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Building Resilience of Conflict Affected and Displaced People

Start project:
  • 2016
  • Kerk in Actie

The overall project strategy of this rights-based joint ACT Alliance project in Myanmar’s Kayin State is aimed at building resilience in communities with internally displaced people (IDPs) and conflict-affected people, by creating and enabling the management of community-based resources (land, water and forests) and by ensuring that people are capable of mitigating shocks and stresses.

This joint project initiated by ACT Alliance members in Myanmar is a pilot project building on experiences of similar projects in Kayin State. Each of the ACT members have been implementing similar activities either directly or in partnership with local organisations.

Whilst target communities including IDPs have been mobilized for community based organisations (CBO) such as Village Development Committees (VDC) and Self Help Groups (SHG) and their capacities strengthened, there is a need for continued assistance and capacity strengthening including a specific recommendation for mentoring support and leadership development. Second, there is a need to integrate emergency preparedness and response, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation with ongoing livelihoods activities and community capacity strengthening. Evaluations and reviews on current engagement with partners in Kayin State on above issues also recommended for linking village development commitee plans with village tract/township planning process and plans of the government, priorities on/off farm technology, micro-enterprises development, value chain approach and inclusive cooperative development. Recommendations from current projects also involve further focus in mainstreaming cross-cutting issues like disability and environment.

Myanmar is in the midst of three interrelated processes of transitioning from over 50 years of military rule to democracy; emerging from over 60 years of on and off armed conflict towards peace; and moving after years of neglect and isolation towards ensuring the economic development of the country.

The “South-East” is not a single operating environment. It is a large area with a population of about 10,000,000 people in four (even six) quite different areas with varying degrees of good governance and different prospects for peace and development. While there are common issues, upon which it is possible to talk in general, efforts in each area require different input and approaches. One common issue across all of the areas of the South-East is the self-sufficiency of affected communities, particularly as regards protection coping mechanisms. Historically, communities have been served by strong, local, faith-based and community-based organisations.

The conflict between government and non-state armed groups (NSAG) has resulted in decades of instability and hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the South-East. Forced labour, land confiscation, forced displacements, heavy taxation, and physical abuse by soldiers forced communities to hide in the forests or cross borders to refugee camps in Thailand, resulting in extremely limited livelihood opportunities and access to services, in turn leading to food insecurity.The level of social and economic growth is poor, which impacts negatively on the quality of public services. Systems relating to healthcare, clean water and sanitation, education, transportation and communications are all inadequate.Human develop¬ment indicators remain lower in Myanmar than even the other least-developed countries (LDCs) of the region, and in the South East, the indicators are worse than the averages for Myanmar.

Due to the territory in the South East being heavily contested, with the majority Burman-led state facing an extreme deficit in legitimacy, in the absence of government assistance, networks linked to NSAGs have utilised international aid to provide education, healthcare and other basic social services, helping to firmly institutionalise their roles in society beyond the realm of security. As a result, the provision of social services in these areas is fraught with political complications with parallel delivery systems in operation on the ground.

A series of ceasefires negotiated between the Government of Myanmar and ethnic armed groups in the course of 2011 and 2012 and work a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) signed in 2015 between the government and 08 NSAGs including those operating in Kayin State have given rise to hopes that prospects for durable solutions may emerge for refugees and internally displaced people who fled their homes as a result of the protracted conflict in south east Myanmar. There are currently indications that in certain areas, IDPs are beginning to return spontaneously to villages of origin (or locations nearby), and that refugees are engaging in informal, often extended, ‘go and see’ visits. However, lack of livelihood opportunities, remoteness, distance from social support services, physical insecurity, and landmine contamination of farmland prevent more IDPs from returning permanently.

Further, general elections conducted in 2015 brought in a new government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD) in early 2016, though key administrative functions remain under military control. The new NLD-led government in Myanmar is expected to be more people-centred, presenting greater opportunities for engagement. However, while positive change is expected, uncertainties remain at this early stage on how the processes related to peace, economic development, and the return and resettlement of IDPs and refugees in Kayin state will be taken forward.

With the ceasefire agreement and improved stability in Kayin state, there is now a strong interest in commercial and investment opportunities with vast untapped economic potential. With an influx of private companies and international organisations, the project will aim to strengthen the communities’ ability to determine and shape their own development. The issue of land grabbing and confiscation in Kayin is closely linked to business development and resource extraction, which can be addressed through continued dialogue and advocacy for accountable decision-making from government and NSAGs.

Myanmar ranks high on the scale of disaster impact, and has limited capacities to prepare and respond. Whilst some disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts have been made, capacity-building needs remain high. Specific approaches to slow-onset hazards and proper integrated approaches focusing on livelihood protection are also required. Myanmar ranks second globally in terms of the threat posed by agricultural productivity loss due to climate change. A third of the population lives in areas at risk of flooding. Myanmar’s coping ability is so poor that only Somalia tops it in terms of vulnerability. Climate proofing Myanmar’s growth is essential, but even basic disaster warning and flood prevention systems are lacking. Strengthening the resilience of the economy at macro and micro levels is essential.

Rural women are among Myanmar's most marginalized groups, with high vulnerability to food insecurity and poverty. Myanmar ranked 96 out of 146 countries in the 2011 Gender Inequality Index. Key gender-related issues include a high maternal mortality ratio and insufficient access to reproductive and basic health services, low participation of women in public decision making and the labour market, increasing incidence of HIV&AIDS among women, and a lack of reliable and sex-disaggregated data across sectors. Women’s ownership, control and access to land and the means to farm it is determined by complex institutions and cultural norms. A study in Kayah State cited that when asked who in their community is the most vulnerable, respondents identified female headed households, the elderly and disabled persons. A lack of formal employment opportunities for women in the target areas means that they look to the informal sector, migration, and domestic work. Women workers thereby become vulnerable to discrimination, marginalization, and a range of abuses.

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