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Fighting corruption adressed at capacity building seminar

Translated and edited from an article by Lone Loklindt, Camilla Hersom, Christian Scharling og Henrik Brade Johansen

The Danish Social-Liberal Party and the Tanzanian Civic United Front met in Dar Es Salaam earlier this month, for a capacity building seminar to share experiences and discuss issues, such as fighting corruption, budget planning and monitoring, cooperation with media and civil society, initiatives to increase employment, being in the opposition, as well as women and youth involvement in politics.

The Danish social liberal politicians Lone Loklindt, Camilla Hersom, Christian Scharling and Henrik Brade Johansen participated in the two training seminars for newly elected members in Parliament, the Districts and City councils, as part of the partnership between the Danish Social Liberal Party and the Tanzanian party CUF.

Each of the two seminars lasted for two days. The first seminar was for CUF’s own trainers – a total of 20 – who had to ready themselves to train CUF’s newly elected members of the district and city councils. The second seminar was for the 43 newly or re-elected members of Parliament, of whom 11 were women.

The Social Liberal’s contributions the Seminars

Henrik talked about Denmark, our political system and history and drew comparison, between Denmark and Tanzania, which has a population 10 times the size of Denmark, an area 20 times the size of Denmark, and gives birth to 30 times as many children as in Denmark, while Denmark has a GNP 40 times the size of Tanzania. Henrik also introduced some consideration as to why there is hardly any corruption in the Danish public administration or among politicians, who misuse their political posistions for personal gain.

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Trainers at Training

Lone spoke about women’s participation in politics, arguing that after the historical achievement of women gaining the right to vote in Denmark in 1915, it took more than 70 years before 30% of the elected were women. This percentage of female representation is believed to be the necessary critical mass. It is due to this that Tanzania, like many other African countries have introduced ‘Special Seats’ for women in Parliament. Out of the 11 elected female CUF members, 10 got their seats in Parliament due to this arrangement. This led to discussions about how CUF selects these women, and what is needed for more women to successfully stand in elections. Lone argued that while there are still inequalities in Denmark with regard to wages, retirement savings and women in leadership positions, the welfare system in Denmark provided more security on the home front and enabled better access to education and inclusion in the workforce. It was quickly agreed at the seminar that equal participation in democracy necessitates equality in society.

Camilla talked about the Social-Liberal Party, and what it means to be in the opposition in Parliament, as well as in government through coalitions. While there are differences between being in opposition in Tanzania and in Denmark, due to CCM’s dominance, particularly two points stroke a cord with CUF. Namely, the meaning of equal rights, as well as seeking out partnerships with other parties in Parliament and in the district and city councils. CUF’s own motto is ”Haki sawa kwa wote”, which means ”equal rights for all”.

Christian, who is the chairman of IFLRY (International Federation of Liberal Youth) spoke about international liberal cooperation and youth involvement in decision making. Christian highlighted that CUF’s and the social-liberal values are a part of an international movement. Across cultures, religions and backgrounds, there are like-minded people who engage in a network, and the possibilities for youth in CUF to become involved were elaborated on. The importance of involving youth is particularly relevant in Tanzania, where people under the age of 18 make up more than half of the population. This provides challenges with high levels of unemployment and crime. It is crucial that the youth feel a sense of co-responsibility for the decisions, that are made politically and that they are trained to think independently.

Overall the social-liberals felt that the visit and seminars had been a success with learning on both sides. And the relevance of the partnership was particularly highlighted by one newly elected MP who stated: “We were three who visited Demark in 2013 and we learnt so much, that we were all capable of winning in our constituencies in October 2015!”

Myanmar elects its new President and Vice Presidents

At the beginning of this week, the parliament of Myanmar elected Htin Kyaw as the country’s new president. This brings the opposition party National Leagues for Democratic party (NLD) back into government after 54 years of military rule.

NLD president

Following last week’s presidential nominations, Myanmar’s bicameral parliament has elected the country’s new President and Vice Presidents.

The 70-year-old Oxford graduate, Htin Kyaw, a long-time close friend and ally of the iconic Aung San Suu Kyi, was elected as president and becomes Myanmar’s first freely elected president after 54 years of military rule. Htin Kyaw secured 360 votes from among 652 ballots cast in the bicameral parliament, and was therefore the clear winner among the three candidates.

