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International Democracy Day 2017

“Democracy and Conflict” is the theme of this year’s International Democracy Day, and as the UN Secretary General has stated in his message ahead of the day: “The International Day of Democracy is an opportunity to recommit to a world defined by values enshrined in the United Nations Charter: peace, justice, respect, human rights, tolerance and solidarity. To work credibly for conflict prevention, we need to better support countries in their efforts to strengthen their democratic institutions and make their societies more resilient.”

DIPD’s Global Head of Programmes, Hanne Lund Madsen, explains how the institute’s work relates to this year’s theme: “As DIPD is supporting and strengthening dialogue between political parties and also between parties and Election Management Bodies, CSOs and the media, our engagements also help prevent conflict and polarization in many ways. Multiparty democratic practices are in themselves a peaceful manner of accommodating and settling conflicts of interests.”

As an example, DIPD is currently supporting the political party group in the Myanmar peace processes and dialogues. In the coming period, DIPD will work in support of and partnership with the party group to enhance dialogue and capacity development for parties, making them more effective participants in the process of re-imagining a democratic federal union for Myanmar. DIPD has supported the political parties of Myanmar in developing consensus-based policy proposals to the peace process in preparation for the third meeting of Myanmar’s Union Peace Conference, also known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference, which will be held later in 2017.

Photo from a three-day meeting in July, held in preparation to the third meeting of Myanmar’s 21st Century Panglong Conference

The link between democratization and conflicts
In several countries, DIPD supports multiparty dialogue mechanisms, enabling parties to discuss issues of common concern outside the limelight of the parliament and media, and thereby better find ways to tackle these issues. But as Hanne Lund Madsen explains, the processes are not always free from conflict: “We also experience internal party and leadership conflicts in our work, as for example in one of the opposition parties in Tanzania. It is therefore very useful for DIPD to be engaged with the research project CODE at Aarhus University.”

CODE is looking to understand the correlation between democratization and conflict and how it plays out on different levels – from an international level to the level of individuals. In collaboration with practitioners from NGOs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, the researchers will focus primarily on factors that can be influenced by actors – including international ones – in the short and medium term. For instance, are some electoral systems less prone to conflict than others? And how are we to curb and possibly resolve escalating conflicts without undermining the perspective for democratization?

On a more concrete level, DIPD is ensuring that our international partners receive relevant education in conflict handling, as Hanne Lund Madsen explains: “To help address conflicts, DIPD is developing a dialogue and conflict training module that can facilitate better conflict handling both between and within parties. Moreover, we are cooperating with Danida Fellowship Centre and having several of our partners participating in the Centre’s Dialogue and Conflict Transformation course in Denmark in late November.”

More information

Contact DIPD Global Head of Programmes, Hanne Lund Madsen: hlm@dipd.dk 

Myanmar: DIPD supports parties’ social policy development efforts

How can parties develop policies to address drug abuse in Myanmar? What kinds of approaches can parties take to multicultural and appropriate education policies?

These questions were some of those addressed last week, when DIPD supported the political parties of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) to discuss different policy principles for consideration in the social sector, at a meeting held from 4-6 September in Yangon.

The meeting was the second among a series to support political parties to develop policy proposals to the Union Peace Conference that are based on dialogue and consensus among the members of the UPDJC political party group. A total of 42 representatives from 22 political parties partook in the three-day meeting, including the members of the UPDJC’s social sector working committee.

The second meeting of the Union Peace Conference held in last May adopted the 37 principles, which were formed a part of the Union Accord, including four principles on the social sector. However, as the proverb goes, Rome was not built in a day. There are still many issues to be tackled within the social sector and it is still a daunting question as to what social issues will be discussed in the next Union Peace Conference.

Policy proposals in the making

On the first day, local and international technical experts made presentations and facilitated discussion on the resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees and internally displaced persons, access to land for resettled refugees and internally displaced persons, and reconciliation for those who have suffered under conflict and/or rights violations, as well as perspectives on Myanmar’s health system.

“The meeting provided a good opportunity to build our knowledge [on the reconciliation] and we will need to hold more discussion meeting like this,” U Naing Ngan Lin, a member of the UPDJC’s social sector working committee, commented during the discussion session.

