Ten years after Myanmar began its transition from military junta to democracy, the country continues to wrestle with the legacy of authoritarian rule. Both economic mismanagement and ethnic-based conflicts, often driven by social exclusion, continue to mar the country’s forward progress.
During the first years of the transition, indicators were good: The first democratic elections took place in 2015 generating a wave of optimism. Internal reforms led to improvements in social welfare and rapid economic growth of above seven percent per year which had cut poverty rates in half by 2017.
Despite the progress, chronic poverty, protracted displacement, food insecurity, limited social support networks, and deep inequalities stemming from statelessness, segregation, discrimination, and gender cast a shadow over Myanmar’s new dawn.
A military crackdown against alleged terrorists in Rakhine State began in August 2017 and has to date driven over 900,000 members of the Rohingya ethnic minority into neighbouring Bangladesh. Sectarian violence has also confined over 120,000 members of this community to IDP camps in Rakhine State. Humanitarian access remains a serious challenge across the State.
ACTED launched its operations in Myanmar in August 2008, as an immediate response to Cyclone Nargis. Between 2008 and 2010, ACTED’s primary focus was on disaster relief and rehabilitation activities for affected communities. ACTED Myanmar is experienced in food security, water, sanitation, livelihood, and hygiene programmes. Since 2012, ACTED expanded its operations into Rakhine state, with recent projects focusing on enhancing trust and dialogues among multi-ethnic members (social cohesion), infrastructural rehabilitations, and inter-communal collaborations through job creation activities.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, ACTED also included a PPE production activity by local community members: cloth masks tailored by local women in the townships of Yangon and Rakhine. This resulted in over 173,000 masks produced benefiting over 86,000 recipients and 67 tailors found a new income generation source during the global pandemic time.
Building on previous engagement with communities in central Rakhine in 2018-2019, the 12-month project in 2020 seeks to promote social cohesion and peaceful coexistence among multiple ethnic communities – including ethnic Rakhine, stateless Muslim (Rohingya), Kaman, Mro, Khami, Marawmagyi, Hindu, Daignet and Chin – in central Rakhine State. Contributing to increased trust and peaceful coexistence between stateless and non-stateless communities of diverse ethnic group, the project addresses the shared economic needs through vulnerable women and youth empowerment. The Peace and Development Committees (PDCs) was established in each project site, comprising of diverse target communities. The project aimed for 300 solar panels installation and 3 infrastructure projects (roads and ponds rehabilitation) in Sittwe and Pauktau of Rakhine state to directly benefit over 326 individuals with at least 25% women participants in the cash-for-work activities.
Following the COVID-19 outbreak which cost the garment factory workers in Hlaing Tha Ya Township their jobs since March 2020, ACTED and the Schneider Electric designed this project which enabled household tailors to generate income while protecting local communities from the deadly coronavirus. With the help of Department of Technical Vocational Education and Training (DTVET) and Department of Social Welfare (DSW), ACTED have been able to identify the vulnerable population to receive cloth masks. With the provision of materials and technical guidance to the 11 selected tailors, 10,155 masks have been produced and distributed to 5,078 people.
In 2020, ACTED Myanmar established the 3Zero Platform in Myanmar, seeking to build capacity, empower and bring together local civil society actors in the Yangon area to achieve a greater impact in advocating initiatives to hold governmental actors accountable and advise authorities on concrete implementation measures in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This project benefitted 27 new, active members, both organizations (20 CSOs, 5 INGOs) and individuals, of the 3Zero national Platform. The project also indirectly benefited private sector businesses, national government authorities, and decision makers through enhanced connectivity and capability of the 3Zero members.