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Posts from the ‘Myanmar’ Category

DIPD’s Work on Youth in Politics Is Rated as Promising Practice

In an independent review of more than 76 global programmes in support of youth, DIPD’s engagement in promoting youth in politics is considered promising practice that can inspire both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and other organisations.

The Danish MFA undertook the review to inform the MFA on how to optimize and operationalise Denmark’s new development cooperation strategy and its particular focus on youth.

In the new strategy Denmark has committed to give young people “… the opportunity to enhance their participation and influence in society as involved, committed and equal actors with the ability and opportunity to take developments into their own hands.” The strategy outlines that these objectives are to be achieved through various measures within policy, programme and partnerships. The review was undertaken in view of these two main strands.

While DIPD’s youth programmes are not directly part of the MFA’s youth portfolio, DIPD’s method of work was included by the review team, discussed by the international youth panel involved in the review and rated as promising practice:

Promising practice: Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD); strengthening youth involvement in the political parties through inspiration and exchange between political parties’ youth wings.

DIPD supports democracy through support to political parties in developing countries with funding from Danida, partly through the Danish political parties and partly through direct support to multi-party democracy initiatives. DIPD has identified the strengthening of youth involvement and participation within the political parties in developing countries as one of a limited number of areas where Danish support can add specific value. In cooperation between DUF and DIPD, a guideline on ‘how to build a youth wing’ has been developed by young Danish youth wing members, used as training and inspiration material. Exchange activities between the young members from Denmark and Egypt, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, Palestine, Myanmar, Bhutan, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya and Bolivia has been implemented. DIPD has both directly implemented and funded a number of projects, through Danish political parties, their youth wings and youth members in developing countries to increase focus on and strengthen youth as political actors. A recent evaluation found that ‘project activities gave the young participants new skills and self-esteem, particularly among young women in traditionalist societies’.

Extracts from: Youth Leading the World 2030: A review of Danida’s Youth- Related Engagements, Final Report, 2017, p. 12

 

Youth in politics activities in Myanmar

DIPD employs a systemic approach to working with youth in politics that engages party leadership and agenda setting through advocacy, focuses on party structures and processes that facilitates or hinders youth engagement, and finally capacitates youth and facilitates multiparty youth dialogues and platforms.

With this approach the institute and the Danish political parties together with youth and partners are very well placed to initiate and facilitate change relating to several of the main recommendations in the review. The recommendations, which DIPD can make a particular contribution to, are listed below:

  • Unleashing young people’s agency – Support formal and informal youth-led organisations, networks and movements to lead, initiate, design and implement their own initiatives – Several of DIPD’s programmes are supporting leadership development of youth and the establishment of youth wings or youth platforms that can take independent action and agency.
  • Prioritise youth-to-youth exchanges between Denmark and developing countries, particular between youth-led organisations and movements. In DIPD’s work exchange between party youth in cooperation countries and party youth in Denmark is a center piece. Mutual learning and peer dialogue has taken place with youth in Egypt, Malawi, Kenya, Myanmar and Palestine – just to mention a few.
  • Support linkages between youth and gender movements, and promote the nexus of the two – In several of DIPD’s programmes – for example in Malawi and Myanmar – the strategies on youth involvement interact with measures to involve more women in political parties. Often the agenda setting work is focused on both youth and gender.
  • Champion Youth priorities in National Policy Dialogues with Governments in Priority Countries – while it takes time and concerted action to facilitate youth dialogues on national policies, it also takes national opportunities for policy input to make it fly. In Myanmar the current formulation process of the National Youth Policy is an ideal opportunity for DIPD to facilitate input from the youth through the DIPD supported Multiparty Youth Dialogue Platforms. In several other countries, such as Kenya and Malawi, similar processes are or have been underway.


More information

Visit DIPD’s partnership pages to read more about the institute’s work on youth in politics in various cooperation countries.

