Political parties are essential in democratic transitions and are critical for conflict resolution. They have a significant role in expressing and articulating the demands and concerns of grieved citizens, and act as a vital link between civil society and the state. In the ‘Conflict resolution for Political Parties’ training, STEP Democracy brought together politicians from either side of the political spectrum to broaden their skills and understanding regarding the principles of mediation, negotiation and dialogue.
In terms of conflict, politicians and political parties all over the world are facing similar challenges. For example, conflict persists in dealing with internal party cohesion, party organization and preparing for elections. Moreover, due to the nature of politics, the strong difference of opinion exists within parties themselves. This can be for example around ideology and policy choices, access to participating in decision making, and the proceedings and mechanisms of internal elections. Moreover, regional, ethnical and generational conflicts often exist. The ethnic, political and cultural diversity that exists within Myanmar highlights the sensitivities of Myanmar's democratic processes as various different interests groups and political actors inevitably foster disagreements and disputes.
STEP conducted a three-day conflict resolution training in Dawei, Tanintharyi Region between the 3rd and 5th of February. It was the first installment of a large round of trainings that STEP will be conducting throughout several states and regions in Myanmar. The training serves to assist political parties in recognizing potential or existing conflicts within their parties and how to successfully prevent or overcome these issues. With the current complexities that exist at the national decision-making level and peace process, mediation and consensus-building skills within party politics are an excellent way to start developing the necessary skill that’s can be used in eventually overcoming more substantive, longer-term issues at state and federal levels.
"In our experience when we deal with other parties we either have to give in all or take all. Therefore, at first, we thought it was difficult or not possible at all to communicate and negotiate with opposing parties. This training however gave us a basic understanding and tools to discuss and negotiate to find a mutual understanding and solutions for the betterment of the country,” mentioned a participant at the training in Dawei.
These training’s in conflict resolution can be used as ‘building blocks’ to build stronger coalitions, and to identify, coordinate and collaborate different opportunities with different stakeholders. Likewise, effective use of mediation and negotiation skills and building consensus among coalition partners might be the key to further steps in Myanmar’s democratic transition.
The EU-funded STEP Democracy programme, is continuously supporting the democratic transition in Myanmar and the operation of functioning political parties are essential to strengthening the democratic transition processes. Therefore, ‘conflict resolution for political parties’ training contributes to STEP’s commitment to promote democracy and contribute to peacebuilding and conflict prevention. The Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) and Demo Finland, STEP’s international partner organizations will keep delivering the conflict resolution trainings in Myanmar’s states and regions.