Capacity building vs. conflict in Myanmar

Siblings at the Kyein Ni Pyin camp for displaced people in Rakhine State, Myanmar. Photo by: David Ohana / United Nations

Preventing conflict in ethnic and border areas is one of the key concerns addressed by a new United Nations Development Program project funded by Japan in Myanmar, where strife is threatening reforms after decades of military rule.

The project, ‘Strengthening Local Governance Capacity, Livelihoods and Social Cohesion for Minorities and Vulnerable Groups in Ethnic and Border Areas of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar,’ seeks to strengthen local governance, restore livelihoods and build confidence among communities in Rakhine, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Shan and Chin states.

These ethnic and border areas of Myanmar have long suffered the consequences of over half a century of fighting between several guerrilla groups and the army, in what is considered the world’s longest-running civil war.

But now, thanks to 1.3 billion yen ($14.8 million) in support from the Japanese government, the United Nations Development Program hopes to assist communities and individuals affected by inter-communal violence and instability as well as chronic food insecurity.

The project also envisions strengthening the institutional capacity of local administrations in planning area development, delivering effective public services, as well as conflict prevention.

Furthermore, civil society groups will be empowered to provide community services such as civil and legal awareness and advocate for human rights.

According to a UNDP statement, the project will benefit some 215,000 people in Myanmar’s most remote and violence-prone states, especially the ceasefire areas.

“Indirect benefits from this project should reach a large number of people in all states, helping in laying the foundation for economic recovery and peace building efforts,” UNDP Country Director for Myanmar Toily Kurbanov said in a statement.

In late 2010, Myanmar embarked on a long-awaited process of reform after almost 50 years of military rule, but so far no changes have reached areas such as Rakhine state, where over 100,000 people have been displaced following clashes between the Muslim minority and the army that started last year in the Buddhist-majority country.

The deepening religious and ethnic tensions present a serious challenge to the reform-minded government, led by President Thein Sein.

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About the author

  • Carlos Santamaria

    Carlos is a former associate editor for breaking news in Devex's Manila-based news team. He joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE ,and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York, and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.

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