Over 14 million people live in Myanmar without civil documentation. This is why RWI recently facilitated a “statelessness workshop” on the right to citizenship and civil documentation in Myanmar. It focused on research findings from fieldwork conducted within Mandalay region. The workshop, hosted by Mandalay University, was attended by representatives from each of the eighteen law faculties from universities across the country.
The statelessness workshop was the culmination of the second year of research and education on the right to citizenship and civil documentation. It followed on from initial research conducted in 2017 in Shan and Kayin states.
The research approach that was developed together with Mandalay University was distinctive because it had the objective not only of deepening understanding of the particular situation of persons lacking citizenship and/or civil documentation in particular parts of Myanmar, but also of strengthening the capacity of faculty and students at Mandalay University to conduct field research on this topic, says Matthew Scott, head of RWI’s People on the Move team.
A total of 20 researchers, including students currently studying international human rights law, together with faculty members and RWI, participated in the research initiative.
Sue Anne Teo, who led the project for RWI, helped prepare the researchers for the field through a series of workshops and mentoring activities. Students and faculty of Mandalay University, drawing on their own local knowledge as well as census data, identified a number of potential research locations and made arrangements for the research to be carried out. Fieldwork was conducted over several weeks in three townships in Mandalay region and focused on the experience people have had seeking to obtain civil documentation and the challenges they face as a consequence of being undocumented. The findings are currently being developed into a report that will be circulated to stakeholders around Myanmar.
The preliminary findings presented at the workshop in Mandalay prompted rich discussion, with many universities identifying a range of practical initiatives that could be taken within their own institutions to address the phenomenon in their regions. Such activities ranged from incorporating the issue into existing community legal education activities, conducting research on domestic law and policy, and replicating the ‘Mandalay model’ in other parts of the country.
There is a clear role for further collaborative research initiatives, and planning is underway, together with existing and potential future partners, to expand activities in this area.