Human Rights and Development: Building Civil Society Advocacy Capacity

Program Dates: 4-13 May (2015)

Location: Yangon, Myanmar

 

Introduction of the Program

 

The Diplomacy Training Program’s (DTP) regional capacity building program on human rights and development was held in Yangon Myanmar from May 4-13, 2015 with 25 participants from eight countries.  The participants were drawn from NGOs across the region. 

The program addressed issues central to Myanmar’s future – the need for economic development that respects and realises human rights. Civil society has been a key driver of political and democratic change in today’s Myanmar, meaning there is more space for advocacy in Myanmar than previously, particularly in Yangon, although dissent is still risky.  In this environment civil society advocates are facing many new challenges, including challenges that new economic investment is bringing, as communities challenge the seizure of their land by companies with the support of officials, environmental damage that threatens their livelihoods, corruption and violence.

The relationship between human rights and development was a key focus of this program – which built understanding of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights.  The program looked at the content of these rights – and how they related to processes of development across the Asia-Pacific.  There was a particular emphasis on the right to participate – and on the right of Indigenous Peoples to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.   Participants developed their knowledge of relevant international standards on human rights and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as an understanding of the accountability and monitoring mechanisms that have been developed to promote the implementation of these standards. 

Participants were given opportunities to develop and practice their skills in strategic advocacy, the exercise of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), campaigning and lobbying, and using video for advocacy.  Through the program’s participatory approach, involving group work, role-plays, a forum theatre, facilitated discussions and individual presentations, the participants explored the practical application to their own communities and contexts of the principles, concepts, methods and mechanisms introduced by the team of expert trainers.  Participants were able to share experiences with each other, and to build practical bonds of friendship and support that will be of value to them in their future work. 

As reflected in the final participant evaluations, the training program successfully met the expectations of participants for new and valuable knowledge and skills.  This report provides an analysis of these evaluations and a description of the program. We acknowledge the committed effort and spirit of collaboration and friendship brought to the program by the participants. We welcome them to the network of DTP alumni, we wish them well and we look forward to hearing about their future work and endeavours.

DTP expresses its deep appreciation to the trainers who shared their knowledge and expertise on the program, including Professor Virginia Dandan (UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity), Joshua Cooper (Academic in Human Rights Law),Chris Madden (Mining Advocacy Coordinator at Oxfam Australia), Vicky Bowman (Director of Myanmar Centre of Responsible Business), Sayeed Ahmad (Asia Coordinator at Frontline Defenders), Arul Prakkash (Program Manager for Witness in Asia and the Pacific), Bill Barker (former Australian diplomat, international human rights consultant) and Peter Nathan (Community Engagement Consultant).

The program was organized in partnership with the Smile Education and Development Foundation and Equality Myanmar and made possible through funding from the Australian government, the Ford Foundation and Oxfam Australia – as well as the Friends of the Diplomacy Training Program.

See Report