Ahead of Myanmar’s 2020 General Election, The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) and Democracy Reporting International (DRI) conducted a mapping and electoral observation needs assessment of civil society organisations (CSOs) in northern Shan State, southern Shan State, Kayah State, Rakhine State and Kachin State. The assessment was conducted in March and June 2019. The mapping assessed the plans, needs, constraints and challenges of CSOs in carrying out effective election observation as well as assessing their funding and technical capacities.
In the lead up to the 2020 elections, where more than 1,100 seats in Union, state and regional legislative bodies will be decided, CSOs across regions have expressed interest in conducting election observation and advocacy with key democratic stakeholders.
CSOs in Myanmar’s ethnic minority states face many challenges and need to build capacity on a variety of skills and knowledge required for sound electoral observation. To address the challenges and needs, the assessment paid particular attention to assessing CSOs’ capabilities in election observation planning, implementation, and post-election observation. This included assessing their capabilities in creating fundraising strategies and using effective planning techniques.
Most of the CSOs are rights-based organisations whose members have experience in election observation during national and by-elections, either as Long-Term Observers (LTOs) or Short-Term Observers (STOs) with nationwide observing organisations. The selected CSOs plan to conduct election observation of the whole electoral cycle in townships and other remote areas, with a particular focus on women, youth, persons with disability (PWDs), internally displaced persons (IDPs), migrants, and ethnic minority voters.
CSOs engaged in election monitoring encounter numerous challenges, including financial constraints, technical deficiencies, registration issues, lack of cooperation from government departments, lack of permits to conduct activities, influence from religious leaders in some areas, weak coordination among CSOs, and security threats.
The assessment found that CSOs require training on skills for activities before, during and after the election observation, including proposal development, observation planning, observation methods, communication planning, observation forms, electoral and voting systems, election laws, codes of conduct, report writing, and advocacy skills. In order to support improving the general public’s political literacy and knowledge of electoral matters, CSOs also need to widen the scope of their technical knowledge on topics such as democracy, federalism, human rights, civic education, voter education, political ideologies, research and advocacy skills, proposal-writing and reporting skills.