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Policy Advocacy and Budget Monitoring in Myanmar

The Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme (MMDP) conducted a two days capacity building session on “Policy Advocacy and Budget Monitoring’ for the political party youth in Kachin State on 3-4 May. The event supported political party youth to understand how to advocate on Myanmar’s National Youth Policy, raising awareness on budget processes at regional and state level including how to monitor it make the budget process more responsive to youth demands. Youth representatives from the National Youth Policy drafting committee also briefed the participants on the current process of making the Myanmar National Youth Policy. The event was held from 3rd to 4th May 2017 at Myitkyina, Kachin State.

A total of 43 youth from 14 political parties attended with 36 percent of the participants being young women. U Zaw Win, member of parliament form the Kachin State Parliament and the Chairperson of Public Finance and Accounts Committee shared the process of how state budget allocations work and the political party youth had a chance to asked questions and reports on their local issues. Local partners Naushawng Development Institute (NDI) and Kachin State Youth Network (KSYN) facilitated a discussion among the participants on their role in budget advocacy.

According to U Zaw Win, Budget monitoring is everyone’s responsibility. The member of national youth policy drafting committee and the youth coordinator of DIPD shared the process of National Youth Policy and the local youth policy timelines and drafting process. “Who will be effectives from National Youth Policy and is it only for one Ethnic group? asked by Maran Bran Shawng from Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). That is the main concern from ethnic group on adopting process of Myanmar National Youth Policy. They have a chance to be raising their feedback on consultation process of youth policy in coming June to July.

The trainer Pyae Phyo Aung from the Way partner of DIPD explained the meaning of advocacy and tools for political party youth with good examples, the process and type of advocacy. The female participant, Taung Alay Mie from Lisu National Development Party said” The training is really effective because we got a lot of advocacy tools, knowledge and information.

The DIPD will continue to support political party youth to increase their meaningful participation concerns in the Myanmar Youth Policy process and in the budget monitoring. This support will contribute to enhancing the abilities of parties to ensure that youth policies and government budgets reflect the concerns of their youth constituents throughout the country.

Reporting on Peace and Conflict in Kachin

Is there press freedom under the new government? Are the media and political parties able to channel the voices of citizens living in conflict situations? These questions are very crucial for the media and parties wrestling with such challenges in Myanmar today.

To understand these questions, and to promote dialogue between parties and the media on these issues, DIPD and the Myanmar Press Council (MPC), jointly organized a dialogue on “Reporting on Peace and Conflict: Enhancing People’s Voice and Accountability” in Myitkyina, Kachin State, one of Myanmar’s conflict-affected regions, from 30 April-1 May. During the course of the two days, representatives of the MPC shared information on press freedom, the media law, and the role of media in reporting on conflict. The group of media and parties identified the challenges and discussed possible solutions to generate more effective and people-centered reporting on the peace process and ongoing conflicts.  As U Thiha Saw of the MPC explained, “The media has to raise the public’s voice to increase accountability.”

During a panel discussion on the second day panel discussion, Lamai Gum Ja, a member of the Peace Talk Creation Group, U La Seng Aung, Senior Research and Lecturer of Naushawng Development Institute, U Kyaw Swa Min, co-secretary of Myanmar Press Council and Maran Seng Mai, the Chief Editor of Myitkyina News Journal held an open discussion on accountability in reporting on peace process and ongoing conflict situations. The participants raised questions on the Kachin peace process to the panelists and discussed their view on the talks of panelists.

Media in Kachin State highlighted that the regional government has seldom communicate with media in one year of their term. So Media and parties discussed the way to strengthen relationship between media and regional government in this workshop.

A total of 47 persons from 13 political parties and media groups participated in the event. In response to the issues discussed, participants committed to provide more publicity for the voices of members of the public affected by conflict. The participants also resolved to hold more regular dialogues on issues affecting different communities in Kachin State in order to promote public discussion of priority demands of the public.

Innovations and Inspiration in Party Building

Two political party pioneers in party building visited DIPD and the Myanmar political parties for frank and inspiring talks on party building with an innovative approach.

With the conclusion of the April by elections in Myanmar, political parties now have a three-year window before the next general elections. During this period, political parties will have an opportunity to re-organize, strategize and remake themselves in advance of the 2020 elections. As Myanmar’s political parties are relatively recently established or re-established, this window also provides a valuable opportunity for parties to concentrate on strengthening themselves to serve as more robust and participatory institutions. To provide inspiration to parties to take advantage of this opportunity, at the beginning of May DIPD hosted a delegation of party leaders from two of the fastest growing and most innovative parties in its network—the Alternative Party of Denmark and the Aam Aadmi Party of India.

