Canterbury Christ Church University Team participates in discussion on federalism in Myanmar

Two staff members of Canterbury Christ Church University’s Politics and International Relations team have recently been involved in discussions about the democratisation, peace-building and federalisation process in Myanmar/Burma.

Dr Soeren Keil, Reader in Politics and IR was the Academic Lead for a new Myanmar Federalism Leadership Programme (MFLP), a 10-day programme to prepare activists from civil society, the administration, ethnic armed organisations and political parties for the future discussions on federalism in the country. This is particularly timely, as the next round of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference is scheduled for January 2018. Soeren worked in Nay Pyi Taw, the country’s capital city, from 16-26 November 2017. He represented Canterbury Christ Church at the event, and was in charge of multiple lectures, discussion rounds and inputs. The event was co-organised with UN Women, the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the Centre for Development and Ethnic Studies. After his work at the MFLP, Soeren participated in two further events, one with a number of civil society activists in Yangon (Rangoon) from 3-5 December 2017 on ‘Advanced Discussions on Federalism’, and another event as a discussion forum with the civil society forum for peace, a collection of several NGOs from across Burma.

Paul Anderson, PhD student in Politics and International Relations, also contributed to the MFLP with a lecture on autonomy, secession and minority rights, with particular reference to Scotland and Catalonia. In addition to this, Paul spent five days (20 to 24 November) at the Lower Myanmar Civil Service Campus in Phaunggyi, training 35 civil servants on the topics of democracy, decentralisation and federalism.

Both Soeren and Paul contributed to raising Christ Church’s profile in Myanmar/Burma and they have become well respected experts in the country, sharing their knowledge and expertise with a number of actors in the peace process, including leading NGOs, ethnic armed organisations and the civil service. Their work contributes to the wider activities of Politics and International Relations in the field of supporting transition processes in post-conflict societies, with a special focus on advice for territorial reform, decentralisation and federalism.

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CCCU Politics Staff lead discussions on federalism in Myanmar

Dr Soeren Keil, Reader in Politics and IR, and PhD Candidate Paul Anderson have recently spent just over two weeks in Myanmar leading discussions on debates on federalism. Working with a number of international organisations, including the Hanns Seidel Foundation and Democracy Reporting International, as well as a number of local organisations, Paul and Soeren, alongside other international experts, led and facilitated a number of discussions on the multifaceted topic of federalism, a key pillar of Myanmar’s peace process.

In the first week, Paul and Soeren spent five days with the Union Civil Service Board, working on the topic ‘Federalism and Decentralisation’. This course, part of the Civil Service’s wider training programme for executive civil servants, introduced the participants to the topic of federalism and decentralisation, as well as more detailed and Myanmar context specific discussions. Senior Civil servants learned about a variety of aspects of federal political systems and participated in a number of presentations which applied this theoretical knowledge to the case of Myanmar.

The second and third workshops, held in Taunggyi, Shan State, and Yangon, continued debates on federalism, but this time included MPs, members of the ethnic armed organisations, civil society actors and political party activists. Joined by other international experts, these discussions focused on a number of key topics in Myanmar, such as ‘self-determination and secession’, ‘constitutional amendment procedures’ and ‘dispute resolution mechanisms’.

Despite having debated federalism for over two weeks, the federalism fun continues. On Sunday 13 August, CCCU’s politics summer school ‘Federalism, Multinationalism and the Future of Europe’ will kick off, with the participation of a number of students from a range of countries including France, Germany, Myanmar, Nepal, the USA and the UK. The summer school, now in its fifth edition at CCCU, will feature lectures from a range of international scholars covering both theoretical and empirical topics, as well as a field trip to the Houses of Parliament. On the same day (13 August), Dr Soeren Keil will speak in the Myanmar Parliament as part of a wider expert consultation on Myanmar’s transition process. This event is organised by the government of Myanmar and Soeren has been requested an international expert on federalism.