OPEN MYANMAR INITIATIVE
OMI, founded in 2013, is a broadly open non-political NGO conceived as think tank and research center as well as education and training center with a strong growth potential departing from the ideals of the Burmese democratic movement such as the 88 Generation students, other ex-political prisoners associations.
We accord a lot of attention to the public relations in order to increase the impact of our activities. Our goal is to support the human rights defenders and provide them with civic education and other courses and give them also powerful tools to get information from the parliament (our parliamentary monitoring, interactive website, mobile phone application for parliamentary information).
We attach a lot of importance also to empowerment of women and include them representatively in our courses and research. With a strong focus on free access to information/right to know, we strongly support promotion of freedom of expression, including internet freedom.
We have a very ambitious agenda and our main objective is to bridge the social and economic differences created by many decades of dictatorship in Myanmar, to contribute to the reform process in Myanmar and to the national reconciliation with a view to the election in 2015 and beyond. Our goal is to involve as much as possible our young generation and to support building of a modern peaceful and democratic Myanmar fully integrated to the international community with a strong economic growth based on the sound foundations.
OMI pays utmost attention to the cooperation with the representatives of Myanmar ethnic minorities, who regularly participate at our trainings and contribute also to the research activities and our ambition is to spread the knowledge to all regions of Myanmar, including the ethnic states, in line with our motto “Pull Down the Wall of Ignorance”.
OMI currently has four major donors – Omidyar Network, Canada, National Endowment for Democracy and Prospect Burma. Thanks to their lasting support, OMI is succeeding in fulfillment of its objectives and its strategic vision for the future.
Research activities of OMI started in spring 2013 with a strong focus on monitoring the parliamentary activities/ parliamentary watch and promotion of free access to information for all Myanmar citizens/Right to Know. Research activities are developing very fast, OMI started also website with extensive search tools, which allow to closely follow the parliamentary activities and get precise information, which would not be available otherwise. OMI also published several reports on Myanmar parliament, which are being widely distributed to civil society representatives as well as to the members of Myanmar Parliament and press conferences are held regularly. All the reports on Parliament are available freely at OMI website. We have developed also mobile phone applications to make access to the parliamentary information easier for the general Myanmar public. Our research team has started focusing at another key priority, which is a budget monitoring to make budget information more accessible to the wider Myanmar public.
As for Right to Know/Free Access to Information, OMI´s goal is to provide inputs for an inclusive public debate on this highly important topic and prepare also the recommendations for new legislation. Therefore, we have intensively studied the approaches taken to free access to information by other countries, which can serve as inspiration for Myanmar taking into account the specific Myanmar context. We are focusing on key issues in order to continue to the transformation process of Myanmar as well.
Education and training activities form the second branch of OMI. First courses started in October 2013 at OMI Centre in Yangon and focused on Myanmar’s transition to democracy and civic education, citizenship and democratic system. All courses are open to the representatives from all ethnic minorities in Myanmar and our objective is to educate future training instructors in all Myanmar regions and ethnic states, who will give their trainings in their respective hometowns. First courses of this type in Shan and Kachin states have already started and will be extended to other Myanmar ethnic states and divisions within this year. Key course on training of the trainers from the different ethnic states and Myanmar divisions was held at the end of January 2015. In February-March 2015, the trained participants the training of the trainers provided trainings to other representatives in their respective ethnic states and divisions with the substantial support of OMI.
Since November 2013, OMI has been running also the English language/Public Speaking Classes for representatives of Student Unions and Ex-political prisoners. In 2014, OMI started to run also the computer education classes, designed mostly for ex-political prisoners.
Further course focusing on Myanmar´s economic transformation and its consequences started in July 2014 and lasted until January 2015. Course on International relations with a focus on Asia, ASEAN and Myanmar´s foreign policy started in January 2015.
OMI closely cooperates with various domestic and international subjects (incl. NGOs, CSOs, think tanks, educational institutions, embassies, etc.) as sharing the experience and best practices is also highly desirable. Open Myanmar Initiative engages external teachers and trainers for various subjects. Detailed information on our education and training activities are available at OMI Website.
Information and public relations activities
of OMI are aimed at spreading the knowledge and informing the general Myanmar public. In this context, OMI Website (www.omimyanmar.org), which includes also the discussion forums and access to Facebook and Twitter, is a key instrument. We have already started to regularly inform Myanmar public, media and journalists and be at their disposal for any information, which they might need. We are fully ready to do so also for the international community and provide our reports online also in English. After issuing each parliamentary report, we hold a press conference for Myanmar media, which received a lot of attentions and findings from our reports are very frequently quoted by press, internet medias as well as the TV. We provide our research finding also to the members of Myanmar Parliament and international community (we held a press conference for international interlocutors and OMI parliamentary reports will be available on our website also in English language).
We organize also the public debates on the important current topics and screening of documentary films with human rights focus that take place in Yangon, and will take place also in different Myanmar regions and ethnic states. We have already started inviting guests for discussion seminars, which can include also screening of documentaries – those events are open to general public and medias and information will be regularly available at the OMI Website. Our public debates program grows very strong and contributes considerably to spreading the information about OMI´s activities to the larger public.
We set up OMI resource center, including library and study room, with an internet connection and rich collection of books and other materials. It serves not only for research, education and training activities, but also for the general public, who attend our guest lectures.