In 2016, Myanmar remains in the midst of a remarkable democratic transition. With a new government in place the credible elections of 2015 and peaceful transfer of power, there are new opportunities for civic engagement that have not been possible in most people’s life in Myanmar.
The increase of civil and political liberals in Myanmar present both complex opportunities and challenges. Many civic leaders and activists do not yet have the necessary skills or knowledge to change in this new democratic structure, and government officials do not know how to best engage with civil society. The need to support the culture of civic par capita in Myanmar, address the dearth of civic education, and provide more opportunities for groups to identify common ground remains great, as well as critical to ensuring the country remains on its democrat path going forward.
To this end, since September 2012 World Learning’s Institute for Political and Civic Engagement (iPACE) has assisted the United States Embassy, Rangoon in its mission to support the nation’s democratic transition on and the burgeoning needs of Myanmar’s fast growing civil society. IPACE intersects a number of critical activists to support the emergence of strong democracy leaders by bolstering their understanding of democratic governance, increasing their capacity to influence the government of their country, and amplifying the voices of citizens as they work together to address issues critical to transition. This is accomplished through providing learning opportunities, knowledge transfer, and networking amongst the country’s existing and emerging leaders and reformers.
World Learning established iPACE at the American Center, Yangon in September 2012 with a grant from the United States Embassy, Rangoon. The goal of the program was to develop a series of courses that model democratic behavior and at the same time provide academically and expert-level content to promote the principles and practices of democracy in Myanmar. Since the launch of iPACE, World Learning has introduced 26 courses, with topics including federalism, strategic planning, political engagement, conflict transformation, pluralism, civic education and advocacy, and voter education, among others. With additional support from the U.S. Embassy in June 2014, World Learning successfully expanded iPACE activities to the person Center in Mandalay where operations continue successfully today.
At both the American Center in Yangon and the Jerson Center in Mandalay, to date iPACE has trained over 1,300 democracy leaders in Myanmar. Of these iPACE alumni, 887 were trained at the American Center representing 33 different political seven labor unions, and 457 different organizations that include CSOs, media, religious organizations, student unions, women’s groups, and other civic institutions. 267 participants have come from outside of Yangon, from all 14 states and divisions. Alumni now represent a diverse set of 32 ethnicities and all major religions represented in Myanmar. iPACE- Mandalay alumni now include 437 representatives from 218 different civil society groups and political parties, from 27 different ethnicities, and six religions.