Toward Democracy, Human Rights and Federalism

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Burma Fund (TBF)

Programs

Our Mission:
The Burma Fund (TBF) strengthens the human and institutional capacity of Burma's democracy movement. The Burma Fund (TBF) strengthens the human and institutional capacity of Burma's democracy movement. TBF supports those who are building Burma's civil institutions and working for a peaceful transition to lasting democratic governance. TBF seeks to implement this mission through three core programs:

I. Research and Policy Planning Program

The Research and Policy Planning program facilitates the development and documentation of public policies. It plans to advance Burma to a democratic and civil society, provide current and future leaders and administrators with analysis and experience to guide the transition and development process when the political conditions in Burma permit the implementation of such plans.

II. National and Ethnic Reconciliation Program

The National and Ethnic Reconciliation Program facilitates inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic dialogue on resolving governance issues of mutual concern by providing a forum for discussion, laying the foundation for mutually beneficial cooperation, while providing a mechanism to resolve differences in a peaceful manner. TBF will not determine outcomes but maintain an open and participatory process based on democratic principles, thus setting in practice the benefits of a democratic approach to the leaders of Burma.

III. Human Capacity-Building Program

By offering opportunities to participate in TBF sponsored activities under the Research and Policy Planning and National and Ethnic Reconciliation Programs, the Internship, Fellowship and Capacity-Building Program is an educational vehicle enhancing the skills, knowledge and professional experience of people from all of Burma's ethnic nationalities. Their participation advances their capacity to contribute to the transition and democratic process. This program trains and empowers people at different stages of learning and is not restricted to students or those with technical or academic backgrounds.

In addition to these four core programs TBF maintains an administrative and fundraising unit for the implementation of bureaucratic matters, volunteer management and the outreach to small individual donors.


RESEARCH AND POLICY PLANNING

Approach

The Research and Policy Planning program facilitates the development and documentation of public policies. It plans to advance Burma to a democratic and civil society, provide current and future leaders and administrators with analysis and experience to guide the transition and development process when the political conditions in Burma permit the implementation of such plans.

Design of Activities

The Research and Policy Planning Program takes a three-tiers, proactive and strategic approach to the implementation of its activities:

• provide analysis, develop and assess the options to manage a negotiated transfer of political power, including elaboration and assessment of feasible implementation plans;


• facilitate, document, and implement public policies to guide the transition and long-term development process, thus addressing immediate relief needs and ensuring the long-term sustainability of transitional activities. TBF recognizes that providing relief to the population is necessary for long-term stability and sustainable development goals;


• respond to research inquiries from entities in the democratic movement by supplying research and policy based advice that informs and facilitates their operations.

TBF chooses the following implementation approach to ensure maintenance of high quality work while enabling its own capacity to expand the coverage of its activities:

1. Identification of a number of select activities fitting into its strategic research and policy planning approach based on its own assessment, input from the Board of Directors and other stakeholders,

2. Composition of concept papers, proposals and teams for execution, building on and expanding its networks with Burma experts, public and private donor institutions, research partners at universities, institutes and non-profit organizations from around the world;

3. Funding of proposals using a number of funding vehicles, such as private, public and individual donor contributions to TBF and partner organizations for ear-marked activities, funds from general fundraising activities, as well as pro-bono and in-kind contributions from research partners;

4. Facilitating the participation of Burmese researchers and students through TBF's internship and fellowship program;

5. Supervision of implementation through TBF staff, expert Board members and steering committees; and

6. Documentation, translation and dissemination of results and outputs through adequate communication and storage instruments (i.e. electronic media, Internet, newsletters, books and publications).

Ultimately, the knowledge base created as a result of these activities will support/guide the efforts of the political and administrative leadership to structure and implement transitional policies, including the negotiated transfer of power. It will also facilitate donor coordination in program implementation. In the meantime, these activities:

• educate those who aspire to promote and sustain peaceful change towards democratic governance and the building of civil institutions in Burma,

• generate analytical and policy in-depth analysis in support of pro-democratic interventions at key international conferences and venues, such as the UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Convention, ASEAN political and technical meetings, European Union, U.S. and other bilateral and unilateral meetings,

• provide to international decision-makers analyses of conditions in Burma and/or access to Burma experts or researchers, and

• create a nexus of information, resources, and working relationships accessible by and moveable to Burma during transition.


NATIONAL AND ETHNIC RECONCILIATION BACKGROUND

Background

Burma is a multi-ethnic country inhabited by 106 ethnic nationalities with diverse cultures and distinct languages and dialects. The Burmans, making up 60 percent of the population have been the mainstay of power since independence from the British in 1948. The other major non-Burman ethnic nationalities are the Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon and Shan.

