In 2014, six young political leaders from Myanmar were selected to participate in the American Council of Young Political Leader’s Legislative Process and Governance Fellows Program. The exchange provided the Myanmar leaders with hands-on experiential learning in a variety of political placements. They were hosted by American mentors in Austin, Texas and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who then came to Myanmar on January 16, 2015 to learn from the fellows about the politics and culture of Myanmar. The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, along with the ACYPL alumni, was responsible for organizing and facilitating the delegation’s itinerary in-country. The Richardson Center works with the ACYPL to select Myanmar political activists for their exchanges to the US and also hosts American delegates in Myanmar.
During their 9-day visit to Myanmar, the mentors traveled to Bagan, land of a thousand pagodas with their host fellows. The fellows and mentors then went to Naypyitaw to meet with the Union Election Commission Chairman U Tin Aye and his fellow commissioners to discuss the upcoming elections and the preparations being made to have free and fair elections at the end of 2015.
That evening the National Democratic Institute hosted the delegation in their resource center to meet with Members of Parliament from the Union Solidarity and Development Party and the National Democratic Front.
The following day, the delegation observed the floor session of the Pyithu Hluttaw, or lower house of parliament, and met with National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to discuss the progress of democratic reforms. Later, they met with NLD youth and NLD MPs to discuss their political priorities.
The group then went back to Yangon and the fellows arranged meetings with them and explained the projects that they are working on to promote democracy and civil society. The mentors met with members of the Bago Regional Parliament, political opposition leaders, university officials and civil society groups working on polling, legal issues, and democracy training.
The culminating event was a discussion with local political and civil society activists about the many roles that are essential to a political campaign. The mentors shared their campaign experiences and the young Myanmar leaders talked about their challenges and goals. And that is the purpose of these trips: to share professional knowledge, strategic advice, best practices, and shared aspirations. The relationships built during this program will serve as a foundation on which to continue partnerships between the young political and policy professionals from Myanmar and America.