For decades, ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in Myanmar have fought for increased autonomy and sometimes independence. To concretize this aspiration, a key demand in ongoing peace negotiations has been giving ethnic states the right to draft their own constitutions. EAOs have long perceived that substate constitutions would allow them to expand their territorial autonomy vis-à-vis central state institutions.
Building on International IDEA’s research, the Constitution-Building Programme, in partnership with the MyConstitution project, began engaging with EAOs and other state-level stakeholders in Myanmar. This engagement has transformed the relationships between the actors in the constitution-building process by changing the tone of the negotiations and the content of the narrative on substate constitutions. By 2020, many EAO representatives recognized the subordinate nature of substate constitutions vis-à-vis the central state constitution and are ready to start negotiating a constitutional amendment that would give state-level actors more space to draft meaningful substate constitutions.
‘Because of MyConstitution’s webinars, I am now more confident to talk about federal issues in the peace negotiation table. This gives me courage’, said Saw Mra Raza Lin, Deputy Leader of the Peace Commission for the Arakan Liberation Party and secretary member of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), a peace negotiator who has actively participated in the six webinars.
She stated that the webinars also support her role in the peace negotiation process: as a woman actor, it is very difficult to get space in the male-dominated culture, but the knowledge from the webinars has equipped her to contribute more to the development of a political framework and other UPDJC-related tasks. ‘Because of MyConstitution’s webinars, I am now more confident to talk about federal issues in the peace negotiation table. This gives me courage.’