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Memorandum on Myanmar’s democratic transition: challenges and way forward (A/74/505)

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Seventy-fourth session
Agenda item 70 (c)
Promotion and protection of human rights: Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives

1. Introduction

Since taking responsibility of the state in April 2016, the democratically elected civilian government has been working relentlessly to transform the country into a democratic federal union. The government has placed national reconciliation and peace as top priority while striving for economic prosperity, social equity and development, the prevalence of rule of law and reliable judicial system. As a sine qua non for the successful building of a democratic nation, the government has also embarked on amending the present 1982 Constitution.

The government has undertaken major legislative and institutional reforms to create a more equitable and harmonious society. Significant progress has been achieved in areas of economic development, investment, infrastructure, health and education sectors as well as in anti-corruption efforts.

Despite the challenges, Myanmar has managed to sustain its economic growth in recent years. It has experienced rapid growth with an annual growth rate of 6.5% in 2018–2019. Its GDP expanded from USD 8.9 billion in the year 2000 to over USD 71 billion in 2018. As Myanmar has opened its opportunity doors, investment and trade have grown significantly. In keeping with this trend, trade and investment policies continue to be revised in line with national and global commitments and in accordance with liberal inclusive principles.

2. Peace Process

The Government of Myanmar has been engaged in a peace process to bring an end to the seven-decade long internal armed conflict by political dialogue. In a multi-ethnic country like Myanmar, making unity out of diversity is a multi-faceted challenge.

2.1 National Ceasefire Agreement

In an effort to consolidate existing bilateral ceasefire agreements between the Military (Tatmadaw) and multiple Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) was signed on 15 October 2015. It is a merging equilibrium point where different forces come together to create a new political dialogue process for all ethnic groups. The NCA also includes an explicit commitment to “establish a union based on the principles of democracy and federalism”.

There are currently ten signatories to the NCA, however, the government is committed to continuing its endeavours to bring all ethnic armed organizations under the NCA umbrella and to the conference table.

The government is discussing with ethnic armed organizations which are yet to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) to sign Bilateral Ceasefire Agreement (BCA).

In September 2019, the government and four EAOs (KIA-Kachin, TNLATa’ang, Arakan Army, and MNDAA-Kokang) agreed in principle on seven points of a draft BCA and they will resume negotiation by the end of October. This is the first time the two sides have come to an agreement on the draft text of BCA.

2.2 Union Peace Conference

In view of solving political differences through negotiations and narrowing the trust deficit among different institutions, ethnic groups and communities, the Union Peace Conference – the 21st Century Panglong has been held and brought all ethnic nationalities to present their positions and views openly and freely to formulate fundamental principles for a democratic federal union.

Three sessions of the Peace Conference – 21st Century (Panglong), held so far, have adopted fifty-one fundamental principles which will become part of the Union Peace Accord. Preparation works are underway for the Fourth Panglong Conference.

Establishing a federal Union and democratic society is the ultimate goal of the current Government of Myanmar. Despite the multi-faceted challenges, the government has spared no effort in nurturing democratic norms and practices among all its citizens. These efforts include the promotion of the rule of law, good governance and protection of human rights, and fostering of vibrant civil society.

With the aim to enable all ethnic armed groups to participate in the peace process with trust and to continue the peace dialogues, the Myanmar Military or Tamadaw has announced the unilateral ceasefire in December 2018 and extended to September 2019 in five military command areas in various parts of the country.