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

 

Myanmar’s By-Elections: Another Step Forward

On 1 April, Myanmar held its first elections under the new National League for Democracy (NLD) government. These by-elections, targeting 19 seats in the national and state/regional assemblies, showcased another well-administered election that returned a wide range of political parties to represent their constituencies. The ruling NLD won 8 of the 12 seats at play in the National Assemblies and 1 of the 7 seats up for grabs in the state/regional assemblies. The other big winner in the elections was the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), which captured 2 seats in the national assembly and 4 seats in the Shan State Assembly. The military-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which was the ruling party before the 2015 elections, won one seat at the National Assembly and one seat in the Shan State Assembly, including a seat in the ethnic minority Mon State, which it captured from the NLD.

Other parties which won seats included the Arakan National Party, whose party leader Aye Maung captured a seat in the Pyithu Hluttaw from the USDP in Rakhine State. In Kayah State, ethnic minority party the All Nationals’ Democracy Party (Kayah State) won a state legislature seat in the only constituency that the ruling NLD did not contest.

Factory workers in Hlaing Thaya line up to vote during their lunch break

A peaceful and stable process

The results in the by-elections build on the previous success of Myanmar’s 2015 elections with high voter turnout in most locations. Preliminary turnout figures show turnout as high as 70 percent in some locations, with most areas having turnout numbers in the 40-50 percent range, reflecting generally high levels of interest for a by-election. The exception to this trend was Yangon, where turnout levels were low, especially in densely populated Hlaing Thayar Township, where turnout barely exceeded 12 percent.

Voters also demonstrated a high level of competence in casting ballots, with relatively few invalid votes cast. The exception was in the townships of Kyethi and Mongshu in Shan State. Here voters were casting ballots for the first time in seven years after a period of instability, and high levels of invalid votes were recorded.

Preliminary statements from observer groups gave positive assessments of the overall election process. Executive director Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint from the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE) noted:

“Generally the election process was peaceful and stable. There were no major problems that disrupted the elections.”

European Union observers congratulated the UEC for managing “smooth, professional and transparent by-elections” that were part of a “credible and competitive electoral process.” The Asian Network for Free Elections largely agreed with these assessments, noting that the UEC “did well.” Polling stations visited by DIPD generally demonstrated an orderly and transparent voting process that enabled voters to cast their vote in secret and allowed party/candidate polling agents to witness the counting process.

Proud voters in Hlaing Thaya show their inked fingers

Ethnic minority parties demonstrated both strength and weakness

While the elections will not have a significant effect on the balance of power in any of the assemblies (with the exception of Kayah State where the NLD has lost its majority), a few notable areas stand out in terms of continuity and trends of change. First, the NLD remains extremely popular, especially in the areas dominated by the majority Bamar ethnic group, winning landslide victories in Yangon, Bago, and Monywa. The NLD also held on to its Upper House seat in Chin State, an ethnic minority area, and its seat in Nyaungshwe, an ethnic minority area in Shan State. On this evidence, the popularity of the NLD remains very high, despite some modest shifts, as in the party’s loss in Kayah State (where the NLD failed to field a candidate) and in Mon State, where the NLD was defeated by the USDP.

Second, ethnic minority parties continue to demonstrate both strength and weakness. Ethnic minority parties easily captured some seats in ethnic minority regions, including Shan State’s Kyethi and Mongshu, as well as in Rakhine State and Kayah State.

However, ethnic minority parties performed relatively poorly in a number of other ethnic minority states including Chin State and Mon State, where the NLD and USDP continue to command the largest shares of voters.

Even in Shan State, where ethnic parties won a majority of seats up for grabs in the by-elections, the NLD and the USDP still captured seats in areas where ethnic parties were weak or divided. A number of observers predicted a swing away from NLD to ethnic parties during the by-elections, but evidence for this shift is mixed. The NLD lost its seat in Mon State, but the seat went to the USDP rather than to ethnic parties. The USDP also lost one seat in Rakhine State to the Rakhine nationalist ANP – Rakhine is the clearest case of a shift toward ethnic minority parties.

