Why the launch of the Supreme Court Annual Report is More Than Just a Launch
28 Jun 2017
The Myanmar Chief Justice was smiling broadly this morning: after months of hard work by his reporting team, he officially launched the 2016 Annual Report of the Supreme Court to an audience of civil society representatives, private lawyers, journalists, police and prosecution officials, and the diplomatic community in Myanmar. This is a new way of doing business for the Court – inviting a wide range of organizations and stakeholders in a successful judiciary to hear directly from the Chief Justice about the internal deliberations of the court’s planning process is a significant stride towards transparency, public participation and collaboration. The 2016 Annual Report of the Supreme Court provides meaningful information about cases, disposition rates, human resources, budget allocations and even salaries of all employees of the court. This kind of information was simply not shared with the public in earlier years.
But the collaboration and steps towards transparency did not stop there. The rest of the day was devoted to group presentations with lawyers and civil society, as well as heads of police units, Hluttaw committee members, law officers from the Attorney General’s office, and other justice sector officials to explain the Supreme Court’s Strategic Planning process for 2018-2022. The Supreme Court’s current plan ends in 2017, and the Court has been busy working on a framework to create a new five-year plan. UNDP, in collaboration with the Federal Court of Australia, and USAID and other international partners have been providing support to the planning team on best practices for approaching the planning process for an institution as large and important as Myanmar’s Supreme Court.
Breakout sessions were then convened to gather feedback from the participants, who offered insights and suggestions from a wide range of perspectives about what they think the Court can do to improve its performance and increase public satisfaction in the work of the judiciary. There was universal recognition that the Supreme Court was being very open with members of the media and Parliamentarians, and while everyone was respectful, some of the questions were pointed: “what can you do to increase access to the courts?” “Why are the court processes so hard to understand, and why doesn’t the court make more information available to the public?” “Why is there barbed wire around some courthouses – this discourages people to go to court!”
This type of dialogue is critical for Myanmar’s development; it’s not easy for senior government leaders to open the doors of their institutions to outsiders to hear how they can improve their performance, and to answer tough questions from concerned citizens. Not all the back and forth concerned the Strategic Plan, but these multi-stakeholder discussions always produce interesting outcomes; the court listened to new ideas and concerns from people who are passionate about the justice sector that they would otherwise not hear. We will see how this influences the court’s Strategic Plan, but they can now honestly report that they opened the process to the public. Hopefully, this collaborative approach will be noted by other government institutions and encourage them to also open their doors to engage with civil society, journalists and other non-government stakeholders as they review their own institutional performance.