The leaders of the Burman-dominated military see ethnic diversity and recognition of rights of the non-Burman ethnic peoples as threats to the security and stability of Burma. Citing this imagined threat as an excuse, the military leadership staged a coup in 1962. Since that coup, national policies framed by successive regimes reflect this thinking by the military leadership.

Claiming that the country would break up without the military's guidance, the generals, who have ruled Burma since 1962, have resorted to all means to consolidate their hold on the country. Today, they are introducing to the country what they call "disciplined democracy" or a system of governance under the control of the military. The military also justifies its outright repression--control on everyday life and the brutal crackdowns on any dissent--as its contribution to helping "perpetuate the sovereignty of the union and preserving the unity of the nationalities."

The generals' myopic approach has given rise to the very consequences they claim to be preventing. Without freedom of expression and the right to self-determination, many non-Burman ethnic people have chosen armed struggle to win back their rights. The majority of the people also faced with political repression and economic hardships want change. The nationwide protests and demand for democratic reforms in 1988 also reflect the mood of the nation today.

The backlash from the military's oppressive approach is that, although they fare no better in the hands of the military, the Burmans are considered as the oppressors by the non-Burman ethnic peoples. The distrust between the Burmans and the other ethnic nationalities, sowed since colonial times and perpetuated by military rule, has continually grown over the years. No real effort has ever been made on a national scale to address this problem.

Approach

Today, the non-Burman ethnic movement for equality, justice and self-determination against the military dictatorship has been reinforced by the democracy movement that was born during the nationwide protests for democratic change in 1988. The people involved in both movements now have a common struggle. Although burdened with prejudices, both have started to learn from and support each other in the pursuit of equity and democracy.

The National and Ethnic Reconciliation Program facilitates inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic dialogue on resolving governance issues of mutual concern by providing a forum for discussion, laying the foundation for mutually beneficial cooperation, while providing a mechanism to resolve differences in a peaceful manner. TBF will not determine outcomes but maintain an open and participatory process based on democratic principles, thus setting in practice the benefits of a democratic approach to the leaders of Burma.
Design of Activities

If democracy is to survive, preparations must be made today to foster and solidify understanding and mutual respect currently existing among the people involved in the movements for democracy and ethnic equality. If given the right conditions, existing relationships can be built upon to create a basis of reconciliation and partnership. TBF activities include:

• Providing opportunities for the non-Burman ethnic peoples to express their vision about what a future democratic nation of diverse ethnicity should be. This can be formulated through roundtable discussions, conferences to review existing constitutions and proposed constitutions.

• Design trust building measures such as administrative and management training programs and multicultural exchange programs, like ethnic language course for Burmans and English-speaking Burmese teachers to teach English.

• Collect booklets, declarations, and statements made by leaders of different ethnic nationalities. Party platforms, declared intentions and objectives of legally registered different ethnic political parties inside Burma will also be compiled.

• Record, transcribe and publish interviews with different ethnic leaders and public figures. TBF also encourages and facilitates close-door roundtables and forums. All proceedings will be recorded on tape, by photograph and in print for future reference.

• TBF will publish stories focusing on life at the border, in refugee camps, and covering the lives of children. These stories will be compiled and disseminated quarterly to further awareness of the plight of ethnic nationalities and their struggle.

• Organize an Advisory Group comprised of non-Burman ethnic advisors. They will come from National Democratic Front (NDF) and non-NDF ethnic forces. Informal meetings, suggestions and opinions from this group will be taken for consideration to implement in the TBF National and Ethnic Reconciliation program.

• Two secretaries, one in Thailand and one in India, will be appointed to facilitate the Advisory Group and to periodically report developments to and facilitate dialogue with The Burma Fund.


INTERNSHIP, FELLOWSHIP AND CAPACITY-BUILDING PROGRAM

Approach

The Internship, Fellowship and Capacity-Building Program is an educational vehicle enhancing the abilities and knowledge of people from all of Burma's ethnic nationalities. Participation in TBF-related Research and Policy planning activities or capacity-building workshops informs, trains and empowers people at different stages of learning and is not restricted to students or those with technical or academic backgrounds.


Design of Activities

TBF activities include extensive training and exposure, mentoring and placement. Projects will advance the participant's capacities to articulate, engage and address issues currently relevant to the democracy movement, during transition and towards sustaining democracy in Burma. The fellowships are geared towards people from technical and academic fields who are committed to working on Burma-specific projects. All other participants are provided training on diverse topics, including diplomacy; how international organizations, such as the United Nations or the World Bank, functions; persuasive and public speaking. The TBF Internship and Fellowship program works in close alliance with The Burma Fund's Research and Policy Planning and National and Ethnic Reconciliation programs.

• People of all ages interested in advancing their abilities, knowledge and skills are encouraged to apply. This is especially targeted to those living in exile in India and Thailand. Program participants may be provided training in the United States, India, Thailand and other countries.