Government performances have an impact

Finally, the by-elections provide tentative evidence that government performance has an impact on voters’ behavior at the polls. In areas suffering from conflict, such as in Shan State, voters cast their support for an ethnic minority party promising them a voice. In Mon State, where a recent dispute over whether a bridge should be named after a national leader or given a Mon name, voters may have expressed their dissatisfaction with the NLD’s response to local demands. Rakhine State serves as a case study of how ethnic minority grievances can lead voters to support ethnic minority parties that campaign to address those grievances. Although these conclusions are still preliminary, they provide a modest indication that voters will unseat parties that fail to meet their expectations.

Polling officials display a ballot in Mongshu

Preparing for the by-elections

In the run-up to the by-elections, DIPD provided a range of support to parties and their candidates, including campaign training, party polling agent training and convening dialogues between parties and election commission representatives. Win Than, a USDP polling agent in Kyauktagga, Bago Region received training from DIPD that helped him understand his roles and responsibilities as a polling agent, and also the codes of conduct that observers and polling station members should follow.

SNLD’s Sai Win Aye described how SNLD’s polling agents in Mongshu were trained directly by DIPD and also shared updated information with other party polling agents. Sai Win Aye, who won the Lower House seat for Mongshu Township, also highlighted the importance of campaign training that helped prepare parties and their candidates for the by-elections.

Party and candidate agents, one of the major targets of DIPD’s assistance, were an important factor in the by-elections, serving as observers to prevent malpractice and fraud. According to a preliminary report of PACE, party/candidate agents were present at 86% of polling stations, including 94% of Yangon polling stations. Most of the observers were from leading parties NLD and USDP, but PACE also noted the presence of observers from ethnic minority parties in ethnic minority regions.

DIPD’s team members in Mongshu, for example, observed a very well-organized polling agent team for the SNLD in the constituency. While the level of competence of these party/candidate agents varied greatly—in one polling station in Yangon DIPD witnessed party observers carefully checking off voters on the voter list, whereas in other polling stations agents seemed to have little understanding of their role—the widespread presence of agents provided an important check against fraud and abuse on polling day.

A number of areas for reform still remain to consolidate the progress made in holding democratic elections in Myanmar. These include changes to constituency delimitation, candidate eligibility, election dispute resolution procedures, among others. The 1 April by-election, however, represents an important step in consolidating the holding of credible and transparent elections that broadly reflect the will of the voters. DIPD will continue to work with political parties and other stakeholders in the electoral process to support transparent and credible elections in 2020 and beyond.

A large crowd waits to vote at a polling station in Mongshu

 

More information

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

Contact DIPD’s Country Coordinator in Myanmar, Khin Thazin Myint: ktzm@dipd.dk

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

DIPD’ polling agents training activities for by-election

In advance of Myanmar’s 1 April by-elections, the first test of elections under the NLD government, parties are watching to make sure that the elections are conducted in a credible and transparent way. To this end, parties are their organizing teams of polling agents to observe the by-elections.

In support of parties’ efforts to observe the by-elections, DIPD’s Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme replicated its 2015 political party polling agent training sessions, targeting party polling agents in Shan State, Chin State, Yangon Region and Bago Region. During February and March, DIPD used interactive and innovative training methods to give party polling agents practical and hands on experience in the key elements of election observation. A total of 258 participants learned about the roles and responsibilities of party polling agents, the detailed steps of polling day processes and how to monitor them, and identified possible irregularities in the elections. “This training is good opportunity for me; in this training I learnt election processes, voting procedures, and rules and regulations through interactive exercises…[there are not a lot of such opportunities] in rural areas like Chin State”, according to Van Thawng from Nga Phyne Thae Village, Htantlang, Chin State, representing the NLD.

MMDP Polling Agent Training ahead of Myanmar by-elections in March 2017.

