CSOs in Chin Form a Network for a Stronger Collective VoiceDec 4, 2014
Civil Society organisations (CSOs) in Chin State have committed to strengthen their network and together have a stronger voice so that they can become positive contributors in Myanmar’s reform process. They formed the Chin Civil Societies Network to support these goals. The network, through which financial and information resources can be mobilized to support strengthening of local area CSO and civil society work, was formed after a three day Forum held in Hakha for CSOs working in Chin.
The forum, titled “Chin Civil Societies Forum – Building Collective Voice” was the first of its kind in Chin State. It brought together 120 participants, representatives of CSOs and community based organizations from all 9 townships and 4 sub townships, including CSO representatives from the environment, health, peace sectors as well as Chin State Media Network and the emerging network of Township-level Leading Groups representing women’s Self-Reliant Groups from the village level.
H.E. Nang Za Mung, Chin State Minister of Finance, addressed the Forum and said that, within the context of the waves of democratic transition in Myanmar, “It is very important to have a good understanding between CSOs and government, and for CSOs to understand their role as well.” He encouraged CSOs and media to “participate in a positive way” for constructive change. “The result of the forum may be good for Chin State’s development and for democracy in Myanmar and may be brought out to the whole nation of Myanmar, starting from our Chin State.”
The Forum was co-hosted by Chin Green Network and Chin Peace and Tranquility Committee (CPTC), with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Shalom Foundation. CPTC Director Dr. Lal Uk highlighted Chin State’s high poverty and noted that CSOs have to step forward to support development, change and peace for Chin people.
“Governance and the collective voice of the public are very important in Myanmar’s democratic transition. On the CSOs’ side, there is the need for real mission and vision, and on the government’s side it is necessary to fulfill CSOs’ chance and provide an easy way to apply for and get their organizations registered,” Dr. Lal Uk said.
Mr. Ni Cung Thang, director of Chin Green Network, said that in Chin State, issue-based networking is gradually becoming stronger while geographic area-based networking remained weak.
“Most of the CSOs are unaware of the importance of collective voices,” he said.
“We have also reached out to elders’ groups to participate in the forum. We have been working at local level to increase their understanding about why and how to broaden participation of women and youth in traditional authority structures, and have already succeeded in Hakha.”
The Forum included a discussion on participants’ understanding of a CSO, facilitated by Ms. Tar Yar Maung, a resource person from the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA).
UNDP programme specialist Allison Moore spoke on good local governance and the openings presented by changes at local level including the election of village tract administrators (VTAs) and the creation of new committees with civic representation, such as Development Supporting Committee and Municipal Affairs Committee. The participants actively engaged in questions about the committees and how they could become really representative of civil society. UNDP welcomed ideas from the group to shape plans to support cooperation by CSOs, media and government on Township Community Dialogue and Learning Initiatives to promote community engagement with the committees and other political and governance structures.
Topics for the forum’s second day focused on civil society information and participation in peace processes and cease fire monitoring, an area in which there are several active Chin CSOs who have been working as intermediaries between communities, government and Chin National Front. Other civil society participants were eager to understand how communities could get more information and participate in peacebuilding and monitoring work.
Over the course of the three-day forum participants formed a collective action plan and decided to formalize a statewide Chin CSO organization for networking – the Chin Civil Societies network. They also pledged to get a better understanding on good governance at the township level, and become positive contributors in Myanmar’s nation building process.
After the Forum, the CSO organizations returned to their township/subtownship levels and are expected to deepen their cooperation, improve their capacities, and support action planning at that level.