• The Burma Fund selection committee includes The Burma Fund staff, its Board Members and representatives from the ethnic disenfranchised groups. The selection committee includes a provision for the ethnic groups in Thailand and India to nominate appropriate candidates.

• TBF coordinates training workshops, provides translated materials, and organizes presentations by various specialists (i.e. labor organizers, staff from non-governmental organizations, researchers, especially those working on Burma-related topics).

Technical Advisory Network of Burma

The Technical Advisory Network Mission Statement

The Technical Advisory Network is a virtual think-tank dedicated to promoting and sharing knowledge and building capacity essential to the establishment of durable democracy in Burma.

Mandate and Position

The TAN of Burma is a virtual network of scholars and experts, which studies policy options, conduct research, and informs the process of democratization in Burma. The Network was established in January 2000 by the The Burma Fund during the Millennium Conference at American University in Washington D.C. with participation from leading Burma scholars and experts. TAN has received full mandate from the elected members of parliament of Burma and the exile government, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma to serve as a think-tank of the democracy movement. Therefore, TAN is a legitimate knowledge provider with a unique audience of political leaders, government officials, and civic activists who shape the process of policy development for democratic transition in Burma.

Organizational Outreach

Since the foundation, TAN has held several coordination meetings in Thai-Burma border with pro-democracy groups and ethnic nationality organizations, which are working on advancing democratization in Burma. In the international arena, TAN has held a number of planning and information meetings with representatives from various foundations: Open Society Institute; Carnegie Endowment for Peace; Ford; Rockefeller; IDEA, Westminster, and Sasakawa Peace. Meetings with US government-associated organizations include National Endowment for Democracy; US Institute for Peace; USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI); National Democratic Institute; and the International Republican Institute. TAN representatives also consulted with multilateral organizations such as The World Bank, the Asia Development Bank, the UNDP, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Consultants and activists involved in local initiatives, such as the selective purchasing laws, also met with TAN representative. The TAN is currently negotiating with the School of International Service, American University to have institutional support for its research programs.

At the beginning of 2001, TAN has taken two important initiatives in building its network infrastructure. Network on Transition reaches out to a pool of several leading scholars and experts working on the theory and practice of democratic development worldwide, as it is designed to facilitate a continuous flow of information and ideas to inform the political process in Burma. With the help of National Endowment for Democracy, this program has helped TAN to identify, approach, interview and request a concerned group of democracy experts to provide ideas, reviews, and advice on Burma's transition to democracy. Meanwhile, TAN's Young Scholars Program, with the assistance from Open Society Institute, is reaching out to hundreds of Burmese students and young professionals who have come to study and work in overseas institutes to contribute their talents toward democracy building in Burma. This program will allow the TAN to build a class of young intellectuals whose fundamental contribution to the national reconstruction has great potentials. Both outreach programs enabled feedback, created introductions, organized working teams, initiated TAN's preliminary search for funds, located pressing issues for research, and identified potential partners in the fields of post-conflict management, reconciliation, demobilization, reconstruction, agriculture, economics, health, educational policies, and law.

PROGRAMMATIC PILLARS
TAN seeks to implement its mission through four core programs:

I. Research and Policy Planning Program

The Research and Policy Planning Program facilitates the development and documentation of public policies. It plans to help advance Burma to a democratic and civil society, provide current and future leaders and administrators with analysis and experience to guide the transition and development process when the political conditions in Burma permit the implementation of such plans.

II. Development Dialogue and Cooperation Program

The Development Dialogue and Cooperation Program seeks to build networks with other thinktanks and with other policy institutes, which will draw cross-national comparison investigating the policies and practices of other countries or regions that are relevant to Burma. This program facilitates research collaboration and interaction with other like-minded organizations, and helps transport ideas and knowledge about policy and practice from one context to another. The program also builds essential institutional capacity for the policy transfer during the critical period of Burma's democratic transition.

III. Human Capacity Building Program

By creating opportunities to participate in TAN sponsored activities, the human capacity building program is an educational vehicle enhancing the skills, knowledge and professional experiences of people from all of Burma's ethnic nationalities, thus advancing their abilities to contribute in the transition process.

IV. Advocacy and Outreach Program

Advocacy program involves a more proactive strategy of transferring ideas that inform the change process in Burma. The program uses a combination of various tools of policy advocacy, media and information technology in mobilizing public opinions. The outreach initiative provides a forum for interaction with associations, individuals and international private sector organizations to strengthen their relationships with Burma's democratic movement and contribute their views on TAN sponsored research and policy planning activities.

In addition to these four core programs TAN can also assists through TBF's administrative resources for the implementation of bureaucratic matters, volunteer management and outreach to individual donors. It also maintains a comprehensive database that stores the directory of experts who can help project-related matters, and a library of scholarly literature on Burma.

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