The peace process between the Government of Myanmar and ethnic armed groups (EAOs) is a central aspect of the country’s transition to democracy launched in 2011. The goal is an effective political dialogue which eventually leads to a federal, democratic state ending protracted armed insurgencies, some of which have been battling the government since the late 1940s. HD has been supporting dialogue towards an inclusive, sustainable peace process within Myanmar since 2011. At the request of the parties, the organisation has lent support in the design of ceasefire arrangements and of the peace process’ architecture. It is also helping parties to develop political solutions to conflict including on questions relating to the transition of the security sector. HD has secured the trust of all parties which has enabled it to be called on to support dialogue on some of the most challenging political questions within the peace process.
Early groundwork on the peace process between the government of Myanmar and the country’s 21 EAOs began in 2011 as part of a broad programme of reforms towards a democratic transition presided over by the previous government of President Thein Sein. Since coming to power in 2015 following the election victory of her party, the National League of Democracy (NLD), State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has positioned the peace process as a major priority of her administration. The current government of Myanmar has stated its desire to deliver an end to almost 70 years of armed conflict with the country’s minority groups.
Political dialogue with signatories to the National Ceasefire Agreement made initial progress particularly on political, economic, social, land and environmental issues. The focus of discussions is now shifting towards more contentious issues, namely the shape of federalism and security sector reform. Only eight of 21 EAOs signed the NCA in 2015. The government and the Myanmar military consider signing the NCA to be the only channel granting EAOs the right to participate in the negotiation of key policy issues.
While progress has since been made with two additional EAOs signing up to the NCA in January 2018, an important step to moving the dialogue forward will be to bring some of the more powerful EAOs into the process. Sporadic fighting between EAOs themselves has also added to the complexity of ceasefire arrangements needed to sustainably de-escalate the conflict. Ongoing hostilities, particularly in Kachin and Shan states, have resulted in additional casualties and displacement, further eroding trust in the process.
HD’s support to the peace process has taken a non-intrusive approach tailored to the needs of an internally-driven process. HD was one of the first international actors to engage substantively with the process, beginning in 2011 with the then-government of Thein Sein. Under the current administration, HD has continued to support an inclusive, sustainable peace process by offering facilitation and technical support to all parties including the Myanmar military, the government, political parties and ethnic armed groups. To date, HD’s work has centred on the design of ceasefire arrangements, advancing dialogue towards a common vision for the country’s security sector, helping parties to develop political solutions to conflict including in the design and implementation of political dialogue, and providing informal spaces for dialogue at the request of the parties.
HD would like to express its gratitude to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for its support to HD’s work in Myanmar.