On the second day of each training session, DIPD also invited chairpersons and other representatives of the Electoral Commission, which allowed participants a useful opportunity to clarify important information regarding election and their roles as polling agents, and raise any questions or concerns for response by the electoral officials. “It’s very rare chance to meet and hold interactive discussion with the UEC sub-commissioner. I was able to clarify my confusion of some information which was released by the UEC,” reflected U Myo Naing Oo from the Akha National Development Party, Kengtung, Shan State.

U Than Lwin Mying, the secretary of Shan regional UEC, provides valuable inputs.

According to U Ye Myint, the Chairperson of the Yangon Division Election Commision, “We welcome DIPD doing polling agents trainings and supporting with effective courses and information for political parties before by-election. This kind of political party capacity support is necessary for our country during its democracy transition.” DIPD will continue to support parties’ participation in the electoral process in Myanmar, including as party polling agents, in the run-up to the 2020 general elections.

All smiles at the MMDP Polling Agent Training.

More information

Read more about DIPD’s engagement in Myanmar.

Contact DIPD’s Country Coordinator in Myanmar, Khin Thazin Myint: ktzm@dipd.dk

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

DIPD’s work on Youth in Politics is rated as Promising Practice

In an independent review of more than 76 global programmes in support of youth, DIPD’s engagement with promoting youth in politics is considered as promising practice that can inspire both the MFA and other organisations.

The Danish MFA undertook the review to inform how the MFA optimizes and operationalises the new Development Cooperation Strategy and it’s particular focus on youth.

In the new Strategy Denmark has committed to giving young people “ the opportunity to enhance their participation and influence in society as involved, committed and equal actors with the ability and opportunity to take developments into their own hands” Moreover the strategy outlines that these objectives are to be achieved through various measures within policy, programme and partnerships. The review was undertaken in view of these two main strands in mind.

Minister for Development, Ulla Tørnæs, presents a review of MFA’a youth engagements.

While DIPD’s youth programmes are not directly part of the MFAs youth portfolio, DIPD’s method of work was included by the review team and also discussed by the international youth panel involved in the review itself and rated as promising practice.


Promising practice: Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD); strengthening youth involvement in the political parties through inspiration and exchange between political parties’ youth wings.

DIPD supports democracy through support to political parties in developing countries with funding from Danida, partly through the Danish political parties and partly through direct support to multi-party democracy initiatives. DIPD has identified the strengthening of youth involvement and participation within the political parties in developing countries as one of a limited number of areas where Danish support can add specific value. In cooperation between DUF and DIPD, a guideline on ‘how to build a youth wing’ has been developed by young Danish youth wing members, used as training and inspiration material. Exchange activities between the young members from Denmark and Egypt, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, Palestine, Myanmar, Bhutan, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya and Bolivia has been implemented. DIPD has both directly implemented and funded a number of projects, through Danish political parties, their youth wings and youth members in developing countries to increase focus on and strengthen youth as political actors. A recent evaluation found that ‘project activities gave the young participants new skills and self-esteem, particularly among young women in traditionalist societies’.

Youth leading the world 2030: a review of Danida’s youth-related engagements, Final Report, 2017, p. 12


Danish and Egyptian youth share experiences on the Nile.

DIPD employs a systemic approach to working with youth in politics that both engages party leadership  and agenda setting through advocacy, look at party structures and processes that facilitates or hinders youth engagement and finally capacitates youth and facilitates multiparty youth dialogues and platforms.

With this approach the institute and the Danish political parties together with youth and partners are very well placed to initiate and facilitate change relating to several of the main recommendations of the review. The recommendations where DIPD can make a particular contribution are listed below:

