Forum of Federations in Myanmar

(L-R)Georg Milbradt, Chairman of Board, and Mahn Win Khaing Than, the Speaker of the House of Nationalities, to discuss Federalism
(L-R)Georg Milbradt, Chairman of Board, and Mahn Win Khaing Than, the Speaker of the House of Nationalities, to discuss Federalism

Forum of Federations holds its Annual Board of Directors Meeting in Myanmar
March 2017

On 3 March, 2017 the Forum of Federations held its annual Board of Directors meeting in Yangon, Myanmar. Representatives of most of the Forum’s member countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Nigeria and Switzerland, met to review the Forum’s work and achievements during the current fiscal year, and approve the program of work and budget for the fiscal year 2017-2018. Forum has implemented various development assistance activities in Myanmar over recent years to support the transition to democracy and to devolved model of governance. The convening of the Board Meeting in Yangon enabled members to see the impact of the Forum’s work in the country as well as lend their considerable expertise to Myanmar’s transition.

While in Myanmar, select members of the Board and Forum staff traveled to the capital Nay Pyi Taw and met with major stakeholders in the parliament, the ruling party and the government. Chairman of the Board, select members and the Forum staff first did a courtesy call to the Speaker of the Union Parliament and the Senate on 28th of February, 2017. During this meeting, the Chairman of the Board shared his thoughts on federalism and discussed openly about the challenges a federalizing country might face on the way to democracy and federalism, adding his experiences as a chief minister of a state in Germany. He also emphasized the importance of fiscal federalism to achieve shared federal goals between the federal government and state governments, and among state governments. The Speaker of the Union Parliament also discussed challenges and opportunities Myanmar was facing during democratic transition and welcomed more discussions and advice on federalism from international community.

The delegates also met with the Deputy Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw, who is also the chair of the Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC) of the Union parliament and members of the committee to discuss on how the Forum of Federations could best support the current federal process in the country, and matters relating to the support provided to national and subnational parliaments. This meeting also discussed about the potential memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Forum and the Union Parliament.

Another meeting on 1st of March was meeting with Thura U Shwe Mann of Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission, which is the parliamentary body making important legislative initiatives and advice to the Union Assembly. U Shwe Man and the Forum’s board members discussed the role of the Commission in helping to make better laws with a focus of decentralization and devolution.

Delegates also invited U Win Htein, Central Executive Committee member of NLD to a dinner on 1st of March evening where they discussed about general political situations in Myanmar and in particular federal reform process undertaken by the NLD government. This was an opportunity for everyone to openly discuss not only Myanmar’s affairs but also global affairs within the larger framework of federalism. This dinner was also an opportunity for the Forum to best align our activities in parallel to the government’s undertakings towards a democratic federal union.

A few side activities were organized on the margins of the Board meeting.

A public event on “Federalism, Peace, and Democracy – Comparative Experiences” was held on 2 March. The event, facilitated by Zeya Thu, Deputy Chief Editor of “The Voice” had a format of a panel discussion where the panelists reflected on a number of questions, such as what holds their respective diverse countries together and how power and resources are shared and how conflicts about the distribution of power and resources are being solved. The following Forum Board members composed the panel: Ms. Salma Siddiqui, Canada; Mr. Hans Altherr, Switzerland; Mr. Roger Wilkins, Australia; Mr. Julius Ihonvbere, Nigeria.

On the evening of 3rd March the Forum hosted a reception and a panel discussion on “Federalism, Peace and Good Governance”. Speakers included H.E. Aung Kyi, Head of the Peace Advisory Committee, H.E. Georg Milbradt, Chairman of the Forum of Federations and former Minister-President of Saxony, Germany, and H.E Bob Rae, Fellow, former Chairman of the Forum of Federations and former Premier of Ontario, Canada. The reception was attended by members of the Peace Commission, different government bodies, MPs of the national parliament and Yangon Region Parliament, Ambassadors of India and Brazil, representatives of embassies of the Forum’s partner countries, leading CSO activists in the country, federal scholars and partner organizations.

In collaboration with the National Education Commission of Myanmar, the Forum held a roundtable on the nexus between the education sector and federalism. The workshop examined how countries with federal systems of government design, govern, finance, and assure quality in their educational systems, from early childhood to secondary school graduation. Particular attention was paid to both the functional division between governmental layers of the federal system and the mechanisms of intergovernmental cooperation in education. Forum experts gave presentations on established systems in various countries: Bob Rae addressed Canada; Francis Loh Malaysia; and Sinha Shakti India. This workshop was the first in a planned series of thematic and targeted federalism trainings in Myanmar.

This trip was very fruitful, reinforcing the presence of the Forum of Federations in Myanmar as it was an important opportunity to present the Forum’s work to different political leaders in the country. The Forum’s Chairman of the board reassured that the Forum would continue its work in Myanmar in a comparative and neutral manner. All senior leaders also expressed their thanks for Forum’s works and welcomed the Forum’s continued support in the country.

Georg Milbradt, Chairman of Board, and Hon. Bob Rae, Forum Fellow, meeting with Mahn Win Khaing Than, the Speaker of the House of Nationalities, to discuss Federalism.

(L-R) Bob Rae, Forum Fellow, meeting with Mahn Win Khaing Than, the Speaker of the House of Nationalities, to discuss Federalism
(L-R) Bob Rae, Forum Fellow, meeting with Mahn Win Khaing Than, the Speaker of the House of Nationalities, to discuss Federalism