This 6-month narrative report covers the period from 1st July to 30th December 2006. The financial report for the same period accompanies this report.
2. Promoting the Dialogue and Follow-up
The Shan Youth (Myanmar), the Nationalities Youth Forum (Myanmar) and IMPECT Association, Thailand already showed their interest earlier, so the Secretariat basically followed up with their request. Unfortunately, the Inter-Tribal Education and Culture youth group under IMPECT, Thailand could not organise the dialogue this year and requested for a postponement. The Shan Youth had quite a lot of problems understanding the concept of the dialogue, so the Secretariat to work hard to meet the desired objectives of the elder-youth dialogues.
Apart from these, the Secretariat also followed-up with the Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA) which AIPP staff met during the AIPP Human Rights Training for Local Trainors in Cambodia. CIYA came up with a very good proposal with the help of the Secretary General, which was then approved for a dialogue during this period.
The Youth Programme Team and AIPP staff also actively promoted the programme during the AIPP Indigenous Economics Committee and made a decision to provide more focus on inter-generational transfer of knowledge on indigenous economic system in 2007. Three organisations have committed themselves to holding such dialogues in Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh.
3. Youth Dialogues
During this period therefore, four dialogues were held namely by the Shan Youth – Myanmar, Cambodia Youth, Nationalities Youth Forum – Myanmar, and Chin Women Organisation – Myanmar. A summary cum analysis of the report from each dialogue follows.
3.1 Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA)
CIYA organized basically a 2-day dialogue in two villages in Kratie Province but because of the bad road conditions, it took a whole week to travel to both villages. The first dialogue took place in Trapeang Srekhnong village, Pi Thnou commune, Snuol district from 11- 12 October, while the second dialogue took place in Cheung village, Khseum commune, Snuol district from 14 – 15 October.
The dialogues were aimed at strengthening relationship between indigenous youth and elders; to learn and share experiences with the communities; to raise awareness of indigenous culture and knowledge; to contribute in preserving and strengthening of tradition, culture, custom and natural resources; and to build capacity of youth and communities. Participants included village chiefs, organisers composed of young university students and 110 villagers, 53 from Trapeang Srekhnong village and 57 from Cheung village. Methodologies employed included small group discussions, household meetings, telling jokes, short presentation and experience-sharing.
Youth and elders in the two villages were divided into group discussions. The group provided detailed report on the two-days work for both villages, which were structured in a similar fashion and using the same questions.
Day 1 group discussions were on the following topics:
Marriage, funeral ceremony, natural resources management, knowledge transfer, spiritual belief, rights, social system, education, health, agriculture and land.
Day 2 discussions were based on questions:
• How have indigenous youths gained knowledge on land, natural resources, culture, tradition, social management system?
• Were their ideas changed when they were out to work and learn?
• What things made their ideas changed?
• Was there enough time for youth and elders to meet and talk on land and natural resources management, social tradition, culture, belief and indigenous peoples management?
• If no, why? and if yes, was that time convenient and effective?
• What are advantages and disadvantages of modern living system, tradition and custom? Which one do we need to pay more attention to?
The report provided well-documented detailed answers from both dialogues in the two villages. Both the elders and youth participated actively – sharing ideas and opinions to each others on the past and the present – made conducive by the warm hospitality made by the host communities. Although the condition of the roads were bad, participants were satisfied as to be able to find shared concerned on tradition, culture, religion, land issue, natural resources status, law, human right etc and what has changed and the future prospects.
The interaction with the communities also provided opportunities to transfer knowledge on culture, tradition, custom, daily life, social communication, education, social or community management system, law and human right and technical modernization. Compared to the past, the transfer on custom, tradition and culture was concluded to have been weakened due to influence of outside culture, and low self esteem. For example, the indigenous language, Stieng in Trapeang Srekhnong village has disappeared because the elders speak only Khmer to their children. This situation is similar in Cheung village. Concerning livelihoods, the communities are
facing difficulty the past few years because of the loss of natural resources such as land, wildlife and forests. Land and forests have been illegally exploited in large scale and in a clandestine way by businessmen and powerful people. This great loss creates a severe impact on peoples’ livelihood, tradition, custom and culture.
One challenge for parents is that by the sending of their children to continue their study in higher levels, they also see the possibility of their traditional social system losing cohesiveness. The dialogue also touched on the promotion of indigenous peoples’ right – raising awareness in the face of acute lack of relevant information on laws that protect or deny indigenous rights.
3.2 Nationalities Youth Forum (NYF)
NYF held a two-day youth-elders dialogue from September 19 – 20, 2006 in Chiang Mai, Thailand for indigenous youth and elders from Myanmar who have fled to Thailand. On the first day, 25 youths and elders attended the Dialogue but because of the coup in Thailand on September 20, only 16 participants could attend.
The Dialogue focused on the social and environmental impact of globalization. Because of the nature of NYF’s network which is a mix of indigenous (nationalities) groups from Myanmar, the result of the dialogue was rather broad and rather superficial. The discussion was conducted in Burmese language and included methodologies such as input and sharing, dialogues in plenaries and some workshop sessions conducted by experienced facilitators.
