The 24 Myanmar nationals – representing different political, ethnic, and social groups in their country – are taking a course initiated and funded by the FDFA from 30 August to 20 September 2013. The course – taught by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and the Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) – aims to give the participants the tools necessary to contribute to the political transformation process currently under way in Myanmar. This is the first time in several decades that a group of Myanmar nationals with such a wide range of backgrounds have had the opportunity to participate in such an exchange outside their country.
The project was launched following an invitation made by the head of the FDFA, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, during a trip to Myanmar in November 2012 on the occasion of the official opening of the Swiss embassy in Yangon. Mr Burkhalter had proposed to the president of Myanmar, U Thein Sein, that he invite to Switzerland representatives of the government administration, the judiciary, the parliament, political parties and civil society to attend a course covering various topics, such as international relations, democracy, and human security.
A group of 24 persons was selected by a panel of academics from Myanmar in close cooperation with the Swiss embassy in Yangon. In addition to attending lectures taught by various experts (including federalism, good governance and the role of the executive branch), workshops (on minorities and their protection, migration and refugees), and panel discussions, the participants also had the opportunity to meet a delegation of Genevan parliamentarians. The Genevan parliamentarians introduced their work as elected cantonal representatives and explained the workings of the Swiss political system.
The group also met various UN officials at the European headquarters of the UN at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. They were also received by staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who explained the organisation's work in different contexts, as well as the importance of international humanitarian law.
During a trip to Bern, the group met the president of the Council of States, Filippo Lombardi and had the opportunity to exchange views on Switzerland's commitment in Myanmar with the state secretary of the FDFA, Yves Rossier.
The Federal Council decided in June 2012 to open an embassy in Yangon. As Myanmar emerged from half a century of authoritarian rule, the Federal Council wanted to support the country's transition to the rule of law and respond to its strong economic potential. While maintaining its humanitarian programme, Switzerland decided to step up its activities in the fields of development cooperation, peace promotion, democracy and human rights, and economic cooperation.
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