Democracy That Delivers

High Level Support for Effective Dialogue in Myanmar: Towards Democratic Transition and Shared Societies

CLub de Madrid, Myanmar, Burma, Social COhesionSince 2015, Club de Madrid (CdM) Madrid (CdM) supports Myanmar’s political and social leaders in building peaceful coexistence and national cohesion by sharing Members insights on the application of different concepts and practices regarding federalism models and social inclusion policy options.

Club de Madrid’s added value lies in its Members’ –more than 100 democratically elected former Presidents and Prime Ministers from over 70 countries- political experience of the challenges of office and specifically democratic transition, formal policy processes and effective dialogue expertise, combined with a network of selected knowledgeable international experts.








Club de Madrid, Myanmar, Bondevik, Kok

The victory of the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the November 2015 elections paved the way for the first civilian Government in 50 years in Myanmar. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Honorary Member of Club de Madrid, is barred from the presidency by the military-drafted constitution, despite having led her party to a landslide victory. The party nominated as presidential candidate her close associate Htin Kyaw, who was elected by the joint houses of parliament on March 10, 2016 with 360 out of 652 votes.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi became Minister of the Presidency, Minister of Foreign Affairs and State Counselor. One of the first actions of this new government was to reduce the number of ministries in the government from 36 to 21 including the creation of two new positions, the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs and the Office of State Counselor.

The Government faces deep social divisions which require a more structural and long term perspective. In a multiethnic, multilingual, religious and politically diverse state, affected by entrenched identity divisions and tensions over natural resources, the establishment of an effective decentralized system could be the appropriate solution to advance national unity and ensure a fairer distribution of power and resources, as well as a lasting and sustainable peace.

National cohesion will require, in addition to a federal structure, specific social inclusion policies and programs, so as to gradually develop and nurture peaceful coexistence and mutual respect between the Burmese majority and the ethnic minority groups, and thus contribute to overcoming one of the world’s longest-running civil wars with an appalling human rights record. The building of a shared society and a common national identity can be a cornerstone in the prevention of potential outbreaks of ethnic and communal violence and is likely to generate a virtuous cycle that will check backtracking on the implementation of the peace process. CdM has developed a tested methodology and expertise on the promotion of social inclusion through the Shared Societies Project, initiated in 2007 whose findings and policy recommendations can be found in the following link.

In relation to the ethnic conflicts, the strategy of the previous Government had been to try to reach a National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with all the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and then begin a National Peace Dialogue. Many of the ethnic parties supported the NLD in the election on the basis that a strong civil government would be beneficial for the Peace Process and their interests. As a first step in this regard, the new Government convened the “21st Century Panglong Conference” in Nay Pyi Taw from August 31st to September 3rd 2016.

The tensions in Rakhine State, leading to a humanitarian crisis, have been identified as a priority and the Government appointed Kofi Annan, Honorary Member of the Club de Madrid, as Chair of the Rakhine State Advisory Commission to advise on the situation.


The  Initiative

The Club de Madrid aims to facilitate political dialogue spaces and to provide independent and informed advice to key decision-makers on necessary democratic reforms: a) peace negotiation and dialogue support, b) territorial organization based on consideration of the pros and cons of an array of federalism models, and c) social inclusion policies and programs, bringing in concrete examples and strategic ideas through sharing lessons learned from other countrie's experiences.

The project is assisting Myanmar leaders through a series of high-level missions during which Club de Madrid Members, with the collaboration of international actors, provides:

Club de Madrid, Myanmar, Thingley, Aung San Suu Kyi


  • Peer to peer advice to current political leaders, including Government, on issues such as social inclusion and peaceful coexistence, inclusive development, diversity in education and media, and democratic reform, drawing on Members' relevant political experience.
  • Thematic workshops with the participation of political party leaders, each addressing a key priority political reform issue in Myanmar e.g. social inclusion, territorial organization, always ensuring a balanced and non-biased approach, through showcasing lessons learned in other geographic areas and having in-depth discussions on the pros and cons of different policy options.
  • Support civil society leaders through giving them advice on how to best shape civil society demands into policy recommendations, and foster inclusive policy dialogue spaces so as to bridge the gap between civil society and decision-maker.
  • Multi-stakeholder roundtables, engaging and bringing together key stakeholders including religious leaders, civil society representatives, members of the Government and the military – since the transformation was initiated by the army, and continue to be key parties in the transition-, and always preserving a balanced and neutral approach.