Promoting gender equality and effective drug policies

During the second day, experts in the area of gender equality and federalism discussed approaches to promoting gender equality within a democratic federal union. Although the potential impact of federalism on gender equality is an extremely complex subject, presenters advanced a number of proposals to enhance gender equality across different dimensions. The afternoon session covered a range of discussions representing different communities affected by the drug trade, and policy experts on the drug sector discussed arguments for how to regulate the drug sector.

Defending fundamental rights

The last day of the meeting demonstrated the participants’ increasing comfort to freely discuss issues in a cordial environment. A team of presenters addressed how policies could protect the fundamental rights of a range of vulnerable groups including ethnic minorities, workers, religious minorities, and persons with disabilities. In the afternoon, an expert discussed education policy and issues related to multicultural education in a federal system.

The participants rated the sessions as highly useful in their evaluations, but also highlighted that there were need for more in-depth discussions given the range of issues covered. At the closing remarks, U Thu Wai, the Vice Chair of the UPDJC expressed his thanks to the DIPD for organizing the meeting and discussions, “It is of great support to the group and it would be better if another round of meeting in the social sector can be offered.”

DIPD will continue to support the UPDJC political party group in its policy development efforts as it prepares for the next Union Peace Conference. These efforts represent an important first step in enhancing multiparty dialogue on policy issues among political parties in Myanmar’s political transition.

More information

Read more about DIPD’s engagement in Myanmar here.

Contact DIPD Myanmar representative Khin Thazin Myint at ktzm@dipd.dk

Stort fremskridt for Swazilands demokratibevægelse

Skrevet af Lise Thorsen, medlem af Socialdemokratiets internationale udvalg.

Afrikas sidste enevældige kongedømme, Swaziland, har taget et afgørende skridt mod mere demokrati. Partiet SWADEPA (Swazi Democratic Party) afholdte sin første kongres nogensinde den 25. – 26. august i Manzini, Swaziland. Det er første gang siden 1973 at en partipolitisk kongres er blevet afholdt i landet.

Politiske partier befinder sig i en juridisk gråzone i Swaziland, som ganske vist har et parlament med valg hvert femte år. Men kandidater må kun stille op som enkeltpersoner, valgt i deres lokalområde, og kongen udpeger i øvrigt selv flere af parlamentsmedlemmerne, plus regeringen og premierministeren.

Støttet af DIPD har Socialdemokratiet og SWADEPA haft et partnerskab siden 2012. Her har der især været fokus på at styrke partiorganisationen, herunder kvinde- og ungdomsfløjende. Derfor er afholdelsen af partiets første kongres en milepæl for det interne demokrati i partiet, idet partiets ledelse og vedtægter for første gang blev valgt demokratisk af de knap 100 fremmødte delegerede.

Socialdemokraternes partisekretær, Jan Juul Christensen, var gæst på kongressen, og hans tilbagemelding er yderst positiv.

”SWADEPA fik både en demokratisk valgt ledelse og sammensat sit politiske program, så pejlemærkerne nu er kendte, åbenlyse og accepterede. Det er et fantastisk signal at kunne sende ud – at det altså kan lykkes, og at det er sådan man agerer i et demokratisk, politisk system, ” siger Jan Juul Christensen.

Det har bestemt ikke været uden omkostninger at nå så langt. Og er det for så vidt stadig, for der blev holdt godt øje med kongressen fra regimets side. Således var både droner i luften og civilklædte sikkerhedsfolk til stede under kongressen. Det er ikke nyt, så sent som i august blev en af deltagerene ved et SWADEPA ungdomsarrangement kortvarigt anholdt.

Men ikke desto mindre: engagementet hos de aktive fejler ikke noget.

”Det er imponerende at mærke den energi og det engagement, medlemmerne lægger for dagen, ” siger Jan Juul Christensen, som også er vældig tilfreds med de programpunkter, partiet har vedtaget at ville arbejde for: Nemlig fokus på et mere lige samfund, kvinders rettigheder og omsorg for miljøet. Emner, det burde være fuldstændig naturligt at arbejde for i en lille nation, der egentlig har mange gode forudsætninger for at trives. Men som altså ikke gør det af sig selv.

”Vores og DIPD´s bidrag betyder i allerhøjeste grad noget for udviklingen af demokrati i landet, ” understreger Jan Juul Christensen. ”Vi er med til at vise, at det kan lade sig gøre, selv i et enevældigt kongedømme. Vi er med til at støtte en proces, der langt fra er færdig, men dog er kommet meget længere i den tid, vi har arbejdet sammen med SWADEPA. Og DIPD´s engagement giver yderlige hele projektet den blåstempling, der understreger det vigtige i demokrati, i frie og lige valg – uanset politiske holdninger i øvrigt.”

