Ethnic affairs group puts forward development agenda
A NEW ethnic affairs organisation has collated a 50-page development agenda and plans to present it as a priority list to parliament.
The Ethnic People Development Partnership (EPDP) created the manifesto, entitled “Advice for the People”, to lobby for several key issues in ethnic areas including labour conditions, farming practices, natural resource governance, environmental management, development and investment.
EPDP general secretary U Tun Myint Aung said there are currently major shortcomings in the regulatory environment governing ethnic areas.
While the group’s submission is not an exhaustive policy document, nor a comprehensive data survey, he says it provides a snapshot of onthe-ground issues facing ethnic communities. He hopes it will help lawmakers gain a greater understanding of the challenges faced in ethnic regions, and that its contents will be taken into consideration when MPs and the government formulate policy.
“We are not law experts but [the manifesto highlights] the weakness of enforcement of the law regarding these issues … We have knowledge from the ground about their losses and the unfairness [ethnic people have] experienced. So, we would like to advise the government through parliamentarians,” he said.
An introduction to the document – a collaborative effort from a variety of civil society organisations – was held last week at the Taw Win Hnin Si restaurant in Yangon’s Bahan township. Representatives of civil society were in attendance, along with lower and upper house MPs. Despite EPDP having extended an official invitation, no designated government representative was present, U Tun Myint Aung said.
“This is the first advisory document from us in the new government period. We will [send this] via the official channel, which is the post office, and we will also meet again with the government and continue the process,” he said.
The 88 Generation Peace and Open Society member U Mya Aye attended the launch of the advisory document and voiced support for the initiative.
“CSOs should support and help out the government with this kind of advice,” he said.
Sai Nyunt Lwin from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy said the document did an adequate job of representing the concerns of marginalised populations.
“The advice and information are real, basic requirements, as far as I observed. It is a very effective idea,” he said.
Daw Ye Ye Htway, the EPDP secretary, said the organisation’s mission is to work to improve the basic living conditions for all of Myanmar’s ethnic groups. She said their ultimate aim is to create a society grounded in a meaningful, inclusive federalism and true peace.
“The purpose of the EPDP is to work for freedom, equality and fairness for the people from ethnic regions and states, and we will openly communicate and connect with everyone while working,” she said.
“The country is in transition so the role of CSOs is very important at this time. If the government takes [advice] from CSOs, there will be a great advantage in hearing the voices from the ground level,” U Tun Myint Aung said.
Creation of a new Ethnic Affairs Ministry was among the first acts of the National League for Democracy government upon assuming power in late March, though the nature of the ministry’s portfolio remains largely ill-defined.
A Kachin Independence Army soldier walks alongside a civilian on a hilltop overlooking Mai Ja Yang, Kachin State, in July.