Democratically elected local governments are the first interface with the community, responding to people’s most immediate needs and priorities. Myanmar has been building local governance since the creation of township development affairs committees in 2013.
Myanmar’s local governments have been experiencing operational and structural challenges to answer the growing needs for social service delivery, public engagement, tax collection, and enforcement by municipal committee members and staff. Township administrators are front-line responders to communities and are responsible for implementing national policies.
In order to collect experiences and discuss the challenges to municipal government in Myanmar, under the EU-funded STEP Democracy programme, Democracy Reporting International (DRI) and the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD) in collaboration with the New Myanmar Foundation (NMF) organized a Forum on accountable and participative Local Governance in Myanmar and held a series of webinars from 15 to 17 July.
Participants from political parties, civil society and municipal committee members from all Myanmar's States and Regions discussed the challenges and opportunities for more democratic and efficient local government in Myanmar, including ways to coordinate the implementation of national policies. Local government officials and political party leaders from Sri Lanka and Nepal shared their experiences in reforming their countries, which have recently democratized local bodies.
Elected township officials from the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) shared their experience from the first-ever municipal election held under universal suffrage and participants discussed possible ways to establish democratically elected local government bodies in Myanmar’s States and Regions. A consensus emerged among all participants that local authorities and the electorate should constructively engage in a discussion to strengthen local bodies from the bottom-up towards more responsive and accountable governance in Myanmar.
“I am very pleased that I could work at the grassroots level in terms of community welfare, as well as economic and health security matters during this unpredictable pandemic. I am sure that the community may realize the importance of accountable, participatory local government and I also hope for more decentralization and cooperation from the central government. Through this series of webinar dialogues, I could learn about other countries’ federal reforms and local government management experiences,” said Daw Myint Myint Kyi, chairwoman of the Dala Township Municipal Committee.