework for broad political dialogue in an attempt to facilitate this inclusion.
Supporting this cause, Eva Flyvholm said: “Though your political situation is quite different from ours, I believe it is important to ensure that all groups in society have the chance to be heard and included”.
After several inquiries into the nature of the Danish political system, Esben Korsgaard also elaborated on the long tradition of coalition building in Danish politics, stating that it ensures a stable political situation and prevents overly fluctuating policy implementation despite governmental power changing hands regularly.
Continuing the discussion of the possibilities of political dialogue and coalition building, Flyvholm also offered a piece of advice based on her party’s experiences from other international partnerships:
“By finding common ground on a few issues, a political alliance consisting of many different parties can more effectively promote shared policies in all the areas in which you are based”, Flyvholm said.
Capacity building in demand
A major issue that was also reiterated during all the meetings was the need for technical trainings for youth politicians and for building the capacity of the youth organisations. Often the lack of available funds and party training is the issue. Here Jeremy Liebowitz, political party and dialogue advisor for DIPD’s Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme, suggested utilizing the capacity trainings offered by both international and local NGO, including DIPD.
Also, Esben Korsgaard offered insights into the structure and content of the Social Democratic Youth’s member training programme, explaining that they seek a balance between organisational and political trainings.
Finally, Eva, Alexander and Esben all underlined the importance of trusting young party members and offering them responsibilities and influence in central decision-making. Without it, youth will remain sidelined and lose interest in politics, they argued.
Through the Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme, DIPD will continue to support young politicians in Myanmar in form of capacity trainings, support for stronger youth organisations and multi-party dialogue forums.
For More information
Khin Thazin Myint, Myanmar Country Coordinator, +95 9 421 009 560 (email@example.com) or
Hanne Lund Madsen, Senior Adviser, +45 38402802 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Read more about DIPD’s work in Myanmar, where we are part of the EU supported STEP Democracy Programme.