What we did: We produced a detailed constitutional analysis. 

What we achieved: Pro-democracy stakeholder groups in Myanmar improved relationships and increased knowledge and skills to make more informed choices regarding constitutional design and process.

Who we did it with: The analysis was prepared through our in-house capacity, drawing on the expertise of our worldwide network of constitutional lawyers.

Impact area: Constitution-Building Programme

Donors: Finland, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden 

Project name: MyConstitution

Award period: 2018 to 2022

Boundary partners: Legitimate interim governance institutions, political parties, members of parliament, ethnic armed groups, media, academia and civil society organizations (CSOs)

 

For International IDEA’s programme in Myanmar, 2021 has been a year of utmost challenge and transformation. At the same time, it has brought unexpected opportunities, and the possibility of new perspectives on a more genuine, inclusive and ultimately peaceful democratic future. Some of these opportunities build on the outcomes International IDEA contributed to before the coup.

International IDEA began to support Burmese democracy activists in exile as early as the late 1990s and had maintained support from outside for over a decade before setting up a presence in Yangon in 2012, and Nay Pyi Taw, in what was to become one of International IDEA’s largest field presences worldwide, with a programme covering electoral assistance, parliamentary reform, civil society support and constitution-building.

Representing one of the biggest democratic setbacks in 2021 worldwide, the coup carried out by the military on 1 February 2021 cast Myanmar into a period of uncertainty and suffering. International IDEA immediately condemned the coup as unconstitutional and strongly demanded the restoration of democratic representative rule and respect for the democratic will of the people, as expressed in the November 2020 elections. 

Quickly mobilizing its global network of experts in an effort to clarify the situation and provide accurate information to international decision makers, International IDEA prepared a detailed constitutional analysis of the faulty narrative of the coup-makers, unmasking the takeover for what it was—a fundamentally flawed and illegitimate usurpation of power. 

International IDEA firmly believes that the society-wide democratic resistance movement, which is determined to rebuild the country as a federal democracy founded on basic human rights, has the chance to seize this moment and overcome many of the long-standing obstacles that had hampered genuine democratic progress during the past decade. Having established excellent relationships and trust with parliamentarians across the democratic spectrum, civil servants, ethnic organizations and other civil society groups, think tanks and analysts, International IDEA has continued to support these actors to work together towards reinstating democracy in Myanmar. 

For example, the programme provided technical support to the different pro-democracy stakeholder groups who are directly involved in ongoing interim constitutional negotiations (i.e. interim governance actors, such as the Committee Representing the Union Parliament (CRPH), the National Unity Government (NUG) and the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), civil society organizations) on constitution-building issues that are at stake in the current and evolving situation in Myanmar. 

Boundary partners demonstrated increased conceptual clarity on constitutional issues following technical support from MyConstitution, and reported that they use the acquired knowledge when defining their constitutional proposals and during constitutional negotiations. International IDEA’s responsiveness, as well as its non-prescriptive approach and ability to maintain confidentiality, has fostered trust from emerging pro-democracy actors.

Recognizing the specific challenges of designing and conducting a constitutional transition in the current context, different pro-democracy stakeholders have increasingly requested technical assistance as they engaged in discussions to shape Myanmar’s democratic and federal transition. 

The programme is seen as a credible, neutral and trusted assistance provider by the interim governance institutions and wider set of pro-democracy stakeholders engaged in the struggle to restore democracy in Myanmar.