Danmission has been supporting community development through the Shalom Foundation in Kachin State, Mon State, Kayah State and Karen State, in Myanmar, since 2009. As the purpose of development is to improve the lives of people, it is essential that all development processes include the target groups. Moreover, community participation forms the basis of community development as well as of the potential for emancipation.
Consequently, Danmission’s work in Myanmar is based on an empowerment approach to community development which emphasises autonomy in the decision-making process, local self-reliance, direct/participatory democracy and experiential social learning. This approach to learning and social change seeks to create a space in which people become accustomed to and feel comfortable in meeting and discussing issues relevant to themselves and their own lives. The approach aims to bring about improvements in the knowledge, attitudes and skills of individuals and communities by breaking the “culture of silence” and the acceptance of passivity, which is often common in communities with a long history of conflict. Through the use of Danmission’s approach, community members are mobilised for collective action and advocacy activities on issues related to education, health and livelihoods.
The transition from military dictatorship to democracy has shown that Myanmar’s different authorities are gradually beginning to acknowledge and accept their civic responsibility to govern, increasing their responsiveness to local issues and concerns. Danmission’s programme in Myanmar therefore also addresses the issue of good governance by supporting local CBOs in their efforts to increase their advocacy capacity. This includes raising local concerns or problems with the authorities, and encouraging a higher degree of participation, including in the field of local resource allocation, as well as in the planning and implementation of local development projects.
Development projects in Myanmar, including projects that seek to ensure economic development, on one hand represent a source of activity but, on the other, also mean that new conflicts are likely to present themselves. Centralised planning is dominant in Myanmar. This means that the partly successful but highly problematic historical focus on extractive projects is being repeated, according to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). At the national level, Danmission is the INGO Representative on the Public Finance Management Development Sector Work Group, and on the Energy Sector Work Group. This work is focused on conflict-free and fair resource allocation of Myanmar’s natural resources, and on national budget transparency.
Although civil war and military clashes between Myanmar’s government troops and the Kachin rebel army are still ongoing, both parties are taking part in peace talks (between the Burmese government and the armed ethnic groups in Myanmar). However, these talks have yet to be transformed into a sustainable peacebuilding phase. The Shalom Foundation, which is one of Danmission’s partner in Myanmar, is an active player in the Myanmar peace process.
Despite the ongoing peace talks, it is a fact that the levels of conflict in Kachin State have risen during 2014, and that increasing numbers of internally displaced populations (IDPs) have found refuge in camps along the Chinese border with Myanmar. In total, more than 100,000 refugees now live in these camps. The Shalom Foundation and the WPN (Wun Pawng Ninghtoi, “Light of Kachin”, a volunteer group of eight local NGOs and charity groups that have been present in Kachin’s conflict zones since fighting broke out in June 2011), Danmission’s humanitarian partner organisations in Kachin State, are supporting the internally displaced populations with humanitarian assistance, and taking part in strategic local initiatives to inform the international community (including the international donors) about the current situation in Kachin State.
Danmission’s poverty reduction programme in Myanmar is based on the following components with the aim of reducing poverty and strengthening civil society:
- Building active and engaged CSOs and empowered citizens
- Promoting conflict resolution and peaceful coexistence
- Ensuring access to viable productive resources (land, forest, water sources, etc.).
- Building sustainable income-generating opportunities for marginalised communities