The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, known also as the Golden Land due to its countless golden Buddhist pagodas, has seen thousands of years of history and cultural history which is still being discovered.
Myanmar has a population of around 53.7 million, of which around 70 percent live in rural areas with very limited access to electricity, basic infrastructure, or services. In particular, access to food and to health care is very limited, contributing to a life expectancy of around 67 years and an under-5 mortality rate of around 46.2 per 1.000 live births.
According to the 2017 Myanmar Living Conditions Survey Poverty Report, 24.8 percent of Myanmar’s population lives in poverty. Rural inhabitants are more likely to be poor, especially in isolated areas in Chin and Rakhine States where the poverty rate reaches almost 40 percent.
The Dry Zone (from lower Sagaing Region to the western and central parts of Mandalay and most of Magway Region), is characterized by very little rainfall compared to the country average and is vulnerable to drought. Here, the effects of climate change and environmental degradation are exposing the population to poverty, vulnerability, and food insecurity.
The country is prone to natural disasters, including floods, cyclones, earthquakes, landslides and droughts. It is one of the countries most affected by climate change over the last 20 years, ranking third out of 184 countries in the 2019 Global Climate Risk Index. Since 2002, more than 13 million people have been affected by cyclones (Nargis in 2008, Giri in 2010, Komen in 2015 and Mora in 2017) which caused displacement and destruction of livelihoods and crops.
Although Myanmar has experienced robust economic growth in the last ten years, domestic factors such as multiple conflicts and low private sector productivity hamper the country’s development. According to the Human Development Index, Myanmar is one of the least developed countries in the world ranking at 145 out of 189.
Myanmar has 135 officially recognized ethnic groups and more than one hundred different languages. The main ethnic group is Bamar (68% of the population), from which the country’s former name Burma was derived until eventually changed to Myanmar in 1989. Shan (around 9%), Karen (7%), Rakhine (4%), Chin (3%) and Mon (2.73%) are some of the largest of Myanmar’s many distinct ethnic minority groups.
Ethnic tensions are a significant challenge in the country. The current government is working to overcome ethnic tensions in order to ensure the peace process is effective
Only in 2011, the country started a gradual opening following the formation of a civilian government led by President Thein Sein, who served as a general and then Prime Minister under the former military government. This transitional government lasted until 2015, when the National League for Democracy (NLD) won the election. The leader of the NLD is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and daughter of General Aung San, who was a hero of the Independence from the British and considered the Father of the Nation. Although she was prohibited from becoming the President due to a clause in the constitution – her late husband and children are foreign citizens – she assumed the newly created role of State Counsellor, a role akin to a Prime Minister or a head of government.
It was the dawn of a more democratic era for the whole country, however, the military still holds great power. The democratic Government faces considerable challenges, like the transition from the old regime to democracy, from a centralized economy to an inclusive market economy and from conflict to peace.
The peace process is extremely important for ending conflict permanently and it is a key aspect of the country's transition to democracy. It has involved negotiations amongst the different groups culminating in events such as the Panglong Peace Conferences (2016), and National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA, 2015).
In this context, AICS Yangon, within the framework of its mandate, works with the Government and its partners to support the peace process as a necessary condition to create social stability and improved conditions of life for the people of Myanmar.
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