“This is a victory for the people of this country,” Htin Kyaw stated to the present reporters after the result had become clear. He will take office from 1 April, when current President Thein Sein’s government leaves office, but questions about his position and power remain open, due to the unclarified role of Aung San Suu Kyi in the incoming government.

Despite of this, Htin Kyaw will still go down in history as the first civilian President of Myanmar after the military rule.

Vice President with support from the military

Myint Swe, who was the military’s candidate, gained 214 votes, which secured him the position as the first Vice President. The second Vice President will be Henry Van Thio, Htin Kyaw’s running mate from the NLD and a MP of the ethnic Chin minority, who won 79 votes.

The exact role of Aung San Suu Kyi is yet to be determined, but she is widely expected to play a prominent role in governing the country in the coming years.

With the outcome of the presidential vote, it is clear that a lot of dialogue and search for common ground is needed in the time to come among the President and Vice Presidents.

In the Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme (MMDP) the focus on multiparty dialogue and cooperation will continue and engagement with the newly elected parliament will be reinforced.

Also, read DIPD´s article Candidates nominated for Myanmar presidency.

For More information

Khin Thazin Myint, Myanmar Country Coordinator, +95 9 421 009 560 (ktzm@dipd.dk) or

Hanne Lund Madsen, Senior Adviser, +45 38402802 (hlm@dipd.dk)

Read more about DIPD’s work in Myanmar, where we are part of the EU supported STEP Democracy Programme.

Read more about DIPD’s partnerships in Myanmar here or at the www.myanmarmultiparty.org.

A Campaign for Equality in the Nepali Congress party

DIPD has been supporting initiatives for gender equality inside Nepal’s political parties through a multiparty platform called JOMPOPS (Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening). DIPD’s support has mainly two facets: 1) support for policy reform activities to ensure gender friendly party policies and organization and 2) provide inspiration to promote women in the leadership roles. During the recent national convention of the Nepali Congress party – the largest party in Parliament, DIPD in collaboration with UNWomen, supported the campaign for gender equality inside the party.

Initial Activities

In most political parties of Nepal, the national convention offers opportunity for internal party reform activities. Particularly, major reforms such as policy amendments in the internal party’s constitution–the main policy document of the party is generally only possible during such events. As the Nepali Congress party announced its 13th National Convention in the first week of March 2016, members of the party quickly organized a campaign to promote gender equality inside the party.

Elected Women National Convention Delegates from the Nepali Congress party

Elected Women National Convention Delegates from the Nepali Congress party

General discussions for the necessary reforms to make the party’s constitution more gender friendly had started inside the party since a long time but the members wanted a more focused campaign to make best use of the upcoming convention. Accordingly, they requested DIPD to provide technical support for the gender audit of the party’s constitution.

Once the gender audit was complete, the party organized a series of interactions at the central and local levels to discuss the findings. Drawing from these interactions, the women’s department of the Nepali Congress party finalized a list of recommendations relating to necessary constitutional reforms and submitted to the constitutional amendment committee inside the party.

Signature Campaign

On the eve of the National Convention, the Steering Committee member of JOMPOPS from the Nepali Congress party – Chitra Lekha Yadav (also the elected Treasurer of the party) took the initiative to organize a signature campaign. A day before the Convention, a big event was planned inviting all the elected women delegates of the Convention from the Nepali Congress party (around 600) to lobby together on the necessary gender related reforms. All the senior and influential male leaders of the party were also invited to listen to the demands of the women delegates.

The organizing team also selected five crucial reforms and decided to actively lobby for them. These demands among others include – gender mainstreaming of party’s budget, special incentives for women members, prohibition of the party’s membership to perpetrators of violence against women.

On 2 March 2016, around 500 elected women delegates from all across the country gathered for the programme. Most central committee leaders also attended the event. Chitra Lekha Yadav chaired the event and gave an opening remark. She also talked about the example of Denmark and gender friendly political culture. She appealed all the participants to support the five minimum reforms necessary to promote gender equality inside the party.

Former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba signing the Commitment Declaration for Gender Equality (He has been elected as Party’s President)

Former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba signing the Commitment Declaration for Gender Equality (He has been elected as Party’s President)

All the women participants signed the petition demanding necessary gender-related constitutional amendments to make the Nepali Congress party – the first gender friendly party in Nepal. Women members also strongly expressed that the gender friendly party organization is necessary for overall gender equality in the country.

