DRI Myanmar’s Yamonh Pwint Thit looks at how local governance helps strengthen Myanmar’s developing democratic institutions.
Democratically elected local government are the first interface with the community, responding to people’s most immediate needs and priorities. Myanmar has been building local governance since the creation of township administration committees in 2013.
Myanmar’s local governments have been experiencing operational and structural challenges as well as they grew to answer the needs for social service delivery, public engagement, tax collection, and enforcement by municipal committee members and staff. Township administrators are front-line responders to communities and are responsible for implementing national policies.
In order to gather experiences and discuss the challenges to municipal government in Myanmar, Democracy Reporting International (DRI), in collaboration with the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD) and the New Myanmar Foundation (NMF), organised the Forum on accountable and participative local governance in Myanmar held as a series of webinars from 15 to 17 July.
Participants from political parties, civil society and municipal committee members from all of Myanmar’s states and regions discussed the challenges and opportunities for more democratic and efficient local government in Myanmar, including ways to coordinate the implementation of national policies. Local government officials and political party leaders from Sri Lanka and Nepal shared their experiences in reforming their countries, which have recently democratised local bodies.
Elected township officials from the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) shared their experience from the first-ever municipal election held under universal suffrage and participants discussed possible ways to establish democratically elected local government bodies in all of Myanmar’s states and regions. A consensus emerged among all participants that both local authorities and the electorate should constructively engage in a discussion on stronger local bodies from the bottom-up towards more responsive and accountable governance in Myanmar.
“I am very pleased that I could work at the grassroots in terms of community welfare, as well as economic and health security matters during this unpredictable pandemic. I am sure that the community may realize the importance of accountable, participative local, government and I also hope for more decentralization and cooperation from the central government. Through this series of webinar dialogues, I could learn the other countries’ federal reforms and local government management experiences,” said Daw Myint Myint Kyi, chairwoman of the Dala Township Municipal Committee.
As a part of DRI’s work supporting credible electoral processes and enhancing the capacity of stakeholders in Myanmar, we will continue to support local government and ensure widespread dialogue on local governance as the country moves towards federal democracy. These activities took place as part of the STEP Democracy Programme funded by the European Union.