Myanmar is at a historic stage in its development as it undergoes multiple transitions from conflict to peace, from autocratic rule to a democratic government and from a closed economy to an open market. The support of the International Community to Myanmar plays a vital role in such a transition, and the Government of Myanmar has been working to build the necessary coordination mechanisms with foreign partners after years of isolation.
In January 2013, the Government convened bilateral and multilateral Development Partners (DPs) at the first edition of the Myanmar Development Co-operation Forum (MDCF). The Forum was the first occasion for all parties to discuss the priority sectors and areas in the Country’s reform strategy and development plans. Here, two important documents that form a clear roadmap toward a democratic state were presented: the Framework for Economic and Social Reform (FESR) and the National Comprehensive Development Plan (NCDP).
The Forum also adopted and made public the "Nay Pyi Taw Accord for Effective Development Cooperation" (NPT-Accord), the first Memorandum of Understanding officially shared by the Myanmar Government and the Development Partners on development cooperation.
This agreement refers to the Busan principles on Global Partnership and lists a number of mutual commitments and obligations, including that of the DPs to align with the FESR and NCDP. The NPT-Accord provided the basis for the establishment of a formal government-donor coordination mechanism.
With the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) landslide victory in the November 2015 elections, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (DASSK) and the subsequent inauguration of the new civilian government in April 2016, the executive's action focused on three strategies to facilitate sustainable growth and pacification of the Country:
- internal reorganization of the government;
- democratic consolidation, with a renewed impetus to the Peace-Process (PP);
- connection with International Partners (IP).
Equitable, sustainable growth is the catalyst to reduce the existing levels of poverty and lay the foundations for longer-term prosperity. Key obstacles to development and economic growth are conflict and the threat of disasters from natural hazards, so sufficient levels of predictable, high-quality aid are essential to meet immediate humanitarian needs and to build resilience. Within this framework, the Myanmar Government is working as a catalyst for democratic reforms.
In regard to the reorganization of the Official Development Assistance (ODA), the most significant and recent changes are:
- the creation of the Development Assistance Coordination Unit (DACU): a political body that has a pivotal role in the coordination of development assistance flows in Myanmar, in line with the country’s priorities;
- the creation of the Development Assistance Policy (DAP) which seeks to maximise the benefits of international assistance, making the allocation and disbursement of aid provided by international agencies more effective and transparent. The new policy identifies Myanmar’s priorities and it shows a clear alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals;
- the renovation of the Foreign Economic Relations Department (FERD), now structured within the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relation (MIFER). The FERD is the coordination body of the ODA. It is designated to deal with all development partners, is tasked with developing investment in Myanmar and setting policies to monitor effectiveness, and it acts as Secretary of the DACU;
- the formation of the Cooperation Partners Group - CPG - is the main coordination mechanism for international cooperation partners in Myanmar, with 78 member agencies at present.
Through the work of AICS office in Yangon, Italy has actively participated in this review process, seeking to support the establishment of a strengthened the CPG Secretariat to facilitate the flow of information between Donors and the Government. Moreover, AICS Yangon actively participates in the division of labour advocated by the European Union, which opened its Delegation in Myanmar in 2013.
Moreover, since the Panglong Conference, The Union Peace Conference held from 31 August to 4 September 2016 in Naypyidaw, the Italian strategy has focused on ensuring its support through participation in a multi-donor fund called the Joint Peace Fund (JPF). The JPF was set up to support the peace process in Myanmar. It is both a platform capable of efficiently coordinating international donors and a meeting place that encourages dialogue and cooperation between the central government and Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs).
The objective of the cooperation activities carried out by AICS Yangon within the governance sector is to facilitate the opening and participation of Myanmar as part of the international community while supporting the efforts of its institutions and actors in inter-ethnic and democratic dialogue, in coordination with the other Development Partners.
The Italian activities are mainly focused on two elements:
- support for the delicate peace process, which represents one of the country's most important challenges;
- support to public institutions by helping them to bridge the technical and training gaps of officials, as well as improving their functionality and operation. In this case, Italian support is implemented through capacity and institution-building activities in sectors defined in agreement with local counterparts.
The intervention strategy is based on supporting the authorities at national and sub-national level in the peace process, institutional reorganization and in working towards decentralization. In particular, through:
- participation in the Joint Peace Fund to support and facilitate the peace process;
- the strengthening of the capacity of personnel and the supply of equipment to the Foreign External Relations Department (FERD) of the Ministry of Investment and the Development Assistance Coordination Unit (DACU);
- the strengthening of the statistical sector via funding of the UNFPA Population Census and collaboration with the Central Statistical Organization (CSO);
- support to the coordination mechanisms between the Government and Donors (Coordination Partners Group - CPG), strengthening the effectiveness of international aid through bilateral projects.