Associations in Myanmar

I was recently in a mission in the Myanmar capital city of Yangon for my organization, the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific, to conduct briefings on the green lending policy framework that ADFIAP has developed for the Myanmar Bankers Association (MBA).

This is part of the European Union (EU) grant project called “Smart Myanmar 2,” which aims to “green” the booming garment industry in the country by working with the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA). “Smart” stands for “SMEs’ [small and medium enterprises] Accountability, Responsibility and Transparency.”

During the mission, I was also requested in my capacity as CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE) to conduct a short workshop on association governance and management for the Myanmar Environmental Assessment Association, a two-year-old association of over 100 environmental impact assessor-professionals and companies that provide environmental impact technical and advisory services. The attendees were members of MEAA’s Central Executive Committee (CEC), which is equivalent to the board of trustees in the case of associations here in the Philippines.

Of interest in the MEAA organizational structure is the composition of an 11-person CEC, broken down into designations such as: chairman, vice chairmen, secretary, joint general secretaries, treasurer, publicist, financial auditor and member. Under the CEC are a central committee, three technical committees and support teams. The MEAA has developed a professional code of ethics, duties and responsibilities.

The MEAA, led by CEC Chairman Aung Nanda, expressed interest in learning more on PCAAE’s experience in governance structure, membership growth, fund-raising, and communications and branding. MEAA acknowledged with appreciation the short interaction and knowledge sharing on association-related matters.

The seminar was held in one of the training rooms of the United Myanmar Federation of Chambers and Industries, which comprises 16 regional and state chambers’ of commerce and industry, nine border trade associations, 76 affiliated associations and about 30,000 members.

A quick Google search on associations in Myanmar showed that there are over 50 listed trade and business associations and another 50 or so social and nongovernment organizations. The country has introduced a new Association(s) Registration Law, which was enacted by the Union Parliament on June 25, 2014 and signed by the President and officially gazetted on July 20, 2014. The law establishes a revised legal framework for the establishment of both local and international NGOs and associations (NGOs and INGOs, respectively).

The registration law aims to implement a system for the registration of NGOs and INGOs, which the government recognizes to work for the benefit of Myanmar citizens, and contributes to a “strong civil society.” The law is also intended to provide for the free formation and movement of organizations as well as regulating the relationship between NGOs, INGOs and responsible government ministries.

While the association community in Myanmar may not be as large in numbers compared with other countries, they are very active and dynamic organizations in their respective field of profession and interest.


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