In the programme, the senior leader of the party, Sher Bahadur Deuba (who has been just elected as the party President) committed to support the demanded reforms and publicly signed the Commitment Declaration. Many other leaders also showed strong commitments and signed the Commitment Declaration. Women leaders have planned to use the signed Commitment Declaration as a reminder to the leaders when they start the reform process.

Further Steps

The leaders of the party have committed to implement the reforms demanded based on the gender audit report. As further steps, reforms need to be incorporated into the party’s relevant policy documents as well as a mechanism must be set up to put them into practice. However, this is the most challenging part.

Women leaders are worried that despite commitment from leaders, they might not reform relevant policy documents. They are equally concerned that even if reforms are made in the policy documents, they might not be translated into practice. That’s why they are planning to hold a meeting to discuss the strategies to deal with the challenges. One of the strategies so far discussed is setting up a monitoring committee to check if the leaders fulfill their commitments.

If the party implements the reforms as planned then the Nepali Congress party will be the first party in Nepal to introduce reforms based on the gender audit.

For more information contact DIPD Representative Shrishti Rana: shrishti@dipd.org.np or Project coordinator Mette Bloch Hansen: mbhansen@dipd.dk

 

Candidates nominated for Myanmar presidency

Following the 8 November 2015 elections, the 5 presidential candidates have been nominated from the upper house, lower house and military block respectively. The new President will be elected before the end of March.

After months of speculation, the candidates for Myanmar’s next presidency have finally been announced. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), who won 77.1 percent of the contested seats at the November election, have nominated its candidates from the two chambers of Myanmar’s Parliament.

From the Lower House (Amyotha Hluttaw), Htin Kyaw has been nominated. The 69-year-old Oxford graduate is known to be one of Aung San Suu Kyi’s closest friends and allies and is the son-in-law of NLD co-founder U Lwin. And from the Upper House (Pyithu Hluttaw), Henry Van Thio, a MP of the ethnic Chin minority, has been nominated.

Meanwhile, the military supporting Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), who won 10.2 percent of the contested seats at the aforementioned elections, have also nominated two candidates. From the Upper House, Khin Aung Myint, an USDP lawmaker, has been nominated, and from the Lower House, outgoing Vice President Sai Mauk Khan has been nominated.

The military bloc, who holds 25 percent of the parliamentary seats, has nominated former Chief Minister for Yangon Division, Myint Swe.

A three-step process

These initial nominations are only the first step in the presidential election process. On 17 and 18 March, the union parliament will convene and the two houses will vote on which of the nominated candidates will go through to the final vote. The final group of candidates will therefore consist of one candidate from the Upper House, one from the Lower house and the nominated from the military block.

Before the end of the month, and maybe even on 17-18 March, the new President will be elected, with the two unsuccessful finalist becoming Vice Presidents.

The new President will then pick its cabinet, which will take over from current President Thein Sein’s outgoing government on 1 April 2016.

Where does Aung San Suu Kyi fit in?

After NLD’s landslide victory in November, the national and international media has speculated about the future role of the iconic Aung San Suu Kyi. According to article 59 (f) of the military drafted constitution, Suu Kyi is banned from becoming the nation’s president on account of her late husband and her two children being British citizens. She is still expected to play a very prominent role in leading the country after 1 April 2016, though, and she has previously stated that she will rule the country from “above the president”.

There has also been speculation that she is set to become Foreign Minister, which would grant her a position in the President’s cabinet and a seat on the influential, military-dominated Security Council, but it would also mean that she would have to give up her party role due to the laws of Myanmar’s political system.

Before the end of the March, months of speculation will have materialized in to actions and Myanmar will begin the next chapter of its democratic transition.

For More information

Khin Thazin Myint, Myanmar Country Coordinator, +95 9 421 009 560 (ktzm@dipd.dk) or

Hanne Lund Madsen, Senior Adviser, +45 38402802 (hlm@dipd.dk)

Read more about DIPD’s partnerships in Myanmar here or at the MMDP website.

Read more about DIPD’s work in Myanmar, where we are part of the EU supported STEP Democracy Programme.

