The central issues of peace in Myanmar

Henri Myrttinen talking about his experience of working on men and masculinitiesAs the results from the historic November elections in Myanmar were still trickling in, International Alert hosted its first public talk of what is planned to be a series of events on issues central to the peace processes that the newly elected government, along with the other negotiating parties and civil society, will need to tackle over the coming years.

The event, which took place in Yangon on 18 November, focused on gender. Henri Myrttinen, Head of Gender at Alert, presented his experience on working on issues of men and masculinities in peacebuilding. Myrttinen highlighted the need to take a broad approach to gender in peacebuilding, looking at the roles and needs of women and of men, and how these relate to each other.

While men and boys everywhere are affected by conflict and peacebuilding – be it as fighters or as peacebuilders, as survivors and/or perpetrators of violence – they are seldom seen as ‘gendered beings’, with expectations of ‘manliness’ placed on them by themselves and others. These expectations can both increase the likelihood of men and boys resorting to violence and of becoming victims of violence. In order to achieve inclusive, sustainable peace, Myrttinen stressed that some of these male gender norms need to be changed, while simultaneously also promoting women's empowerment.

The talk was co-hosted by Alert and the newly-formed Myanmar Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process (AGIPP), and held at what has come to be known informally as the 'Yangon Peace House' – the office shared by Alert, Saferworld and CDA. The event was attended by over 60 people, including representatives of local and international NGOs, civil society organisations, academics and staff from international and UN agencies.

In Myanmar, Alert works with civil society, businesses and government ministries to integrate peacebuilding into the ongoing reforms, and also works with civil society organisations and businesses to promote conflict-sensitive economic governance.

Building on this work, we have recently started a new project that seeks to inform, advise and accompany the multiple stakeholders involved in the preparatory stage of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process. With Alert’s support, we hope this process can contribute to greater peace in Myanmar by reducing the damaging effects of illegal logging through an inclusive process of governance and market reforms.

You can read more about our work in Myanmar here and find out more about our work on gender in peacebuilding here. Last week, Myrttinen wrote a blog for The Myanmar Times on men and gender in the peace process.