Following the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) sweeping electoral victory in November 2015, Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made her first official visit to the United States as State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. NDI has long recognized and supported Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s efforts to reach this critical milestone for Burma/Myanmar. The Institute has supported international advocacy on Burma since 1995 and awarded Daw Aung San Suu Kyi its highest honor in 1996, the Averell Harriman Democracy Award, for her commitment to democracy and human rights.
In honor of the State Counsellor’s visit, House Democracy Partnership (HDP) co-chairs Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Peter Roskam (R-IL) -- in partnership with NDI and IRI -- hosted a private lunch for Members of Congress to discuss Burma’s ongoing democratic transition. HDP is a bipartisan commission of the U.S. House of Representatives dedicated to using peer-to-peer exchanges and training to strengthen democratic institutions and deepen bilateral relations; it reflects a strong bipartisan commitment to democratic development. The lunch was followed by a reception on Capitol Hill where the State Counsellor addressed a broad gathering of lawmakers, their senior staffs, representatives of think tanks, government officials and invited guests from the international community.
In her remarks, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made the following key points:
- The August 2016 peace conference was as successful as it could have been given the circumstances on the ground, and real progress was made;
- The lifting of sanctions is very important for Burma in the long run, while clearly the issue is not without controversy; and
- This visit reaffirmed the many close friends Burma has in the United States and on Capitol Hill who have remained steadfast supporters of Burma’s long road to democracy.
“There is absolute determination that democracy in Burma can be no less than it is in more mature democracies and, most importantly, that it must respect the will of the people. Thank you very much for keeping with us on this difficult road to democracy.” - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
After decades of military rule and economic stagnation, Burma’s peaceful transition to the new NLD-led government is demonstrating, both to the people of Burma and to the international community, that the country has taken a critical step forward to a more open political and economic system. Expectations are high that the new NLD government will take advantage of this historic opportunity to accelerate reforms, demonstrate continued momentum for change and to promote peace, security and economic prosperity. Secretary Albright recalled Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s early passion in speaking about the need for both democracy and economic renewal: “These are the issues that still dominate her agenda,” said Albright, “and she comes here to Washington representing the hopes of a people who are closer than ever before to realizing both dreams.”
NDI Chair Madeleine Albright joined HDP, and IRI Chair Senator John McCain, in honoring the democracy work of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
An overarching objective of NDI’s work throughout the world is to make democracy deliver by helping democratic institutions, such as political parties and parliaments, to address quality of life issues and to support citizen efforts to participate in development efforts that directly affect their communities. Effective legislative bodies are a key element in making democracy deliver, and is the focus of the House Democracy Partnership’s mission. To that end, NDI established a Parliamentary Resource Center in Burma in 2012 to provide assistance for Members of Parliament. During the last three and a half years, Burma’s MPs have made over 7,500 visits to the PRC to attend roundtables, trainings and workshops. In addition, NDI trained over 5,000 citizen election observers to monitor the 2015 elections, and provided technical assistance to our local partner, People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE), to become the foremost authority in Burma on election research, data and observation. With USAID support over the next five years, NDI will work with the new parliament and PACE to deepen reforms in Burma as it transitions to a more democratic and inclusive political system.
Mindful of the many challenges faced by the new government, in March this year, HDP launched deeper cooperation with the Burma/Myanmar parliament to help strengthen its role and to strengthen democracy in the country. In addition to outbound delegations of congressional members and staff to partner countries, HDP hosts parliamentary exchanges by Members of Parliament (MPs) and parliamentary staff institutes at the U.S. Congress. These activities are reinforced by the work of HDP’s partners NDI and IRI on the ground, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“What we want now is genuine empowerment. We do not want crutches anymore...We want to be empowered to keep on striving forward.” - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
House Democracy Partnership Co-Chairs Representatives David Price (D-NC) (on left) and Peter Roskam (R-IL) (on right) welcomed the State Counselor to the U.S. Capitol.
Published on September 16, 2016