Halfway through its mandate, the National League for Democracy (NLD) led-government has faced numerous challenges, with the peace process in a deadlock and growing international pressure calling for repatriation and citizenship rights of the stateless Rohingya community. Myanmar’s political transition has suffered from continuing tensions. Broad-based policy debate and civil society input to policymaking remains limited by a hierarchical decision-making culture within the ruling party and beyond. The mistrust between the elected government and the civilian administration, traditionally dominated by the military, has further hindered the debate and implementation of much needed reforms.
The inability of the government to deliver on its main electoral promises resonated in the results of the 2018 by-elections, which showed an increased popular support toward the main opposition party and ethnic parties at the expense of the NLD. Progress was made, however, to make local governments more accountable to their citizens: for the first time, the government of the city of Yangon will be elected by universal suffrage. In addition, the powerful General Administration Department was moved from the military-controlled Home Affairs Ministry to the Ministry of the Office of the Union Government, paving the way for a civilian state administration.
What we do
DRI has been active in Myanmar since 2013. Collaborating with diverse stakeholders, DRI focuses on key issues in the electoral framework and constitution that underpin the democratic reform process and are vital to a sustainable transition. DRI provides on-demand expertise and comparative knowledge about democratisation and constitutional reform processes, offering key civil society actors informed options for democratic reform and the strengthening of civic engagement in the broader transition process.
DRI’s work helps to strengthen the capacity of national civil society organisations and empower them to act as strong advocates for reform. By bringing together civil society and key decision-makers, DRI contributes to an open, collaborative debate about constitutional and electoral process and facilitates conflict transformation.
To address essential questions on Myanmar’s peace process, DRI invites members of parliament, citizen groups, government officials and ethnic armed organizations to informally exchange views on self-determination, right to secession, decentralization and federalism to roundtables throughout the year. The roundtables complement the ongoing negotiations in the peace process and provide an opportunity for these actors to hear from international experts and national experts from civil society organizations.
(YCDC) Yangon City Development Committee
We work with YCDC to provide YCDC staff, who will be monitoring the conduct of the YCDC elections, a better understanding of the essential elements of democracy and the standards for free and fair elections, with a specific focus on the role, functions and structure of the local level of government, and municipal elections.
Myanmar Democracy Fellowship
This unique training and networking programme, held in cooperation with the group Charity-Oriented Myanmar, is a one-year fellowship which provides young democracy professionals with skills in legal and policy analysis based on international human rights law and comparative expertise. The programme has been running since 2016 and builds bridges amongst fellows from different ethnic groups and backgrounds and includes meetings with decision-makers as well as study visits to government institutions.
The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission MNHRC
DRI Myanmar is working with MNHRC to work with the Myanmar government to ratify (ICCPR) International Civil and Political Right and improve cooperation with CSO to promote and protect human right.
Through a series of workshops in 2018, the Commission and citizen groups identified areas for collaboration, in particular on raising awareness of international human rights principles and the protection system. The events were based on DRIs publication, and provided comparative cases and examples of joint activities. International guests from the Nepal Commission for Human Rights and the Philippines Commission for Human Rights provided practical insights and showcased the many benefits of working collectively.
Support to Electoral Processes and Democracy – STEP Democracy
The European Union (EU) funded project ‘Support to Electoral Processes and Democracy – STEP II Democracy’ – supports inclusive, peaceful and credible electoral processes, and enhances the capacity of stakeholders to strengthen the democratic transition in Myanmar. The programme works to deepen awareness of advocacy and reform and plays a key role in supporting the administration of credible elections, which were widely perceived to be the first step in Myanmar’s wider democratic transition.
STEP Democracy is an integrated programme closely coordinated with key national stakeholders and the Union Election Commission (UEC), political parties and civil society organizations involved in domestic election observation, voter and civic education, and advocacy for reform.
The programme is unique in bringing national and international expertise to a wide range of Myanmar’s electoral stakeholders, and firmly entrenches local ownership throughout all phases of the electoral cycle. Its methodologies have proven to make knowledge transfer sustainable through comprehensive technical advice, capacity development, voter education, and dialogue promotion.
Value, rights and religion: Change makers vision for Myanmar
This GIZ funded project aims to support a discussion of an overarching vision for a national identity of Myanmar as a culturally and religiously diverse country in which the rights of all groups are protected. The project aims to contribute to the resolution of the current deadlock in peace negotiations, focusing on building consensus on a concrete aspect of the already agreed principle of “all-inclusiveness”- a vision of Myanmar as diverse country, a “federal union that everybody wants to join”. This approach aims to change the focus of the negotiations from contentious and divisive issues – such as the right to secession – to topic on which peace stakeholders can discuss a common vision for the future of the country.
DRI’s Myanmar work is currently funded by the European Union and GIZ.