What we do
Many countries we work in are fragile democracies suffering from political instability, conflict and uncertainty, so flexibility is key to NIMD’s work. Being prepared to adapt swiftly to changing circumstances is crucial in the planning of all our programmes, and the safety and security of our colleagues and partners is our most important consideration.
This flexibility was called for in Myanmar when, in February 2021, the military deposed the elected government, stalling a gradual process of democratization that had begun a decade earlier.
Myanmar is a multi-ethnic country that had taken steps towards democracy, with elections in 2015 and 2020 leading to a power-sharing agreement between the military and the former opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). That ended with the 2021 coup, and the situation remains uncertain with protracted conflict between ethnic groups and the military and ongoing concerns about restrictions on democratic freedoms.
NIMD began working in Myanmar in 2014, running democracy education courses and dialogue sessions. Although this work was disrupted by the coup, Myanmar remains a vital country in our network as we continue to explore innovative solutions to work with Myanmar’s democratic political and civic actors to help realize the country’s pursuit of becoming an inclusive, peaceful and sustainable democratic society.
Myanmar is home to more than 130 different ethnic groups, spread across a diverse geographical terrain where some groups have been engaged in prolonged conflict with the Myanmar military, and deep fault lines define the political landscape.
Mitigating the effects of polarization and creating a more open and inclusive political space in Myanmar is a key goal of NIMD. To work towards achieving this, NIMD in partnership with Demo Finland held democracy education programmes and supported multiparty co-operation in Myanmar from 2014 to 2021 through the Myanmar School of Politics (MySoP).
Attendees came from across political and ethnic divides and studied together in a neutral and respectful setting. Creating this shared experience helped participants overcome pre-conceptions about each other, laying the groundwork for greater co-operation and dialogue in the future.
Following the coup, NIMD and Demo Finland constantly assessed the possibilities to continue working with democratic actors from Myanmar, and in 2022 we successfully re-launched our Democracy School programme, with virtual and in-person trainings on political ideologies and federalism.
We also developed the MyDemocracy School app, an online and web-based application that aims to help marginalized groups in Myanmar access a democracy education toolbelt and develop the knowledge and skills to mindfully participate in democratic processes and dialogue.
As well as training politicians, the Myanmar programme before the 2021 coup aimed to strengthen democratic values through encouraging multi-party dialogue.
The first multi-party dialogue platform was set up in Shan State in 2018. This platform produced joint bills at the state level. Drawing up joint initiatives based on dialogue was a significant step forward in a country where multi-party co-operation was unique and where there remained ongoing conflicts between many actors.
Following the coup, NIMD in partnership with Demo Finland aims to lay the groundwork for future dialogue possibilities through initiatives including the democracy education, conflict resolution and mediation activities, and the MyDemocracy School app, which will serve as a platform for our alumni to discuss their takeaways and key lessons around democratic values and ideas, encouraging engagement in meaningful dialogue around the topics presented.
Gender equality and women’s participation are central to NIMD’s Myanmar programme, and female politicians constituted a large proportion of the Democracy School alumni.
All our programming in Myanmar aims to create a conducive environment for women’s full and meaningful inclusion in political decision-making processes.
Building the skills and capacity of women in politics in Myanmar is crucial given their role in peace-building and bringing communities together in spaces of prolonged conflict.
We strive to continue finding solutions to empower the youth, women, and ethnic leaders of Myanmar who will play vital roles in future democratic processes.
Democracy education courses took place in six states and regions, with more than 300 attendees from a diverse array of ethnic and political backgrounds
More than 200 politicians trained in the democracy schools ran as candidates in the 2020 elections and 41 were elected to office. One third of these candidates were women, well above the national average.
Following the coup, NIMD maintained its commitment to democratic reform in Myanmar, and devised innovative solutions to maintain its connections with democratic political actors and build new networks to preserve democratic values and principles.
In the face of heightened political volatility, the Myanmar programme successfully re-launched democracy school trainings for youth, women and ethnic leaders in Myanmar, and organized a successful networking event for women political leaders.
The MyDemocracy School app was launched in 2022 as a comprehensive democracy education toolbelt, and is accessible online and offline as a mobile and web-based app.