Strengthening Civil Society Justice Initiatives in Myanmar
Tetra Tech’s USAID Promoting the Rule of Law Project supports Access to Justice Initiative
With the recent leadership transition in Myanmar, civil society and government leaders must learn to work together to foster a culture of democratic governance. To advance this objective, Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP) has been supporting the Access to Justice Initiative (A2JI), a coalition of civil society leaders committed to advocating for structural and policy reforms to improve access to justice in Myanmar.
A2JI, which is composed of more than 40 leading civil society organizations (CSOs), was launched in 2015 with support from USAID. A2JI’s mission is to form a unified civil society platform to identify and engage in constructive advocacy efforts with the new government. A2JI consists of three clusters: Research, Advocacy, and Monitoring & Oversight. Through these clusters, A2JI pursues the following objectives:
Research: Conduct research and analysis to inform policy and advocacy programs, including review of existing laws, collection and analysis of baseline data, and development of an online resource library.
Advocacy: Identify effective, relevant, evidence-based strategies for collective or individual member advocacy.
Monitoring & Oversight: Monitor the performance and reform efforts of the Hluttaw (House of Representatives), executive branch, and judiciary to adhere to international standards.
Over a six-month period in 2016, with technical and other support from USAID’s PRLP, each of these clusters undertook substantive work including research into the inclusion of access-to-justice systems in key laws, an evaluation of recent CSO-led advocacy efforts, and a trial monitoring program. Some of the results demonstrate how much work remains to be done: in only one criminal case, out of more than 100 observed cases, did the defendant have counsel at the time of the remand hearing. Moreover, only 70% of respondents believed they could not challenge a wrongful dismissal from employment, even though there are legal mechanisms to do just that.
These and other findings formed the basis for A2JI’s first set of justice sector and CSO advocacy recommendations, which were presented to members of Parliament. Through support to initiatives like A2JI, USAID’s PRLP is fostering civil society engagement and advocacy and promoting greater access to justice. All of these are in the service of a peaceful transition to an inclusive and transparent democracy for Myanmar.