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UNSW engagement in Myanmar

I thought I would just provide an update of all the things going on at UNSW Law in relation to Myanmar. See flier here, or info below:

UNSW Law has numerous projects to contribute to legal education, constitutional literacy and protection of human rights in Myanmar, including:
·        the Australia-Myanmar Constitutional Democracy Project;
·        the Diplomacy Training Program;
·        National Pro Bono program;
·        Legal education initiatives;
·        Myanmar/Burma online legal database at AsianLII;
·        UNSW International focus on partnership with Myanmar;
·        Other academic events



Australia Myanmar Constitutional Democracy Project
In 2013, the Australia-Myanmar Constitutional Democracy Project was established by Sydney University, in cooperation with UNSW, ANU and NUS. This was done at the request of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, of the National League for Democracy, and her concerns to enhance constitutional literary and promote legal reform in Myanmar. The Project aims to directly increase the capacity of local actors to participate positively in the process of constitutional reform in Myanmar. It will do this by expanding the constitutional vocabulary of different groups within society (ethnic communities, grass-roots organisations, political leaders, members of the media) so that they can contribute to political discourse. It will also provide a forum for debate and discussion between groups and actors who may not previously have had opportunities to come together to participate in constitutional conversations. In the long term, the Project’s objective is to expand the democratic political space during a critical time in Myanmar’s transition towards constitutional democracy. The Project aims to support increased constitutional stability, leading to an environment where there is greater prospect for peaceful and equitable development. The Project also strengthens linkages and networks between scholars and members of civil society in Myanmar and Australia.

The first workshop was held in May 2013 in Yangon, and this was the first major international workshop on constitutional reform of its kind in Myanmar. It was attended by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself, as well as a wide range of civil society organisations, lawyers, judges, and politicians. Academics from UNSW included Professor Martin Krygier and Professor Adam Czarnota, and Dr Melissa Crouch. The workshop was sponsored by the Australian embassy, Rotary International, and Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and well as the partner universities concerned. The workshop was attended by See report on proceedings here, and media release here and here.

In 2014, UNSW Law School took over leadership of the Australia Myanmar Constitutional Democracy Project. Core project members include Professor Martin Krygier, Professor Theunis Roux, Dr Catherine Renshaw (UWS), Dr Melissa Crouch and Professor Wojciech Sadurski (Sydney). In November 2014, major workshops were again held in Yangon and Naypyidaw covering topics from constitutional amendment to federalism, separation of powers, bills of rights and the role of courts. The workshop was again sponsored by the Australian embassy, Rotary International, and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, as well as the universities involved. See a report on proceedings here.

From 2015-2016, major funding was offered by the Community of Democracies and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) to undertake further workshops to enhance democratic participation and constitutional literacy in Myanmar. In July 2015, two major workshops were held, one in Mandalay with a wide range of civil society actors, members of parliament and lawyers; the other in Naypyidaw with the Constitutional Tribunal members and court staff. A further workshop was also held on 23 November 2015 that explored the relationship between justice and constitutional democracy during periods of transition. This workshop was attended by over 90 people including Members of state and federal Parliaments, political party representatives, members of ethnic minorities, lawyers, members of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, academics, representatives of civil society organisations) and international experts from Asia, Australia and Myanmar.

In November 2016, there are plans for a workshop in Yangon with a wide range of actors, and in Naypyidaw with the new members of the Constitutional Tribunal. The Australia Myanmar Constitutional Democracy Project is currently a joint enterprise of Law Schools: including the University of New South Wales (UNSW); the University of Sydney; and University of Western Sydney.  

Contact persons:
Professor Martin Krygier: m.krygier@unsw.edu.au
Professor Theunis Roux: t.roux@unsw.edu.au
Dr Melissa Crouch: melissa.crouch@unsw.edu.au


Legal Education
In 2014, UNSW Law School signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Mandalay Law Department, at the University of Mandalay. This was the initiative of Professor Carolyn Penfold and Professor Brendon Edgeworth, and was the result of their visit to Mandalay University in 2013. In February-March 2015, two law professors, Daw Htin Htay Ei and Daw Nu Nu Yee, from the Law Department at Mandalay University visited the UNSW Law School. In July 2015, Professor Brendon Edgeworth and Dr Melissa Crouch gave guest lectures at the Law Department in Mandalay to about 100 students and staff.

In March 2016, Professor David Dixon, Dean of UNSW Law, visited the University of Yangon, met with the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business and the Australian Embassy. Further cooperation on legal education is planned in the future.


Diplomacy Training Program (DTP)
The Diplomacy Training Program is a unique initiative that is affiliated with the UNSW Law School and has a strong history of capacity building in the region. In May 2014, the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP), led by Patrick Earle,  held its first human rights training program in Yangon, Myanmar. Australia’s Ambassador to Myanmar, Bronte Moules, hosted a reception for the participants and for DTP’s alumni. U Win Mra, the chairperson of the Myanmar Human Rights Commission participated in the closing ceremony and the awarding of UNSW certificates. See here for more information.

In November 2014, the 24th Annual Regional Human Rights and Peoples’ Diplomacy Training Program was held in Kathmandu, Nepal in partnership with INSEC, and some participants from Myanmar attended the program. Many participants from Myanmar have attended DTP training programs over the past decade. In September 2015, DTP held a training program on business and human rights at UNSW Law and about eight participants from Myanmar attended.


Asia Pro Bono conference in Myanmar
The Australian Pro Bono Centre has been located at UNSW Law since 2012. In September 2015, the Australian Pro Bono Centre contributed to the major annual Asia Pro Bono conference, which was held for the first time in Mandalay. This was a large international conference that draws together practitioners, scholars and students from around the region.


Myanmar/Burma Online Database at AsianLII
Professor Graham Greenleaf and Philip Chung have led the team at the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII), in consultation with Dr Melissa Crouch, to set up a Myanmar/Burma online law database as part of the AsianLII program. On 23 May 2016, an official launch of the new database was hosted by UNSW Law. This is a significant resource and the database will continue to be expanded in the future. A guide on how to use the database is available online.


UNSW International
At the university wide level, there are plans for greater partnerships with University of Yangon, University of Medicine and Yangon Technological University (engineering). In May 2016, the Pro-Vice Chancellor (International), Mrs Fiona Docherty visited Yangon and met with the rector of the University of Yangon.


Major Events at UNSW Law on Myanmar
UNSW Law has hosted a series of events to raise awareness and promote understanding of the legal and political situation in Myanmar, including:
·        April 2015, Book Launch of Islam and the State in Myanmar, chaired by Professor Clive Kessler, and with Dr Nich Farrelly and Melissa Crouch
·        27 Nov 2015, International Workshop on The Business of Transition in Myanmar, organised by Dr Melissa Crouch
·        19 Oct 2015, Seminar on Myanmar’s elections, with two guest speakers, organised by Dr Melissa Crouch. See podcast here
·        March 2015, Book launch of Law, Society and Transition in Myanmar, organised by Dr Melissa Crouch
·        February 2014, Martin Krygier and Theunis Roux organised a forum on constitutional reform in Myanmar ‘Stumbling Towards Democracy?’ at UNSW Law school. Guest speakers included U Htay Oo, National League for Democracy (NLD); U Thein Than Oo, Myanmar Lawyers Network; and Janelle Saffin, lawyer and former federal MP. See here.

Further information on future events can be found at the Asia Pacific Law and Policy Forum page of the UNSW Law website.


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