Support for Electoral Stakeholder Engagement in Myanmar
Since 2013, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has been assisting the Union Election Commission (UEC) of Myanmar in its efforts to involve other key electoral stakeholders, such as civil society organizations (CSOs), political parties and the media, in the electoral process. Central to these efforts are meetings held between the UEC and other electoral stakeholders, including civil society and political parties. These events have provided the opportunity for the UEC to present draft strategies, guidelines and materials for feedback and have also helped to develop lines of communication where previously there was little engagement.
With IFES support, the UEC has institutionalized UEC-CSO stakeholder workshops in Yangon as an every other month event. These workshops involve representatives from the UEC, international non-governmental organizations and local CSOs. On average, 18 UEC representatives and 50-60 representatives from CSOs attend. These workshops represent a significant shift in the relationship between the UEC and civil society representatives. Recent workshops allowed the UEC and CSOs to work collaboratively to develop a code of conduct (CoC) and draft accreditation process for observers. During this process, one civil society participant remarked, “It is good to have discussions in the forming of the CoC first before the UEC presents it. In the past, the UEC would provide us with documents and now they are letting us shape those documents with engagement.” In December, the UEC also presented the national voter education strategy and asked CSOs to provide feedback on nine voter education posters that the UEC intended to use in support of the national voter list update. The UEC incorporated all of the recommendations that the CSOs provided into the redesign of the posters. At the following stakeholder workshop in February, the UEC shared these posters with CSOs, and these CSOs then helped to distribute them during preliminary voter list displays across the country between March and July.
The UEC’s efforts to expand stakeholder engagement have helped to increase the flow of information, foster relationships and build a foundation for an inclusive electoral process; and the UEC’s commitment to engaging stakeholders has not gone unnoticed. In recent months, the Carter Center, International Crisis Group and Center for Strategic and International Studies have released reports or articles in which the UEC’s collaborative efforts are noted.
IFES supports the UEC’s stakeholder relation efforts under the “Support to the Election Process in Myanmar” program funded by the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the UK Department for International Development and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and under the “Elections and Political Processes Assistance” program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.