Emma Morley: Remarks at Foundational Leadership Programme for Speakers and Deputy Speakers of Region and State Hluttaws

Jun 15, 2016

On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme and especially our Democratic Governance team, we would like to welcome you to the Foundational Leadership Seminar for the Speakers and Deputy Speakers of the Region and State Hluttaws. We feel truly honoured to be able to host you for the next three days to discuss your roles as “leaders” and “chairs” of your respective Hluttaws.

This is a time of historical transition in Myanmar; as Speakers and Deputy Speakers, you are at the forefront of the transition and contribute to the leadership of the democratic reforms that are taking place in Myanmar.

The Region and State Hluttaws are only the second Region and State Hluttaws in the history of Myanmar, they are still a fairly new addition to the governance system in Myanmar. They were established for the first time in 2011, this is 1081 years later than the oldest Parliament in the world, which is the Icelandic Parliament which was set up in the year 930. The Parliament in my country, the United Kingdom came about in its modern form in 1707.

We can learn a lot from the Parliaments that have a long history of Parliamentary Practice. We know that Parliaments are living institutions that evolve with time. Traditions are established, practices and precedents are set. Procedures are developed and adjusted in order to ensure that individual Parliaments function well in relation to other institutions such as the Executive, and to ensure that they are ‘fit for practice’ to carry out their functions and responsibilities effectively.

As Speakers and Deputy Speakers you are pioneers of the Region and State Hluttaws in Myanmar. The traditions you install, the changes you make, and the processes you lead in your Hluttaws, will not only have an impact on what is happening today in your Hluttaws, but will create precedents for successive Hluttaws. For example, in the United Kingdom, we have practices established hundreds of years ago which have never been written down but are acknowledged as ‘custom and practice.’ For example, the practice of bills being ‘read’ three times in both Houses is not in the written procedures or ‘Standing Orders’ but has developed over time. Other Parliaments have acknowledged where culture or practice are undermining their democratic institutions and taken positives steps to address this. For example, in Denmark the parliament was perceived as a very formal institution where decisions were negotiated between the main political parties behind closed doors ahead of policy decisions. This raised questions around the democratic process and the role of the assembly. In 2011, the Danish Parliament therefore introduced, new procedures which ensured that policy decisions of the government were questioned and discussed in the plenary and that all political parties were allowed to participate. This allowed for more lively debate, and also gave people a better understanding of the policy decisions that were being made.

Back in March, when we met in Naw Pyi Daw for the preparatory seminar, we discussed some of the opportunities as well as challenges that the Myanmar Hluttaws face due to the limited experience of the Parliamentary practice in the country. As we have learnt from other Parliaments, these practices can only be acquired over time, with you as Speakers and Deputy Speakers leading and continuing this  process following on from the first Region and State Hluttaws. The measures you take as Speakers in this early stage will have a long term impact on your Hluttaws.

The purpose of this Foundational Leadership Seminar is two fold:

Firstly to introduce Speakers to your roles as ‘leaders’ and ‘chairs’ of Parliament and secondly to enable you to learn skills that Speakers and Deputy Speakers have used elsewhere to effectively plan and implement long term institutional and capacity development.

During the next three days you will have the chance to engage with a current Speaker and a former Deputy Speaker of sub-national parliaments, Honorable Don Harwin, President of the Legislative Council of New South Wales Parliament and Honorable Dawn Black, former Deputy Speaker of the British Columbia Provincial Parliament. We also have two former heads of parliament administrations, Ms. Pauline Ng, former Secretary General of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, and Mr. Warren Cahill, former Clerk of the New South Wales Parliament.

Through this seminar, we hope that you will be able to learn from their experiences and actively discuss the various functions and roles of a Speaker and the principles that guide Speakers. We hope this will provide you with a strong foundation to observe this in practice at the Legislative Council of Hong Kong.

This Foundational Leadership seminar is the start of a longer term engagement and support from UNDP, as part of our efforts to strengthen democratic traditions and ensure a governance system which will help provide socio-economic opportunities for all people of Myanmar.


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