Knowledge for Democracy – Myanmar Initiative
(April 2018 – March 2019)
Over the course of its near 50-year history, the IDRC has collaborated with researchers and policymakers to support democratic transitions in countries like South Africa, Chile and Vietnam. Now, the IDRC’s Knowledge for Democracy Myanmar (K4DM) initiative, in partnership with Global Affairs Canada, is supporting evidence-based decision-making in this Southeast Asian country, following decades of underinvestment in research and higher education. The initiative is nurturing a new generation
of state and non-state actors that can produce sound, policy-relevant knowledge. It is doing this by training and mentoring aspiring leaders, supporting independent think tanks, and providing research grants. K4DM activities include women and other vulnerable groups under an overall dynamic of engaging in open public debate. A solid foundation for democracy can be established with these building blocks in place. The IDRC’s experience shows that equipping local researchers and policymakers with the necessary knowledge and tools helps them generate the evidence needed to build prosperous, democratic societies that can put in place conditions for hope and change.
The five-year initiative, ending September 2021, ultimately aims to enhance political and economic empowerment of women
and men during Myanmar’s democratic transition. Signed on 12 January 2017, K4DM aims to improve collaboration and increase the use of research for evidence-based and gender transformative policy development. As of March 2019, more than 30 Canadian, international and Myanmar partners have implemented 18 projects under the initiative’s three main pillars:
- building the individual capacity of key stakeholders (young researchers, university academics and policymakers) through training and mentorship n
- enhancing the organizational capacity of independent think tanks by providing core funding
- providing grants for research projects on gender equality and political decentralization
So far, seventy percent of the initiative’s C$10.7million budget has been allocated to the following projects:
- Ten capacity strengthening projects: Institutions from Canada and other countries are involved in the training and mentoring of a large, geographically diverse pool of aspiring Myanmar leaders.
- Three core funding projects to enhance the organizational development of three independent think tanks working on a range of policy issues, including the peace process, gender and the environment.
- Five research projects to improve local research capacity to bridge knowledge gaps around women’s political participation, preparing budgets from a gender perspective, and budgeting for public services.
Key achievements from these projects include:
- Yangon University of Economics introduced a gender and development course, the first of its kind in Myanmar. With support from Thailand’s Asian Institute of Technology and the University of British Columbia, Canada, the course has provided over 100 graduate students and faculty members with training and in-depth mentoring on public policy.
- The University of Mandalay hosted the first of several workshops organized by Thailand’s Chiang Mai University to provide information to faculty members on the latest research approaches in the social sciences. Nine new research groups have emerged because of this training.
- More than 150 civil servants received advanced training on quantitative research methods and public finance from the Myanmar Development Institute (MDI), the University of Southern California, Canada’s McGill University, Renaissance Institute, and the Fulbright University of Vietnam.
- Shan State, one of the largest and most ethnically diverse in the country, launched Myanmar’s first-ever priority plan for improving parliamentary research capacity within a subnational legislature.
- The Centre for Development and Ethnic Studies (CDES), an independent think tank in Myanmar, organized a session of its Saturday School of Federalism. This program aims to foster knowledge on the characteristics of federalism, democracy and human rights to the new generation of Myanmar.
- Advancing Life and Regenerating Motherland (ALARM), a non-governmental organization in Myanmar focused on environmental governance, launched a ground-breaking report on the need to establish a Myanmar National Climate Land Bank to prepare the country and its people for largescale climate-related displacement.
- The IDRC launched a mentoring program that involved two staff members of the Centre for Economic and Social Development, one of the three think tanks receiving core funding from K4DM.
- Twelve staff members from the three think tanks participated in the IDRC global Think Tank Exchange in Bangkok whose purpose is to connect public policymakers and members of 250 organizations from over 25 countries.
- The results of the first survey of Myanmar’s policy community were released at a roundtable of more than 75 stakeholders.
- The teams involved in K4DM’s five research projects prepared and published their first joint report on gender equality on the Asia Research News magazine. Throughout the year, all teams held learning exchange events, training workshops for researchers, organized focus groups to test survey instruments and, in most instances, started fieldwork.
- Kivu International, a UK-based partner of the IDRC’s Think Tank Initiative, delivered organizational development training to more than 25 employees of eight emerging think tanks: Myanmar Development Institute (MDI), Open Myanmar Institute (OMI), Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation (EMReF), Another Development (AD), Renaissance Institute (RI), Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security (MIPS), Institute for Strategy Policy (ISP), and Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT).
- Five members of the Gender Equality Network (GEN) received training on how to hire and train new staff, as well as introduce gender equality into their training of teachers and civil servants. GEN is a network of more than 130 civil society organizations, national and international NGOs, and technical resource persons working to bring gender equality to Myanmar.
- A World Bank spinoff the Global Development Network (GDN), a K4DM grantee, and Singapore’s Institute of SouthEast Asian Studies are providing training and mentoring on knowledge systems assessment to examine research and post-secondary education in Myanmar.
K4DM has also encouraged engagement, collaboration and learning between its grantees and knowledge partners through communications and events, including:
- Quarterly editions of the “Inclusive Myanmar” newsletter, which reaches more than 250 individuals and institutions.
- An electronic platform featuring Myanmar updates and e-learning resources launched in December 2018.
- Three Myanmar Lecture Series by international experts on labour, education, and gender policies at local universities and institutes in Yangon and Mandalay.
- Two large workshops on gender and labour policies in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw that featured over 180 participants.
- Three events in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa with Canadabased partners that discussed the political context of Myanmar and the country’s economic prospects.
- Five grantees represented K4DM and shared emerging research results at international conferences in Bangkok and Canberra.