International Development Law Organization

Rule of law centers: building trust in Myanmar's justice system

12 Feb 2016

The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have established four nationally operated Rule of Law Centres in Myanmar to provide communities with the knowledge, skills and values they need to address local justice issues through training, dialogue and access to resources.

The Rule of Law Centres (ROLCs) Initiative, launched in 2014 at the request of the Pyithu Hluttaw Rule of Law and Tranquility Committee of the Myanmar Parliament, and now guided by the Coordinating Body on Rule of Law Centre and Justice Sector Affairs, aims to increase trust and cooperation between justice providers and the communities they serve.The four Centres are located in Mandalay, Mandalay Region, Yangon, Yangon Region, Myitkyina, Kachin State, and Taunggyi, Shan State. The first phase of the Rule of Law Centres Initiative ran from July 2015 to June 2016, and the second phase from August 2016 to December 2017. 

Through the ROLCs’ training activities, more than 2,000 lawyers, law teachers, government officials and civil society representatives have completed the Foundations in Rule of Law, Training of Trainers and specialized legal courses. Tracking of replicated trainings shows a significant multiplier effect of the follow-on activities taken up by the 21 organizations formed by ROLCs graduates, who delivered 33 replicated trainings reaching more than 1,500 community members in 2017.

The Centres also play an important role in supporting community outreach initiatives, reaching more than 7,000 participants, to strengthen public legal awareness, including through mobile trainings at the village level for community leaders. Community forums hosted by the Centres bring together local communities and government officials to build dialogue and cooperation on key local justice issues. The findings and recommendations of these events are compiled in thematic Issue Briefs, to contribute to a knowledge base and link community voices with broader justice sector reform and policy development.

Gender equality is a priority concern throughout all Centres’ activities. The Centres' course curriculum includes specific sessions and activities focusing on women’s equality issues, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). A specialized legal course on gender equality and SGBV has been developed and delivered throughout Myanmar, and in 2017 the Centres published an Issue Brief focused specifically on SGBV.

An independent evaluation of the Centres conducted in late 2017 found that the program is succeeding in meeting its objectives and is demonstrably having an impact in promoting a rule of law culture and access to justice in Myanmar. Drawing on recommendations of the evaluation, the third phase of this initiative, commencing in January 2018, will focus on strengthening national ownership and sustainability, increasing the scale and reach of programming through additional Centres and institutionalizing curricula and training courses. The Centres will also expand their outreach programming to communities through additional specialized mobile training courses.

The Rule of Law Centres Initiative is currently funded by the governments of Australia, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.