Club de Madrid, Myanmar, Wim Kok


The added value of the project lies in the partnership cooperation with all these partners work on the ground with the strategic use of the pro-bono time of CdM Members as a second-track diplomacy resource able to access and influence top level political leaders, combined with local partners thematic expertise and networks, to inform the debate on decentralization, national cohesion and democratic reform. Club de Madrid has already organized 7 High Level Mission in Myanmar and hosted specific events jointly with:

  • UNDP
  • OECD
  • EcoDev
  • IDEA International
  • Oslo Center
  • Euro-Burma Office
  • Mercy Corps



Results and Impact

The Club de Madrid (CdM) has worked to support Myanmar’s main political actors: by engaging in frank discussions with them, and thanks to the Member’s independence and impartiality vis-à-vis the national context, they have shared their own experiences in democratic transitions and listened to Myanmar political actor’s concerns and challenges: also, by organizing several other meetings and roundtables including the participation of:

  1. More than 20 Civil Society Organisations engaging in the peace process;
  2. 25 electoral candidates of different political parties;
  3. 20 representatives of ethnic armed groups,
  4. 15 High Level bilateral meetings with Government representatives.



CdM positions itself as a trusted conveyer of strategic messages and an impartial advisor to the different sections of Myanmar’s leadership. Within the duration of the current project, CdM Members have managed to share meaningful experiences and policy orientations on different issues.

Eight Club de Madrid Members have led 7 high level missions in 2015 and 2016 combined political experience and convening power has greatly contributed to Myanmar’s road to Democracy in an impartial and independent way:


  • High Level Mission I, February 23-25, 2015, led by Jigme Thinley, former Prime Minister of Bhutan who played a key role in the transition in Bhutan from monarchy to a democracy.
  • High Level Mission II, May 26-30, 2015, led by Han Seung-Soon, former Prime Minister of South Korea who played the leading role in furthering his government's policy of peace and reconciliation ("Sunshine Policy") on the Korean Peninsula and, Boris Tadic, former Prime Minister of Serbia who was the first democratically elected President of Serbia after the breakup of Yugoslavia.
  • High Level Mission III, September 7-10, 2015, led by Alfred Gusenbauer, former Chancellor of the Republic of Austria and, Jigme Thinley, former Prime Minister of Bhutan.
  • High Level Mission IV, December 6-9, 2015, led by Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, former President of Sri Lanka who played a central role in Sri Lanka to negotiate a fair settlement with the LTTE and further reconciliation in her country.
  • High Level Mission V, January 19-22, 2016, led by Ricardo Lagos, former President of Chile who shared his experiences and lessons learnt during Chile’s democratic transition after Pinochet’s dictatorship.
  • High Level Mission VI, June 14-18, 2016, led by Jigme Thinley, former Prime Minister of Bhutan and Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Prime Minister of Norway who maintains a long commitment on Myanmar’s peaceful transition since his period as Prime Minister of Norway
  • High Level Mission VII, October 30- November 3, 2016, led by Andres Pastrana, former President of Colombia who was directly involved in peace negotiations with Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) during his period as President of Colombia.

Plans for 2016/2017 & Expected results 

The CdM intends to continue working in Myanmar in the consolidation of Myanmar’s Democracy and as it deals with important political and social challenges, including the resolution of the tensions in Rakine State and the implementation of the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and continuing political dialogue with
Ethnic Armed Organizations, that will hopefully bring peace and stability.

We aim at the following results in 2016/17:

  • National debate informing political leaders and key actors with a body of knowledge on the application of reconciliation and social inclusion policy options, as the implementation of the NCA is being worked out.
  • Progress on the process of transition and democratization informed and energized by independent and informed advice, and insights from the meaningful experiences of political practice and policy solutions in other countries regarding building coalitions in transitional contexts and peace processes experiences shared.

Main donor

We wish to acknowledge and thank The Charitable Foundation for making this Project possible. 

Myanmar, Club de Madrid, The Charitable Foundation








Pictures, top-down:
PM Thinley and Chancellor Gusenbauer meet President Thein Sein
President Lagos meet Senior General Min Aung Hlaing Myanmar Commander-in-Chief
PM Thinley meet Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi
President Kumaratunga chaired a round-table with ethnic group's representatives
PM bondevik and PM Thinley chaired a Roundtable on Interfaith dialogue


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