At the request of Myanmar’s Police Chief, USIP has been working to enhance the ability of the Myanmar Police Force (MPF) to monitor, prevent and manage local conflict. USIP’s long-term P4P implementation strategy seeks to institutionalize these key skills within both MPF training and operational structures. USIP also aims to help the MPF put this foundation of conflict management assets and knowledge into concrete experiences in conflict-affected territories through a facilitated community engagement program building on USIP’s cornerstone Justice and Security Dialogue (JSD) approach.  JSD processes aim to support the fostering of relationship building, trust and collaborative problem-solving between the police, government officials, judicial authorities, political parties, civil society organizations and community leaders. Since 2014, through trainings, study visits and dialogues, USIP has equipped hundreds of MPF Officers from 13 states and regions with conflict prevention and mitigation skills for the benefit of the communities they serve and protect.

Training for Special Police Officers, who were hired to provide security at polling stations during the historic November 2015 Parliamentary elections.
Myanmar Police Force–led training for Special Police Officers, who were hired to provide security at polling stations during the historic November 2015 Parliamentary elections.

Activity Spotlights

Institutionalizing Policing for Peace Principles, November 2016

As part of its longstanding partnership with the Myanmar Police Force (MPF), USIP conducted a successful two-week Training of Trainers (ToT) on the P4P curriculum in late November 2016 with 38 senior police commanders and academy trainers. The course covered the main P4P skills of conflict analysis, crisis response, victim protection, community engagement and consensus building necessary for police to prevent and mitigate the risks of local conflict. As part of the agreed upon follow up for the ToT, USIP is working with senior police officials on modalities for cascade trainings during the remainder of 2017 across Myanmar. USIP staff will offer advice, evaluate and provide real-time feedback to MPF instructors throughout the majority of these P4P trainings conducted particularly for police units deployed in conflict-affected territories.

Policing in a Ceasefire Context, August 2015

Building on an earlier exposure trip to Nepal, in August 2015 USIP organized a one-week study visit to Mindanao in the Philippines for senior MPF Police Commanders and civil society leaders from Shan, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin and Mon States.

The visit sought to spur further reflection around potential strategies to build criminal justice and security cooperation across cease-fire front lines between the MPF and EAOs on issues of common concern – including drug trafficking – as well as  enhance the police approaches to community engagement with religious and ethnic minority communities in conflict-affected territories.  

The composition of the delegation also served to facilitate interaction and trust-building between these senior MPF commanders and prominent civil society representatives from their respective states in addition to strengthening the latter’s knowledge and understanding of police reform challenges and opportunities in contexts of ceasefires and political negotiations. Participants exchanged with counterparts and stakeholders from all sides of the long-standing conflict in Mindanao, with a particular focus on engagement with current or former actors directly involved in peacebuilding efforts, including the army, the police, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, international and local ceasefire monitors as well as religious leaders.

While the participants came away with general knowledge for the functions and roles of the peace infrastructure in the Philippines, they also learned specifically about the mechanisms employed in Mindanao which allow for law enforcement to coordinate access to rebel-held territories within the framework of the ceasefire agreement in order to conduct operations against organized crime groups. As Myanmar anticipated the eventual signing of its own nationwide ceasefire agreement, this exposure led MPF officers to explore how they could also improve protection of communities in mixed control front-line areas as well as target mobile and elusive drug traffickers in conflict-affected zones.

Election Security Support, 2015

In early 2015, the MPF’s senior leadership asked USIP to support their efforts to apply P4P principles and approaches to the core challenges of providing civilian police protection to all stakeholders for the country’s first inclusive and democratic general elections in decades. As a result, USIP provided technical assistance and facilitated key stakeholder consultations in the development and implementation of election coordination mechanisms, context-specific political violence risk analyses, and dialogue and trust-building strategies with political parties.   

In collaboration with the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), USIP contributed to training more than 240 government officials taking part in Electoral Security Management Committees (ESMC) from nine states and regions on inter-institutional coordination, election security preparations and violence prevention strategies. The concept of the ESMC was born out of a USIP-facilitated dialogue between the Union Election Commission (UEC) and the MPF on election security coordination.

Moreover, USIP helped the MPF create an elections-specific police Elections Code of Conduct outlining an unprecedented commitment to strict political neutrality and resistance to interference in their chain of command. Upon its endorsement by the head of the UEC, USIP printed 100,000 pocket-size laminated versions which were distributed to all police personnel to carry on their uniforms during election day.

At the request of National League for Democracy (NLD) representatives, USIP organized 6 facilitated dialogues between political party leaders and MPF state/regional commanders in order to consult key beneficiaries on security planning and share police commitments to neutrality and professionalism as outlined in the MPF Elections Code of Conduct.  For nearly all participants, it was the first time they had ever taken part in a respectful public discussions surrounding security provision in Myanmar and marked an important experience regarding public involvement in police strategy development. Ultimately, the elections were resoundingly peaceful and all stakeholders praised and appreciated the professional performance of the MPF.