Arbejdet med at sikre flerpartidemokrati i Swaziland er langt fra i mål. I det de facto enevældige kongedømme, er valg fortsat udemokratiske og uigennemskuelige, og parlamentet har ikke mulighed for at holde regeringen ansvarlig. Derfor vil samarbejdet mellem Socialdemokratiet og SWADEPA også forsætte i 2018.

Partisekretær, Jan Juul Christensen, EU & Int. Sekretær, Simon Redder Thomsen, Int. Konsulent, Iben Merrild og Praktikant, Jonas Messerschmidt til SWADEPAs første kongres.

Mere information

Læs mere om Socialdemokratiets partnerskab med SWADEPA.

For mere information kontakt projektkoordinator hos DIPD, Mathias Parsbæk Skibdal: maps@dipd.dk

For mere information kontakt International Konsulent hos Socialdemokratiet, Iben Merrild: iben@socialdemokratiet.dk

Collaboration During Crisis in Nepal

The recent monsoon has caused a massive flooding in Nepal particularly in the southern belt known as the Tarai where most of Nepal’s population dwell. This disaster has reportedly affected nearly six million people jeopardizing their fundamental human security.

The Steering Committee members of Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS), DIPD’s local partner in Nepal, met last week to explore collaborative multiparty initiatives which could be implemented immediately to help the disaster-affected people.

Floods and Political Challenges  

The Monsoon season that generally lasts from June to September frequently causes floods and landslides in Nepal. This year, relentless downpours caused the worst floods in decades, seriously damaging 13 districts in the mainly Tarai region. Most of these districts, eight of them, fall in the Province 2, where the final-phase of the local elections are scheduled to take place on 18 September.

A coalition of the Madhesi-based parties dominant in the Tarai known as the Madhesi Morcha had boycotted the earlier phase of the local elections because their demands which include more representation and re-demarcation of federal provinces were not met. The Morcha had been agitating against the government with these demands since the promulgation of the new Constitution.

One of the major agendas of the present coalition government led by the Nepali Congress was to sort out the differences with the Madhesi Morcha to bring them to the election table. In late August, the government tabled a bill relating to the constitutional amendments for a voting in the Parliament. Even though the bill was not passed due to opposition from the second largest party in the Parliament, the Madhesi parties decided to participate in the elections. Yet, the recent floods have added new challenges to the planned elections.

Around 150 people have been already killed by the floods. Millions have been displaced from their homes including small children. Due to a disruption in the communication system, many people stranded in remote areas are not rescued yet. There’s an acute shortage of food and drinking water.

The government’s response has been inadequate. Nepal is still in a political transition and given the focus of the government on dealing with the political issues, the governance structures in Nepal have not been boosted to respond to these kinds of challenges. In effect, Nepal is facing a grave humanitarian crisis.

 

Deepening Multiparty Collaboration  

The six major political parties in the JOMPOPS platform have been collaborating with each other since 2011 on a broad spectrum of issues such as promoting women in politics and strengthening local branches of the political parties. In 2015, when a massive earthquake of nearly 7.8 magnitude struck Nepal, the SC members decided that they should tread beyond their regular areas of work and offer assistance collectively to assuage the ongoing crisis.

JOMPOPS decided to release a joint press statement appealing to the central and local level party leaders and cadres to deepen multi-party collaboration in times of crisis, which encouraged political parties at the local level to collaborate with each other during that national emergency.

JOMPOPS had also requested for DIPD’s support on this initiative arguing that such crisis situations offer an exceptional opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of multiparty collaboration. And DIPD should not only rely on formal training and workshops to promote multiparty culture.

As the country was confronted with yet another difficult natural disaster this year, JOMPOPS Steering Committee members again decided to meet immediately to explore multiparty initiatives that could help in this national crisis. That meeting was also an opportunity for the political leaders to discuss about the upcoming final-phase of the local elections.

In that meeting, the Steering Committee members from the Tarai region informed about the ground situation in the flood affected areas. One of the Steering Committee members shared that in some parts the survivors had a difficult time even to find a dry piece of land to burn or bury the dead. Another Steering Committee member informed that hundreds of homes have been destroyed rendering thousands of people homeless.

