“Before I was focused on the issues of my own ethnic group, but now I understand that we need to do more to promote democracy,” says a local politician from Shan State. Myanmar’s first democratic elections in decades took place in 2015. Elections are not the only conditions for a well-functioning democracy, another condition is politicians who understand politics and society. Demo Finland and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) have been organising four-week courses in democratic knowledge and practice for politicians since 2014. Finland supports the work from its development cooperation funds.
By summer 2017, 136 politicians from 31 political parties had attended the Myanmar School of Politics. At least one third of the politicians attending the training are women. It was the first time the politicians got to practice working in a multi-party system. Nearly all participants (95%) reported having learned the basics of democracy and politics. “Before attending the training, few understood that political decision-making requires systematic thinking and working. Now, I’m able to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of my party, and this helps in politics,” a politician from Kayin State estimates.
Photo: Demo, graphics: Juho Hiilivirta