Most people’s knowledge of Myanmar’s peace process – if they know anything at all - is limited to what they read about from the media coverage. And often this is limited to the more glamourous meetings of the top leadership. But a peace process is an important part of any country’s history – and detailed documentation of it is needed.
Myanmar’s Peace Process is often thought of as only a formal process which centres around high level meetings and negotiations in Nay Pyi Taw. But if it is to truly succeed, the peace process needs to take place at every level of society, most especially on the ground in communities where decades of conflict have caused so much damage. Here is where communities need to work to build understanding and support for the peace process and repair relationships between different groups.
Peace process is very unusual because it involves a large number of armed groups in a collective negotiation with the Government. Many peace processes around the world involve just two main protagonists – a government and an armed group. In the negotiation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) (2013-15), sixteen Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) were formally involved. Ten of them have now signed it. Coordinating this number of groups is an immense challenge. Both physically and politically they represent a wide spectrum of geography and interests.
Including all of Myanmar’s peace stakeholders in the peace process involves not just reaching out to all of Myanmar’s many different ethnicities, to women, to young people and to old people. It means including a group that is often over looked but is a group often most affected by conflict: disabled people.
Supporting increased participation and inclusivity in Myanmar’s peace process is one of the Joint Peace Fund’s core values. International best practice shows that a successful peace process requires the support of the entire population, not only those whose lives are directly affected by the conflict. In line with that principle, the JPF has been supporting the Kadu Youth Development Association (KYDA) to include those whose voices, as minority groups, are often lost, so as to enhance participation and inclusion.
A peace process is the series of steps that are taken to move a country from a state of conflict to a state of peace. But however grandiose such a process sounds, when actually broken down, a peace process is mainly made up of one thing: meetings. Hundreds and thousands of them. Such meetings allow for different individuals and groups to sit together and discuss important issues and challenges facing the country, and take decisions on how these challenges should be resolved. In a peace process, one meeting buildings on the next.
One of the key agreed points to come out of the Union Peace Conference this month was support for a policy that ended gender-based discrimination. This builds on other agreements in the peace process in support of women’s rights. The Nationwide Ceasefire calls for an end to conflict-related Gender Based Violence. Under the agreed Framework for Political Dialogue at least 30 per cent of participants in national dialogues should be women.
Achieving peace and reconciliation through dialogue is at the heart of Myanmar’s peace process. A complex series of national dialogues, both by geographical area; issue based; and ethnic based have been taking place over the last year. The different ideas and perspectives captured at these events feed into the Union level discussions in the peace process. But in a country which has so many different peoples, and so many different conflicts to resolve, in some cases the talking – and the resolution - needs to start at State level.
Throughout the long negotiations of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) women working in Myanmar’s peace process fought hard to ensure that their voices were heard. The NCA, which was signed by the Government and some EAOs in October 2015, states it would include a “reasonable” number of women in the subsequent process. The Framework for Political Dialogue, agreed a few months later, went further, specifically stating that 30% of those participating in the peace process should be women.
“Who does Civil Society represent and Why Should We care?” This was the question asked earlier this week at a forum in Yangon looking at the role of civil society. In all aspects of Myanmar’s transition towards democracy, including in the peace process, civil society organizations have played a pivotal role. This forum created an opportunity to look more closely at what exactly is meant by the term democracy and the role these organizations play in supporting it.
Bringing women together to discuss their perspectives on issues relating to peace and capturing those views in a way that can actually lead to change is essential if women are to be able to participate meaningfully in Myanmar’s peace process. With this in mind, the Kayan Women’s Organization (KyWO) held the “Karenni State Women’s Forum” last week (23-25) May in Loikaw.
In Myanmar, more than half the population are under 35 years old. This is where the next generation of peace leaders will be found. Engaging them now in a peace process, that they will in the future be an instrumental part of implementing, is essential for Myanmar to achieve a lasting peace. Yet peace processes are deeply complex, and leading them effectively, demands a specific set of skills.
Teaching children in the language they are born into, that they use with their families and their friends, is globally recognized as the most effective way for early learning to take place. With this issue in mind, on 10 May, the Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Center (ENAC) have launched a policy paper that explores Mother-Tongue Based – Multilingual Education,a method of providing education in more than one language, that is rooted in the mother-tongue.
One of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement’s newest signatories, the New Mon State Party, held its National Dialogue this weekend (5-7 May) in Ye, Mon State, marking a moment of hope in what has been a long and difficult path in the process of negotiation.
Myanmar’s peace process is one of the most complex ones currently being undertaken anywhere in the world. Understanding it – even for those involved – can be a challenge. There are multiple groups involved, many different conflicts with different dynamics, and several distinct streams of negotiation within the overall process.
Civil Society Organizations have played a critical role in Myanmar’s recent history, including in the peace process. CSOs are recognized as peace stakeholders in both the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and the Framework for Political Dialogues. But even though they are included in these core documents, the work of CSOs in supporting peace in Myanmar, is often little understood.
To mark International Women’s Day, the JPF caught up with Lway Poe Ngeal, General Secretary of the Women’s league of Burma, with whom the JPF will shortly be supporting a project to amplify the voice of women in Myanmar’s peace process.
Ninety per cent of the projects in the Joint Peace Fund’s emerging portfolio of grants are run by Myanmar organizations, a reflection of its commitment to support the national capacity of Myanmar to build and sustain peace.
When Naushawng Development Institute (NDI) announced that they were running another youth peace and civic education training in Kachin state this year, they were flooded with applications, the majority of which were from women. As a civil society organization that seeks particularly to support women in engaging in the peace process, this was good news. “We were really pleased. This year we had more applications from women than ever. It’s a reflection of our growing reputation in the communities in which we work,” says Roi Nu, NDI director.