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Myanmar banner
Introduction: 

In Myanmar we work with local actors, external investors and the international community to shape a peaceful economy.

We bring together local business actors to deepen their understanding of conflict-sensitive business practice, so that they can have a positive impact on investment plans. We also strengthen local capacities to monitor and influence private sector investment, both internal and external, in fragile regions – in particular in Rakhine state.

Our work is important because many new opportunities for investors and aid agencies have arisen following the dropping of economic sanctions and it is vital that this economic development supports peace.

We have been working in Myanmar since 2012.

Why: 

In 2010 the military rulers in Myanmar (formerly Burma) embarked on a transition process that has led to a gradual loosening of its authoritarian hold over the country. There are signs that this process might bring about the social, economic and political reforms necessary to finally establish conditions for peace in the country.

In 1987 and again in 2007, protest and violent conflict triggered by acute economic hardship ushered in renewed political settlements in Myanmar. As the country opens its doors to the West in exchange for investment opportunities and commitments to economic and political reform, new political settlements are once again being reached. This presents an opportunity to break the cycle of renewed military control that has characterised much of the country’s development over the past 50 years or so.

However, such change will not happen overnight. New expressions of violence are evident and inequality is likely to increase before decreasing. New elements of democratic governance are combining with old authoritarian attitudes and practices to create challenging and often unpredictable conditions for change. Nevertheless, the context offers real opportunities for peace.

To help achieve lasting peace in Myanmar, the state, civil society and international community need support in establishing platforms which encourage more open and inclusive dialogue and debate. These need to be supportive of social reformers within the state, appeal to the ‘shadow authorities’ which govern the so called ‘ungoverned spaces’ of Myanmar’s vast informal economy, include the local business community, involve women, and adopt nuanced approaches which can tackle the taboos people are unwilling to talk about. Priority regions for such platforms are the country’s special economic zones, where much of the new investment and development is taking place.

2010

was a watershed moment for Myanmar, as the country's military rulers started to gradually loosen their authoritarian hold over the country and open it up to economic investment.

Building peace in Kyauk Phyu

This project aims to influence new forms of collaboration around the fledgling foreign investment and economic development in Kyauk Phyu, in Myanmar's Rakhine state. The project will develop the capacity of new institutions so they can monitor and steer economic development in a way that appeals to local needs as well as to foreign investors and the national government. Activities include courses in conflict-sensitive economic governance and visits to other countries that have promoted similar special economic zones (SEZs).

Natural resources in a conflict context

For a developing country facing high poverty levels, a growing population with high expectations despite a poor revenue base and weak institutions, but with an abundance of natural resources, exploiting them looks like the path to glory. Experience from a range of countries shows that, to put it mildly, it's not so straightforward. The World Economic Forum has published a report on the topic – Natural riches?.

Free, prior and informed consent in Myanmar

International Alert co-hosted a roundtable discussion on free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) with the Centre for Economic and Social Development-Myanmar Development Resource Institute in Yangon, Myanmar on 6th October 2012.