Building Participation in the peace process: thousands gather across Myanmar - The Northern CSO Peace Forum
The Northern CSO Peace Forum
Our second report from our CSO Forum series, comes from Kachin State. The Joint Peace Fund, has been supporting more than a dozen CSO Peace Forum take place across Myanmar in recent months which has involved nearly three thousand people coming together to discuss the core issues of the peace process. Their thoughts and ideas are being gathered into policy papers which will help feed into the thinking of the leadership running the peace process at the Union Peace Conference. The CSO, Swe Tha Har which has been coordinating these forum, is currently helping prepare for a Union level CSO forum committee as well as a series of workshops to further build the capacity of the State and Region committees.
The Northern Forum took place in Myitkyina in Kachin over three days bringing together the voices and perspectives of 83 different organizations. The 155 participants not only included many ethnicities such as Kachin, Kayin, Shan, Lisu, and Rawang, but also two people with visual disabilities from the Myitkyina Blind Association.
The focus of the Kachin CSO forum was the basic principles of a federal system; land policy; and natural resource management policy. This issue is a major one for many in Kachin.
Zawng Dai, a founder of Lawng-Byit-Hkawng CSO, who is from the Lhaovo ethnicity in Chi-Pwe in Kachin State said the forum had helped to build collobration between State-level CSO groups. For his community, he said, peace would open up the chance of social and economic development from which they had been excluded until now. “Even though there’re many mining projects around Chi-Pwe, we local people haven’t benefitted from these so-called development projects, not even from infrastructure, such as telecommunications. That’s why we’re asking for natural resources management to be managed from the State-level,” he said.
Local public and civil society organizations (CSOs) are trying very hard to ensure grassroot-level voices can be heard from the State and Union-level stakeholders as well as policy makers.
Yoon Nadi Khaing, a woman leader of New Generation Youth CSO from Bahmo City, Kachin State highlighted the need for the minority ethnicities, including IDPs, living in Kachin to be heard as well at the Forum. “We need to hear different ethnic voices such as Shan, Shan-Ni, Khandi Shan, and Lisu, not only majority ethnics groups voices who are living mostly in Myitkyina.It would make our participation deeper and our coordination better,” she said.
She also said: “The State-level CSOs peace forum are playing an important role in getting more people involved in the peace process. They are creating channels for the State-level CSOs to take part in the peace process. That’s why we must make the most of them.”
The Forum called for a federal system that guarantees self-administration, national identity, and natural resources management and would improve regional developments. Forum participants agreed that better knowledge about the NCA was needed among the CSOs themselves, as well as the general public in Kachin. So it was decided that participants would work for better advocacy and understanding on this issue.