Pilot Policing for Peace Training in Cambodia, July 2014

USIP’s pilot P4P training hosted twenty-five police officers for a two-week course in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in partnership with the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. The training focused on strengthening rule of law in Myanmar, early warning and indicators of flash points of violence, dialogue in identity-based conflict, community engagement, policing in transitional contexts, relations with the media and mediating local disputes. The course was led by USIP rule of law, media, and religion and conflict experts, experienced external consultants –including a U.S. police chief with significant experience in community engagement with vulnerable groups, a Nepali civil society peacebuilder who spearheaded the JSD process in his native country, a police-media trainer working in Myanmar with the European Union and several relevant Cambodian organizations and experts. The course culminated with participants reflecting and planning for the implementation and dissemination of P4P knowledge and skills upon return to Myanmar as well as identifying potential new mechanisms and procedures to strengthen and institutionalize conflict responsiveness within the police.

Myanmar Elections in 2015: Resources

On Sunday, November 8, 2015, Myanmar held elections for national and state-level parliamentary seats in perhaps the most open general elections in the past 50 years. The outcome of the elections had the potential to significantly shift the country’s political landscape. This and the election of the next president by the new parliament in February or March of 2016 served as an indicator of the sustainability of the reform process of the past five years.

In contrast to the 2010 elections, which were designed to produce an overwhelming majority for the government’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) representatives in the parliament and from which Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy were excluded, the NLD is a major force in these elections, along with more than 90 other parties. Despite the many advantages that still accrue to the government party, the Union Election Commission (UEC) has taken significant measures in concert with international election organizations to make the 2015 elections relatively transparent compared with the country’s past experience.

Priscilla Clapp, a senior advisor on Myanmar at the U.S. Institute of Peace and a former U.S. chief of mission in Burma, has written extensively for USIP on the elections and the political implications of their outcome, as well as on other subjects. Her latest blog post, Securing Myanmar’s Impending Elections, sheds light on the preparations for election security.

USIP publications relating to the November 8 elections:

Securing Myanmar’s Impending Elections
November 5, 2015
Although the political structures created by the military constitution of 2008 and many of the conditions that govern these elections give the government party an advantage, the opposition is buoyed by the opportunity to campaign relatively freely compared with past experience.

Myanmar Election Season Makes Dramatic Start
August 21, 2015
Myanmar’s 2015 election season is off to a dramatic start. Massive flooding and complaints about inaccurate voter lists have caused delays in early procedural deadlines. In a midnight raid on the headquarters of the governing Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) party, ministers from the president’s office, accompanied by soldiers and police, deposed the speaker of parliament, Thura U Shwe Mann, as head of the party. Meantime, when the list of candidates was released for the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the party faced protests from those who did not make the cut.

Myanmar’s Vital Election Faces Ferment and Flood
USIP Experts on Preparations for November Vote (Video)
August 19, 2015
The past week’s turmoil within Myanmar’s ruling party has underscored the power of the country’s armed forces less than 12 weeks before parliamentary elections that civil society activists and others say are vital to consolidating a democracy following a half century of military rule. Security forces surrounded the headquarters of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party last week to enforce an order by President Thein Sein dismissing the party’s leader, Shwe Mann.

S.E. Asian Migrant Emergency Cries for Global Solution
May 27, 2015
It is a mistake to view the desperate boat migration currently unfolding in Southeast Asia’s Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal as simply a manifestation of the sad plight of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, and thereby to conclude that the solution lies only in Myanmar. In fact, it is a much wider regional and even global problem that will require a complex set of separate but related actions to bring about a humanitarian solution.

Myanmar: Anatomy of a Political Transition
April 27, 2015
Many countries have attempted to transition from authoritarian governments to democracies, with many false starts. The political transition that began in Myanmar with the elections of 2010 was heavily planned by military leaders to gradually move toward democratization while retaining many of the authoritarian structures of the previous government during the transition. As Myanmar’s success has attracted great interest and support from the international community, this study analyzes the elements that brought the transition about and the issues that threaten to arrest and complicate it in the present, to draw lessons that might apply to other countries undergoing transitions to democracy.

Burma: Can the 2015 Elections Overcome the Legacy of 2010?
March 9, 2015
Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) appears to be preparing for a much more transparent and inclusive parliamentary election in 2015 than we saw in 2010. Its work with civil society, political parties and international organizations already stands in stark contrast to its management of the 2010 balloting. The test of its performance, of course, will be whether the contestants in the election believe the outcome has not been unduly manipulated.

Q&A: Myanmar/Burma’s 2015 Elections
January 23, 2015
As part of USIP’s Peace Predictions series at the beginning of 2015, Institute experts explored some of the biggest tests coming up for 2015 in the struggle to prevent or resolve violent conflict. In this installment, Priscilla Clapp explains the import of Myanmar’s parliamentary elections in late 2015 and the likely twists and turns.

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