Creativity in Party Building

Both the Alternative Party and the Aam Aadmi Party were formed in the last five years. They have used innovative methods to attract members and win voters. The Alternative won nine seats in Denmark’s Parliament, and the Aam Aadmi Party became the dominant party in Delhi’s Assembly. The Alternative has used creative methods to increase public participation, such as their policy laboratories to develop their party’s platform. Aam Aadmi uses new technology for transparent and ethical financing of its campaigns, which has attracted voters dissatisfied with vote buying and other unethical practices in Indian campaigns.  Each of these parties demonstrates how using creative new approaches can not only lead to more ethical campaigns and greater participation, but can also be winning strategies for parties.

Reaching out to new communities and constituencies

DIPD held a series of bilateral technical advisory sessions with political party leaders and political party alliance leaders, where the Alternative’s Tom Richter Hansen and Aam Aaadmi’s Raghav Chadha shared ideas and inspiration from their experiences in political party building and development. Myanmar’s political parties were particularly interested in the way in which the two parties had used new technologies for communication and new strategies to reach out to constituents to grow their membership and generate support from the younger generation. Raghav Chadha shared how Aam Aadmi had reached out to universities to generate greater youth participation, while also nominating young candidates to give young people an opportunity as representatives. Drawing on the Alternative’s innovative strategies, Tom Richter Hansen discussed how parties can increase participation by inviting the public to participate in policy formulation for the party, and also encourage party members to engage based on their specific policy interests.

Turning the challenges into opportunities

Party representatives participating in the bilateral meetings raised a number of interesting questions and ideas, claiming that the exchanges with the delegation were “quite useful” as they “consider lessons of how to reform themselves.” The party representatives also expressed interest in Aam Aadmi’s approaches for selecting clean candidates. In the area of reaching out to members and supporters, both Aam Aadmi’s techniques of using technology to cultivate a broader base of supporters and the Alternative’s intensive engagement of both members and non-members in policy program development contained useful lessons for Myanmar’s parties. On the final day of the delegation visit, the two visiting politicians shared ideas on a number of topics including party finance, party organizational development, and party communications with a multiparty group of political party leaders.

The innovations and inspiration shared by the delegation comes at an opportune time for parties as they have a chance to strategize and prepare for their political future. As U Tin Oo, the patron of the National League for Democracy remarked, “DIPD always gives us food for thought.” DIPD will continue to work with parties to provide technical support on how to incorporate relevant ideas communicated during the visit, helping parties to institutionalize themselves in a democratic and sustainable fashion.

Regional Collaboration Asia

A Progress on Regional Collaboration

The Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) hosted sixteen delegates from Bhutan, four from Denmark and ten from Myanmar last week in Kathmandu.

In addition to the members of Parliament and influential political leaders from Bhutan and Myanmar, the visiting delegates comprised of the Hon. Lyonpo Dorji Choden, Minister for Works & Human Settlement, the Hon. Tshewang Jurmi, the Chairperson of National Commission for Women and Children, Bhutan, Mr. Manu Sareen, the former Minister for Equality, Denmark, Ms. Lone Loklindt, former MP, Denmark, and the Hon. Mya Thaung, Chair of Women and Children Rights Committee, Myanmar.

The main purpose of their visit was to attend the second regional conference on promoting women in politics; the first regional conference was held in Myanmar in March 2016. The visit also focused on strengthening overall collaboration among three DIPD’s partner countries in the region.

Informal Interactions

A number of informal interactions were planned by JOMPOPS during the visit in order to foster a deeper connection among politicians from the three countries. After the introduction meeting on the day of arrival on 19 September 2016, the visiting delegates went to a local resort outside Kathmandu for further interaction.

In the resort, the visiting delegates from Bhutan and Myanmar along with JOMPOPS members participated in the presentation sessions on Communication Skills by Mr. Manu Sareen and on Leadership by Ms. Lone Loklindt. These presentations were based on the practical insights from the Danish leaders thereby the participants said that they found them useful and asked many questions which had immediate relevance to their day to day political work. The delegates also attended a session on Moderation Skills by a local expert; this session was focused on preparing the moderators for the conference.

Former Minister for Equality, Mr. Manu Sareen speaking at Conference Nepal 2016

Former Minister for Equality, Mr. Manu Sareen speaking at Conference Nepal 2016

Similarly, the visiting delegates were invited to the Steering Committee meeting of JOMPOPS. That occasion was used to update each other on the political situation as well as to explain DIPD’s supported activities in all the three countries. The intention behind these sharing was to inspire and encourage each other.