  • Unleashing young people’s agency – Support formal and informal youth-led organisations, networks and movements to lead, initiate, design and implement their own initiatives – Several of DIPDs programmes are supporting leadership development of the youth and the establishment of youth wings or youth platforms that can take own action and agency.
  • Prioritise youth-to-youth exchanges between Denmark and developing countries, particular between youth-led organisations and movements. In DIPD’s work the exchange between party youth in cooperation countries and party youth in Denmark is a center piece and mutual learning and peer dialogue has taken place with youth in Egypt, Malawi, Kenya, Myanmar, Palestine, just to mention a few.
  • Support linkages between youth and gender movements, and promote the nexus of the two – In several of DIPD’s programmes – for example in Malawi and Myanmar, the strategies on youth involvement interact with measures to involve more women in political parties and often the agenda setting work is focused on both youth and gender.
  • Champion Youth priorities in National Policy Dialogues with Governments in Priority Countries – while it takes time and concerted action to facilitate youth dialogues on national policies it also takes national opportunities for policy input to make it fly. In Myanmar the current formulation process of the National Youth Policy came as a welcome opportunity for DIPD to facilitate input from the youth through the DIPD supported Multiparty Youth Dialogue Platforms. In several other countries such as Kenya and Malawi similar processes are or have been underway.

In DIPD’s updated Global Strategy for 2018-2021 Youth in Politics will continue to figure prominently.

Danida report on youth engagements.

More information

Read more about DIPD’s youth engagement in Myanmar.

Read more about DIPD’s youth engagement in Egypt and watch FUTURE DEMOCRATS – a film about the Danish-Egyptian Youth Network.

Read more about The Socialist People’s Party and the Liberal Party’s joint partnership in Malawi.

Contact Project Coordinator at DIPD, Mathias Parsbæk Skibdal: maps@dipd.dk


 

Preparing Parties for Campaigns

As Myanmar’s April by-elections approach, political parties are preparing for the campaigns and elections. For some constituencies, including Kyethi and Mongshu Constituencies in Shan State, these will be the first elections held in many years. Numerous challenges remain for parties as they learn how to conduct regular campaign activities and win votes in a competitive multiparty dispensation.

To support effective and democratic campaigning approaches by political parties, DIPD, through its Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme, held capacity building sessions for all parties participating in the elections and their candidates on “Preparing Parties for Campaign” in Nay Pyi Taw from 13th– 14th January, in Yangon from 23rd to 24th January and in Taunggyi from 29th– 30th January.   Participation by parties and their candidates was high, and even included parties preparing for the 2020 elections. A total of 139 participants from 13 political parties and six Independent Candidates attended the respective capacity building trainings in Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon and Taunggyi. The capacity building activity served as a platform to identify challenges in campaigning and develop solutions to address on those challenges through social media and other techniques.

Stimulating exercise on door to door campaigning being conducted during the session of Messaging & Targeting at Nay Pyi Taw

“It is vital to listen to the needs of the voters in your constituencies.  Knowing the opinion leaders and key players in your constituencies such as township or village chairman is an asset in getting updated information about the constituencies and their needs,” said Mindy Walker, Consultant Trainer, who encouraged parties and candidates to reach out to their constituents and understand their interests. The participants discussed the challenges in accessibility and voter awareness in rural constituencies as well as the coordination between political parties and journalists on reporting processes.

“Technical inputs regarding messaging and campaigning are still much needed and welcomed during this transition period of Myanmar,” according to Dr. Kyaw Htay, the Central Secretary of USDP. Broader concerns remain regarding social media campaigning in the rural constituencies with limited internet access. U Myo Min Aung, Communication Officer from MIDO, reinforced the need for increased ICT awareness in rural areas of Myanmar to facilitate easier communication.  MIDO demonstrated a range of different social media platforms such as Facebook, Viber and Beetalk that can be useful in promoting political dialogue and sharing information.

DIPD’s commitment to supporting parties and their candidates to be peaceful and democratic participants in Myanmar’s elections will help build a democratic multiparty system for the years to come. While numerous challenges lie ahead, DIPD’s support is useful to parties as they seek to establish a more level playing field and positive electoral competition.

Daw Nan Kaung Kham, 2017 by-election regional Hluttaw Candidate from SNLD, practicing her campaigning speech during the session of Campaigning & Messaging at Taunggyi, Shan State

 

More information

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

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