Fair and democratic societies are built on human rights and the rule of law, and MPs have a vital role in ensuring that these rights are upheld. However, MPs can only take up this role if they are allowed to work without fear of reprisal. Between 1991 and 2017, the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians examined over 260 cases of violations of the rights of Myanmar MPs. These cases were closed in January 2017.
To raise awareness on the role of Parliament to promote and protect human rights, the Parliament of Myanmar (Hluttaw) and the IPU, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), organized an introductory seminar. The seminar, held on 5 July in Naypyitaw as part of the Hluttaw Learning Centre’s series of professional development programmes for MPs, was delivered to over 300 parliamentarians and formed the first step of their engagement with human rights issues. The seminar helped familiarize them with key human rights principles, international agreements and national legislation and mechanisms.
The Deputy Speaker of the Amyotha Hluttaw, H.E U Aye Thar Aung, opened the seminar, emphasizing that “MPs are the ones who have to serve the people, [and] are responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights”. He shared his personal experience as a political prisoner and reflected on the impact of a lack of protection for human rights. He said human rights issues were important for national reconciliation and that “we have to assure that all the ethnic groups will be respected with equal rights”.
Presenters at the seminar included former MPs from Australia and the Philippines, a UNDP expert and a Myanmar National Human Rights Commissioner. Presenters used their experience to demonstrate MPs’ key role in ensuring that the promotion and protection of fundamental freedoms are reflected in legislation and spending in the national budget; and in using their oversight function to ensure that the government upholds its human rights commitments.
The Learning Series continued on 6 July, with Myanmar MPs meeting in small groups with the international MPs in the Learning Centre. On 7 July, a master class developed MPs’ skills to support government reporting on key international conventions. On 13 July, a roundtable discussion was held on parliamentary committees and human rights.
In collaboration with UNDP, the IPU supports the Parliament of Myanmar as part of our work on building strong parliaments. See more on our work with the Parliament.