On the eve of the conference, a dinner was organized by JOMPOPS attended by the high-level political leaders and other prominent national and international guests. It was also the opportunity for the visiting delegates to meet with the members of the Social Justice and Human Rights Committee of Nepal’s Parliament – the host of the two-day regional conference.

On the final day of their visit, again all the delegates along with JOMPOPS members came together in a local restaurant to reflect on their visit, to share their inspirations and their insights.

Parliament Tour

The Social Justice and Human Rights Committee of Nepal’s Legislature-Parliament invited the visiting delegates from Bhutan, Denmark and Myanmar for a tour in the Parliament and hosted a small interaction event.

The Committee took the delegates to the old Parliament building in Singha durbar, Kathmandu. The staff members explained that the Parliament was shifted to a new premise in Baneshwor because of the space constraints. After the Constituent Assembly elections in 2008, the number of parliamentarians increased from 205 members in the lower house to around 601 members. Since the old Parliament could not accommodate the additional members, the Parliament was shifted to a new building.

In a brief interaction event presided by the two Secretaries of the Parliament Secretariat, the participants got to know about the history and background of Nepal’s Parliament. The Secretaries explained that the first Parliament of Nepal was elected in late 1950s so Nepal’s Parliament now has a long history of nearly 50 years.

JOMPOPS Steering Group member, guests including Former Member of Danish Parliament Lone Loklindt

JOMPOPS Steering Group member, guests including Former Member of Danish Parliament, Ms. Lone Loklindt

 

A Progress

Coming together of the three countries in Myanmar for the first regional women’s conference in March 2016 was a beginning of the regional collaboration. It was the first opportunity for the three countries to be introduced and to get to know each other.

The second regional conference gave further opportunities to understand each other and deepen the regional connections. All the three countries have now signed the Kathmandu Declaration together through which they commit to work towards promoting gender equality. Therefore, the Kathmandu visit should be considered as a progress in the regional collaboration.

Regional Conference on Women in Politics & Social Justice, Nepal 2016

Regional Conference on Women in Politics & Social Justice, Nepal 2016

The success of this regional collaboration will be tested in the third regional conference in Thimpu, Bhutan. This success would depend on if the three countries are ready to work together on implementing their commitments to practice. As aptly said by Henry Ford:

Coming together is a beginning;

Keeping together is progress;

Working together is success.

Parties put women on the Myanmar agenda

While the global conference, Women Deliver, leaves Copenhagen, Myanmar’s parties continue to promote the role of women in politics.

In the slipstream of the global Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, DIPD invited Dr. Mya Thaung, Chairman of the Women & Children’s Rights Committee in Myanmar’s Upper House, and Dr. Khin Nyo, member of the Health and Sports Committee in the Lower House, for a discussion on how to promote the role of women in politics within the newly formed parliament in Myanmar.

Mya Thaung has shown a keen interest in DIPD’s local efforts and acted as the keynote speaker at the beginning of March, when DIPD organized a regional seminar to provide political parties  with the opportunity to share strategies on how to increase opportunities for women’s representation in politics and political parties. Here, Thaung noted that “we all have to work to together to have more women participating in politics”.

That message was repeated today, as he discussed how the new NLD-led parliament can put women’s rights and participation on the agenda, and how DIPD can help facilitate cross-political dialogue among female parliamentarians.

Women ascending

During the March conference, which coincided with the International Women’s Day, parliamentarians from three DIPD partner countries, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan, as well as Denmark, shared valuable experiences, ideas and strategies. Even though women remain hugely underrepresented in parliaments in the region, the November 2015 parliamentary election in Myanmar was a big step forward for women’s political participation in the country. Here, the number of elected women tripled and now stands at 13 %, and women made a big impact in party campaigns and polling station management.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD was one of the frontrunners when it came to both female and youth participation during the elections. However, the new band of ministers remain largely male, with Aung San Suu Kyi being the only female minister. The road ahead therefore remains long and the need for gender balancing is still very current.

Strengthening dialogue

Promoting women’s participation in politics therefore continues to be a strategic focus for DIPD and the Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme. Working together with political parties, parliamentary committees and local women’s networks, DIPD are eager to facilitate cross-party dialogue on how to advance national agenda setting on women, how parties can become more gender responsive as well as develop the capacities of female party members through mentoring and networking.

Read the report from the Women’s conference here.

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