Many think tanks, ethnic leaders, and some researchers in Myanmar always argue that the concept of federal democracy is suitable to adopt and practice in a country like Myanmar, a country with diverse ethnicities and where the civil war has taken place for more than seven decades. Due to the principles of federal democracy, the values of self-determination, shared rule, self-rule, division of power, freedom of expression, and the ability to guarantee the rights of people, including minority rights, through the constitution. After the country gained independence from British colonization in 1947, Myanmar, where civil war took place until recently, which is more than 70 years. Since then, Myanmar has had a long history of people staying under military rule since 1962 under the military coup for almost 60 years. the military coup again in 2021, the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi again in the 2015 general elections under the 2008 constitution, people in the country continue to rule by centralization government.
Consequently, the country was ruled by the military, which has led to several complex issues occurring, including human rights violations, poverty, inequality among majority and minority ethnicities, a lack of socioeconomic development, and ethnic conflict with an endless civil war.
Therefore, by designing the country for the future with a federal democratic system within different levels of governance, local governance will play a significant role in decentralizing the power of government. Local governance can help address social problems and provide for the needs of the community by giving local communities more control over their affairs. Moreover, it can help to build trust between the government and the people and promote peace, reconciliation, and solidarity in the community. It depicts that local governance is particularly important in Myanmar, where there is a great deal of diversity and where there has been a long civil war between different ethnic and religious groups. Additionally, local governance can help promote peace and reconciliation by building bridges between different ethnic groups and by giving them a say in their governance.
While civilians have been staying under the military for more than 70 years and living under the frightening guns’ power, To enhance civilian participation in politics and freedom of expression, reduce misunderstanding among different ethnic groups, promote freedom of religion, and promote their own culture and traditions, local governance in Myanmar must adopt the principles regarding the concepts of democracy. Firstly, through power sharing, local governments should have the full authority to make decisions and implement policies at the local level. Secondly, the local governments should value the participation concept by encouraging the local communities to be involved in the decision-making process and the implementation of policies. Next, the local governments should value the concept of transparency in their decision-making and policy implementation. Finally, the concept of accountability is one that local governments should value and be accountable to the people they serve.
On the other hand, the escalation of the conflict between the Tatmadaw or military junta and EROs, including conflict among EROs, led to unwanted complexity issues occurring in the country, including conflict between different ethnicities. Therefore, local governance can be used to reduce conflict and enhance civilian harmony in numerous ways. For example, the local governments can organize and facilitate dialogues between different ethnic groups to promote understanding and cooperation with each other. Another way that local governments should support civil society organizations (CSOs) and local media is because CSOs play an important role in Myanmar. While CSOs work closely with local people and know the needs of communities, they also gain the trust of the community. Similarly, local media also promote civic participation, freedom of expression, and giving a voice to local communities. Therefore, the local governments should adopt a program or platform where CSOs and local media can cooperate and support the work of the government, provide them with funding, and protect their independence. To reduce misunderstanding among ethnic groups, the local government can promote the protection of local languages and culture by providing support to local schools, language curricula, and cultural institutions. They can also support the use of local languages in government and the media, and this concept must be written in either the federal constitution or the state constitution to guarantee the rights of minorities.
However, the social-political background of Myanmar is very complex and problematic because a long conflict has contributed to weak institutions, a lack of capability in management, corruption, ignoring rights, and a lack of ability to address the needs of the community for more than 7 decades. Therefore, even though the concept of local governance plays a significant role in building a new state or nation in Myanmar, there are many challenges to implementing a local governance approach in Myanmar. There are some challenges to implementing a local governance approach in Myanmar. One challenge is that the central government has traditionally been reluctant to cede power to local governments. Another challenge is that there is a lack of capacity at the local level to implement local governance effectively. Therefore, to overcome that, during the country’s reform into a new nation or state and, at the same time, empowering local governments by building their capacity, more needs to be done. Local governments are not familiar with the concept of a democratic ruling culture after staying in the military junta for many years. Moreover, international donors can support funding through CSOs to provide training to local government officials. Finally, the policies and laws of the country must clearly state the elimination of all types of corruption, including traditional ways in Myanmar, that are committed by the governments at different levels from the past.
Overall, the local governance approach is one of the concepts that Myanmar needs to prioritize for its social-political reform. It is also a tool that can help reduce social conflict and enhance active civilian participation and freedom of expression in their country as a consequence of the long civil war. Moreover, the local governance role can be the main actor in developing society to build harmony and promote trust, peace, and reconciliation between civilians and governments, including reducing misunderstandings between different groups in Myanmar. Even though Myanmar will be facing challenges in applying the concept of local governance in the implementation process, there are several opportunities that can overcome those challenges, such as empowering local governments in governing and managing skills in the democratic concept and international donors’ fund support through CSOs to promote the local government in Myanmar. All in all, Myanmar’s pro-democracy needs to seek ways forward to build a new nation, and reform all governance institutions, government structural, and local governance approaches is much deliberating.
The civil war in Myanmar: No end in sight | Brookings. (2023, February 13). Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-civil-war-in-myanmar-no-end-in-sight/
Overview of Ethnic Groups – Burma Link. (2020, August 25). Burma Link.https://www.burmalink.org/background/burma/ethnic-groups/overview/
 Brookings. (2023, February 13). The civil war in Myanmar: No end in sight. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-civil-war-in-myanmar-no-end-in-sight/
 Burma Link. (2020, August 25). Overview of Ethnic Groups. https://www.burmalink.org/background/burma/ethnic-groups/overview/