Our key partner in Myanmar, Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation, is responsive to the most urgent pressures as they emerge; SOAS aspires to reduce the barriers that can get in the way of this flexible approach. EMReF’s Director, Myat Thet Thitsar, has been collaborating with a huge range of stakeholders in recent months to work out the most vital political needs in the country. ‘The role of civil society is more important now than ever. We must raise our voices to ensure there is equitable access to resources for everyone, and to continue holding our leaders to account’, she states.
An vital moment in Myanmar’s democracy will be the 8th November general election. EMReF and partners are concentrating in the coming months on a new initiative – Election Targeted Research-based Advocacy – with two main aims. First, they will promote the communication of accessible knowledge to citizens and politicians about urgent issues both before and after the election. The have identified key policy issues as follows: (a) sustainable and equitable livelihoods through revitalisation and innovation of the rural agrarian economy, (b) promoting employment and saving to utilize the demographic dividend, (c) food sovereignty, (d) effective language teaching in public schools across Myanmar.
Secondly, they are asking the Union Election Commission to make sure that there is a broad presence of election observers who can do their work freely. The Commission should enable citizen participation and a key strategy is for them to have frequent dialogue with political parties, CSOs and the media. EMReF and partners are playing their part to educate citizens about elections – aspiring to reduce misinformation and misunderstanding. This is important for democracy but also to reduce the risk of violence. It is important that all stakeholders view the election as credible so that they can accept the result.
The Election Commission will face unprecedented challenges in this election due to Covid-19. A low turnout could pose a risk to the integrity and legitimacy of elections in the eyes of citizens but at the same time measures to reduce transmission of the disease are also important. The presence of independent observers will be more crucial than ever this year.
Their new policy briefing in Burmese explains EMReF’s recommendations in detail.