The Union Election Commission (UEC), which is responsible for delivering peaceful and credible elections in Myanmar, emphasizes the management of electoral risks in its five-year strategic plan. To assist in this regard, International IDEA partnered with the UEC to organize a workshop on 19-20 March 2014 which explored the Electoral Risk Management Tool (ERM Tool), is a unique risk management framework developed by International IDEA specifically for electoral management.
The workshop was intended to give a deeper understanding of the risks that may lead to election related violence; as well as providing a means of identifying prevention and mitigation measures relevant to Myanmar. A total of 25 participants from the UEC (staff and Commissioners), Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Immigration and Population, General Administration Department and Ministry of Education actively took part in this introductory workshop. International speakers presented an overview of the ERM Tool and explained how it has been adapted and used in different ways in Nepal, Kenya, and Bosnia.
The presenters introduced three main modules of the tool: 1. Knowledge Resources, 2. Analytical Instruments, and 3. Prevention and Mitigation. During the workshop, the participants were divided into groups to identify risks factors and risk levels for each region and state, identifying suggested preventive and mitigating actions, thus producing a so-called ‘risk alert’. Risk alerts are products of the Tool that are then used by Election Commissioners in deciding how to remedy the identified risks. Facilitators stressed to participants that the ERM Tool works best when the electoral management body reaches out to other important stakeholders such as political parties, CSOs, media, non-state actors and others to identify risks, gather data and engage a variety of actors in mitigating and preventing risks.
Commissioner U Win Kyi from the UEC led a discussion on the major challenges and risks to electoral processes in Myanmar. At the conclusion of the workshop, he said, “I was very pleased that our staff were able to quickly grasp the main concepts of the tool and produce a first risk map during the workshop”.
In feedback at the end of the workshop, participants expressed their willingness to continue to learn more about the ERM Tool and acknowledged its potential to promote peaceful, credible elections. In closing the workshop, the UEC Chairman U Tin Aye said, “It is important to plan ahead, whatever you do. This Tool can help us do that”. Participants also acknowledged the need for the UEC to collaborate broadly with the political parties, CSOs, UEC sub-commissions and other related organizations in order for the ERM Tool to reach its full potential.
After the workshop, the UEC formally requested International IDEA to continue to engage with the Commission on the implementation of the ERM Tool. In doing so, International IDEA will work with the UEC as it reaches out to political parties, civil society organizations and state security agencies to discuss issues surrounding the electoral process and share information as part of its risk management activities. The UEC Chairman expressed keen interest in ensuing that such efforts also be extended to engage sub-commissions who have to deal first-hand with a variety of risks.
The UEC and International IDEA signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding in July 2013, which enabled this workshop and sets the stage for future collaboration in implementing the ERM Tool. Other areas of collaboration are being explored with the UEC aimed at strengthening the ability of the Commission to fulfill its mandate professionally in a way that is rooted in Myanmar realities and inspired by regional and international standards and best practice.