A Social Democratic Asia: Strengthening Inclusive Policy Formulation

A Social Democratic Asia: Strengthening Inclusive Policy Formulation

Written by Jens Georg Bagge, National Executive Member and Member of the Advisory Board, Danish Social Democratic Party.

As part of the Social Democratic Party’s partnership with the regional network SocDem Asia, I attended a regional conference ultimo September in Yangon, Myanmar, on inclusive policy formulation, togeter with the SDP International Consultant, Iben Merrild, and the SDP International Secretary, Simon Redder Thomsen. My task was to share experiences of how we in the Social Democratic Party in Denmark develop inclusive policy and navigate obstacles when it comes to implementation.

The importance of coming together

The conference provided an opportunity for our partners and sister parties, the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) and Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), Myanmar, Nepali Congress (NC), Nepal, and Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party, Philippines, to showcase the policy papers they have been developing over the last year and to share these experiences with the other South and South East Asian member parties in the network. In short, the two parties (DPNS and SNLD) in Myanmar have been working to create a political platform for a peace process in Myanmar, advocating for changes to the constitution. Akbayan in the Philippines has been working on a policy to ensure access to free medicine for the local population, and Nepali Congress in Nepal has worked on social inclusion in the constitution.

But more than that the conference was a milestone for the Burmese parties. Particularly for  DPNS, which has spent many years in exile, hosting their first international gathering on Burmese soil – counting representatives from social democratic parties and formations in Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, India, Mongolia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Denmark – was an occasion to celebrate. However, this was dampened by the harsh reality of the situation facing the persecuted muslim minority in the country, the Rohingyas. An unacceptable situation, which was heavily criticised by the SDP International Secretary, Simon Redder Thomsen, but a situation which local parties regrettably find it difficult to speak out on due to threats of regime clamp downs by a military that operates outside civilian control.

Exchanging local experiences

As the headline suggests, the focus was on how policy can be formulated, democratically and inclusive. In this context it was my task to give a concrete practical example of how we in Denmark think inclusion when we, as a political party, develop and formulate policy in the various welfare areas in Denmark. I had chosen to share an example based on the hospital plan for the Region of Zealand which was formulated in 2010, and has since been implemented regularly despite shifting political majorities and regional presidents.

The example was chosen because the process involved many different stakeholders, such as various health professionals, including many different municipal and professional health care organizations. In addition, it highlighted the need for politicians to work closely with local party political interests. Secondly, health is a basic welfare issue that is always of interest – not least for Akbayan in the Philippines, focusing on the campaign for free medicine. Our focus was first of all to exemplify inclusion in the democratic and political decision making processes, where networking is an important focus point for achieving goals.

This along with the experiences and challenges shared by the other parties allowed for fruitful discussions. Not least, the prerequisites for the Danish health service raised great interest. While the different parties still face obstacles to varying degrees, the conference also showed that besides the policy paper themselves progress has been made and future opportunities exist. Nepali Congress has pushed for greater representation and inclusion of women in the municipal election, with the need to push further still in the area of social inclusion in the constitution. In Myanmar the inclusive process of policy formulation has been beneficial to the DPNS building a closer link and understanding with the rural population and workers in cities, focusing on a basis for further democratisation in Myanmar. Similarly, Akbayan, has identified areas that ensure the financial resources to implement the policy developed, however this will require both internal and external campaigns in the future.

More information

Read more about the Social Democratic Party’s partnership with SocDem Asia.

Contact International Consultant at the Social Democratic Party, Iben Merrild: ibme@socialdemokratiet.dk

Contact project coordinator at DIPD, Bo Karlsen: boka@dipd.dk