As part as RIPE, Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation has established the Alliance for Inclusive Democracy, whose members include a broad range of practice and interest groups including leading researchers, civil society activists, religious leaders, MPs, ethnic armed organisations, journalists, film-makers, artists, and musicians amongst others. Meeting for the first time in Yangon in February 2019, they shared their reflections on the opportunities and challenges for Myanmar’s democratic future based on their unique perspectives and experiences.
In the period leading up to their second meeting later the same year, Alliance members continued to exchange ideas and opinions, and think about how to productively engage with the differences these revealed. They sensed in their own wide-ranging attitudes and beliefs a microcosm of what wider Myanmar society struggles with, namely, to manage diversity in peaceful and inclusive ways.
At a second meeting of the Alliance for Inclusive Democracy, held in October 2019, members convened to discuss the values needed to work towards more peaceful and inclusive democracy in Myanmar. ‘It is emotional work, not just rational, strategic, and political work’ is perhaps the most appropriate way to sum up members’ perceptions of the ambitious task they are involved in under the RIPE initiative. Having traversed personal reflections on Myanmar’s democratic landscape, and the values they believe ought to underpin it, Alliance members’ next step is mapping out their strategic priorities for reducing inequalities, and forming communities of action, in order to help facilitate more inclusive and democratic thinking, and positively impact voting behaviour and policy promises.
We might expect the Alliance’s momentum to be attenuated by the horrifying realities sweeping the globe as a result of covid-19; particularly with poor technological infrastructure makes the possibility of online meetings difficult. But Alliance members were amongst the 100 signatories to a Myanmar CSO statement and analysis of the prospect for human rights, dignity, democratic values, and justice amid the coronavirus pandemic in late March 2020. They call on the country’s government to ensure security for all and access to vital resources and information for all; and to remain accountable and transparent, and to not overreach its power during these troubling times.
In its brief time so far, the Alliance for Inclusive Democracy has engaged in ongoing processes of reflection and action that are critical to deepening inclusive democracy in Myanmar. These include negotiating difficult relationships, developing pathways to mutual trust, finding commonality amid diversity, identifying strategic priorities for socio-political change, generating space for civil society voices to re-emerge and hold politicians to account, and situating civil society as one of the critical ‘strong institutions’ that is necessary for democratic inclusiveness, peace, and justice to grow and thrive in Myanmar.
Myanmar CSOs statement on covid and democracy, March 2020 Burmese English
Myanmar CSOs urgent statement on covid-19, May 2020 Burmese English