September also saw Paung Ku bring together repre-sentatives of all 39 partner organisations that are working on inter-communal harmony and inter-ethnic peace. To take part in a two-day peace and diversity workshop. The purpose of the workshop was two-fold:
- to leverage Paung Ku’s extensive networks in identifying, analysing and responding to threats to peace and diversity as they arise and
- galvanizing key cultural influencers to proactively defend diversity.
Myanmar’s ultranationalist movements are backed by strong political and economic forces, while those seeking to promote peace and diversity are often working independently of each other. Paung Ku saw this workshop as an opportunity to bring key peace and diversity actors together to share their experiences and plan together for possible violence before the by-election in 2018 and beyond.
A total of 10 Paung Ku staff and representatives of 39 CSO partners from every State and Region attended the workshop, drawn from women’s organisations, ethnic minority organisations and interfaith groups. They spoke more than 16 languages between them.
Paung Ku’s gender and diversity advisor began the workshop by asking participants to think about their own individual experiences of discrimination and exclusion, as well as any experiences they may have had of discriminating against or excluding others. Moving from the personal to the macro level, participants were then asked to explore what they saw as key challenges to peace and diversity in Myanmar. Outputs of these discussions led to the identification by participants of five key areas for more in-depth examination: responding to communal conflict; dealing with ethnic armed conflict / working with ethnic armed organisations; building resilient communities; working with authorities and dealing with threats to security; and provision of non-colonising education.
The workshop concluded with activities focused on how to work in the future, with suggestions including: finding alternatives to the formal process, bringing together members of parliament, civil society, political parties and local authorities at the local level.