Launching Regional Dialogue on Women in Politics

During the celebration of the International Women’s Day in Myanmar,  a number of concrete measures to advance women in politics were shared.

Photo: All the participants at seminar on women in politics

How to learn from each other

In their opening remarks Khin Thazin Myint and Hanne Lund Madsen, DIPD, stressed the importance of both  cross-party cooperation and regional cooperation to move the women’s agenda forward. The keynote speaker, Dr. Mya Thaung, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Women’s and Children’s Rights in the Upper House also noted: “we all have to work together to have more women participation in politics”. Through an examination of the DIPD Nepal video on party leaders’ commitments to advancing women in politics, the seminar explored how these strategies might be adapted effectively for Myanmar. The seminar considered how women in Bhutan have increased the visibility of women in politics and advocated for increased consideration of gender issues. Women at the seminar also considered  whether the model of quotas for women in the legislature in Nepal is one that Myanmar and Bhutan should consider emulating.

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Photo: The international DIPD delegation, from the left: Shristy Rana – DIPD representative in Nepal, Thazin Myint – DIPD coordinator in Myanmar, Fatma Øktem, former MP in Denmark,  Hanne Lund Madsen – DIPD senior advisor and Phuntshok Choden – BNEW coordinator in Bhutan.

Making political parties more gender responsive 

At the seminar, women and party leaders in parties discussed efforts within parties to make political parties more gender responsive, and identify areas most urgently in need of reform. Consideration was made of  the impact of legal and regulatory frameworks, party laws and procedures, financial obstacles, and the media environment, among other factors, to determine which are most relevant and urgent areas for reforms.  An inspiring example was shared by Asta Laxmi Shakya, CPN-UML Nepal, on the party-internal reforms i.e. the reform of internal election procedures ensuring women representation.  The DIPD movie from Nepal showing all political party leaders express their commitment to ending violence against women attracted both great attention and also admiration. Aung Moe Zaw, Democratic Party for New Society, stressed the urgent need for internal party reforms especially as many parties have had to live for many years “underground” under the military regime thus making their renewal and modernization difficult. As a considerable number of the participants from Myanmar included newly elected MPs, the seminar also addressed how caucus, networking and mentoring can support women in Parliament.

Putting Women on the agenda panel session

Photo: “putting women on the agenda” panel

The importance of women in local politics

The importance of women participation in local government was also discussed.  “The biggest challenge is the mindset that women are not capable in politics- so we need to show that we can do it both in politics and as government civil servants” Aye Cho Sein, USDP, stressed.

The experience of gender responsive governance from Bhutan shared by Wangdi Gyeltshen, Dept. of Local Governance received a lot of questions from the Myanmar participants. Suggestions made by Mr. Murari Shivakoti, Governance Facility, Nepal to consider allocating sets for women in local community development committees was also noted with interest.  The DIPD movie from Bhutan on building the capacity of women to stand for local elections was received with applause as it showed concrete steps to improve the situation.

Phuntchock Choden, BNEW coordinator in Bhutan, stressed that: “To help us move out of the comfort zone and complacent attitudes especially when it concerns the situation of WIP in each of our three countries, the regional exchange on WIP was most valuable to not only recognise the issues and common challenges women face, but to draw attention to need for certain special measures at all levels (national and local) such as training, gender responsive internal party reforms as well as setting national legislation agendas. The regional seminar was most inspiring and educative for all the delegates”.

This theme of inspiration was echoed by Mr. Jitendra Prasad Sonar of the Tarai Madhesh Democratic Party of Nepal when he concluded: “We are inspired by [Myanmar’s] commitment and struggle for democracy…when we get back we will share your story in Nepal”. “Having listened to the testimonies from Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Denmark, Shrishti Rana, DIPD Representative in Nepal in her closing remark concluded: “ We today see that across countries we have many similar challenges on gender equality, so lets us fight it together!”.

The  regional dialgoue and exchange will continue through seminars in Nepal and Bhutan later in 2016 and 2017.

Contact persons for the regional dialogue

Shristy Rana, DIPD representative in Nepal – shrishti@dipd.org.np

Thazin Myint, DIPD coordinator in Myanmar – ktzm@dipd.dk

Phuntchock Choden, BNEW coordinator in Bhutan – phuntshokct@gmail.com

Hanne Lund Madsen, DIPD senior advisor – hlm@dipd.dk