Although the results of the dialogue provided important analytical points on the impact of globalization on indigenous peoples at the local, provincial, national and even international level, it failed to deepen the discussion on the impact of globalization on intergenerational transfer of indigenous social and environmental knowledge. Nevertheless, the participants at the dialogue acknowledged the following as result of globalization vis-à-vis their traditional knowledge:
• Loss of traditional values,
• Loss of land, other natural resources and properties
• Loss of traditional knowledge in general and in particular, knowledge on traditional farming and food productions, customs and culture and indigenous health system,
• Loss of indigenous languages
• Loss of cohesiveness in indigenous society.
Among the solutions that were proposed were:
• Organising communities to protect their environment;
• Hold dialogues and exchanges between youth and elders (village heads, religious leaders etc) to pass down knowledge;
• Maintaining knowledge on herbal medicines and customary laws (and not sharing such knowledge to outsiders);
• For communities to demand for the recognition of their rights and for the protection of their knowledge, social customs and traditional practices; and
• Gain support for community forest management system.
3.3 Chin Women Organisation (CWO)
This project is from the Chin women in Malaysia who saw the difficulty in transferring knowledge to the young generations in a foreign land. Because most of them have not been officially recognised as a refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, the Chin in Malaysia not only have difficulties passing their knowledge in a different environment, they also face very limited opportunities to meet. The CWO therefore came up with a very interesting proposal to combine both learning on specific cultural activities and a dialogue on the problems related to such activities. These were held in four separate activities, including a more general sharing during Christmas with a larger group of people.
1st Activity – 5 October 2006
Chin traditional costume and food
2nd Activity – 19 October 2006
Chin folksongs, folkdances and music
3rd Activity – 7 November 2006
Chin folktales and story telling
4th Activity – 11 November 2006
Chin folktales and story of creation
5th Activity – 25 December, 2006
Despite several attempts to get more detailed report, no update was received. As such, more detailed report would be included in the next period
3.4 Shan Youth (SY)
At an informal meeting to plan the dialogue, the organisers agreed that the dialogue would be held twice a month to share knowledge, experiences and ideas as well as to carry out discussions and debates on different issues such as culture, politics, traditions, globalization to improve personal skills and knowledge of each youth and create cooperation among youth. Participants also agreed that each meeting, a guest speaker or elder should be invited to share his or her experiences and knowledge to narrow the gap and create cooperation between the elders and youth or old generation and new generation.
The general objective of the Shan Youth-Elders Dialogue was to improve the capacity of youth, narrow the gap between elders and the youth and enhance the participation of youth of the Shan State in the movement for democratic change in Myanmar.
The Dialogues were also expected to bring youth together to share their similarities or common and differences, create cooperation among youth to carry out effective activities in the movement for positive change, improve personal skills of youth through discussion, debating, brainstorming on different issues, create understanding between youth and elders and narrow the gap of differences between the two, encourage youth to give feedback to and take part in what the elders are doing, and as an initiative, enable youth to involve in three levels of governance of Shan State in the future.
Five dialogues were organised between September – November, all well-attended with participants ranging from 40 to 50, except one which only had 9 participants because of a recent
in Thailand. The report from the dialogue was rather superficial, although participants assessed the dialogue as fruitful and important. Three out of five dialogues gave prominence to talks from Shan elders, while the other two dialogues focused discussion mainly among youths themselves. Generally, the dialogues examined the participation of youths in all aspect of
community life, but tended to relate more to the political situation in Myanmar rather than on inter-generational transfer of indigenous knowledge from elders to the youths.
4. Financial Report
The funds available for the 2006 dialogues was Baht 564,205.53 which includes balance of funds brought forward from 2005. Of this, a total amount of Baht 436,132.05 was expended for the four Dialogues, leaving a balance of Baht 128,073.48 as of December 30, 2006. (please see Annex 1: Audited Financial Report).
5. Upcoming Dialogues and Follow-up
As mentioned earlier, there are two dialogues approved but could not be held by the Naga Women’s Union of Manipur (NWUM) and the Inter-Tribal Youth group of IMPECT. The Secretariat expects the organizations to set a date for the conduct of these dialogues. Three other dialogues set for this year are by PACOS Trust, Malaysia, Bangladeshi Adivasi Forum, Bangladesh and a small group working with indigenous peoples in Kalimantan focusing on transfer of knowledge on traditional economies. The Secretariat would follow-up these organizations to ensure the youth-elders dialogues are conducted well.
During this period, the AIPP Executive Council saw the necessity to develop this important Programme on indigenous youth further. Thus in October 2006, the AIPP Youth Dialogue Committee was formed to assess the results from the Youth-Elders Dialogue and to plan for subsequent activities.
At the end of 2007, the three-year funding for the Youth-Elders Dialogue supported by ICCO would end. It is expected that a small amount of money will be left (USD1000). It is proposed that the newly-formed AIPP Youth Programme Committee will tag a meeting to one of the above-mentioned dialogues to assess the outcomes of the dialogues and to strategize for the next phase of the Youth Programme.
AIPP Secretary General