Finally, the SC members decided to provide at least some symbolic relief support jointly by coordinating with the local party workers from all the parties in JOMPOPS essentially to manifest the significance of multiparty collaboration during the times of trouble.

The Steering Committee members also decided that they would play a supportive role inside their respective parties to mitigate the impediments to the remaining local elections and to ensure that the elections are conducted successfully.

Youth Day Celebration in Myanmar: Enhancing the Participation of Political Party Youth in the Peace Process

“Youth Building Peace” was the theme of the 2017 International Youth Day. The Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme conducted a two-day workshop in relation to the theme, in order to enhance the role of the political youth as civic actors in the peace process.

During the period of the NLD Government the peace process has been one of the major priority issues. Peace has furthermore been a very sensitive issue throughout the entire transition period. In the contemporary transition and peacemaking in Myanmar, it is important that youth get the opportunity to be involved in the process and have a say in the debate as equal civic actors. The youth are the ones to lead the country in the years to come, and their engagement is much aligned with a successful transition.

Workshop day 1: briefing and panel discussion

Mr Nyut from the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) was invited to partake in the Youth Day workshop as a resource person and to conduct a briefing on “Myanmar’s Conflict and the Understanding of Myanmar’s Peace Process”.

“Our country is still behind other countries, but if we choose to acknowledge the leading role of young people and the capacities that young people have, then we will be closer to other countries,” said Mr. Nyut.

Following a question session, where the participating multi-party youth was given the chance to ask Mr. Nyut further  questions, the program proceeded with a panel-discussion. The theme of the talk in this section was “Peace Dialogues”. Partaking in the panel was U Sai Kyaw Nyut (UPDJC), Dr. Sithu Swe (UNFPA) and Wint Tae Kaung Myat (MIPSS) and the debate was moderated by Salai David Van Bawi Mang (Youth Coordinator – DIPD).

The panelists discussed several themes concerning the current peace process, including: How the youth and young women can participate in the peace process (Gender and Peace), Peace Education, United Nations Security Solution #2250 and the common challenges of youth participation in peace processes.

Workshop day 2: Visualizing peace and the founding of a Multiparty Youth Platform  

The second day of the International Youth Day celebrations was kicked off by watching the video-message from the UN Secretary General and the U.N. Secretary-General’s first Youth Envoy. After that the peace singers, Saw Phoe Kwar, Lin Htet Oo and Zun Zi (Visual Artist & Creative Advocacy Trainer) shared experiences on the peace process in speeches and by singing songs of peace.

The singing was followed by more activities of creative character, as the participants were asked to visually portray their  understanding of peace. Some participants even used the opportunity to write and present a poem on the meaning of peace.

 

“We need to make a mutual understanding for the peace process, we need to share our culture to each other, we need to communicate to each other and if we can build up a trust to each other, we will then get peace, definitively,”said Zunzin (Visual Artist and Creative Advocacy Trainer).

After the celebration and creative section of the second day, followed a talk on “the Youth and Young Women’s participation” presented by Daw Khin Ma Ma Myo from Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security Studies.

The second day was wrapped up by the participants splitting into groups to discuss how the multiparty youth could help out each other, raising awareness of the importance of engaging youth in decision making and peace making processes. The respective groups wrote down the ideas, and presented them to each other. Amongst the ideas were building common peace education programs, making a lobbying network, campaigning for more youth inclusion together as multiparty youth etc. The discussions were very engaging lively and constructive, and had an outcome of tangible ideas that a future multiparty youth-network can put to life.

During the two-day workshop 16 media groups participated. The media conducted stories by interviewing the political youth and the participating resource persons. The MMDP International Youth Day workshop was widely covered in the news, as it made several highlighted stories in newspapers and other broadcasting media.

In total 65 multiparty youth from across the country participated in the workshop, and they successfully founded a Multiparty Youth Platform currently called the “National and Multiparty Youth Working-Group for Peace”. DIPD will continuously support the youth participation in the peace process in Myanmar through the Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme (MMDP), which will continue to engage in activities and counselling of the multiparty youth in Myanmar.

More information
Read more about the Myanmar programme here: www.myanmarmultiparty.org

Contact DIPD Senior Advisor, Hanne  Lund Madsen: hlm@dipd.dk

Contact DIPD Country Representative for Myanmar, Khin Thazin Myint: ktzm@dipd.dk