• Gearing up to support national transformation in Myanmar | Toily Kurbanov

    07 Jun 2013

    children in front of school
    Micro-financed projects in Bangan Townships, Myanmar. (Photo: Mark Garten/UN Photo)

    After two decades of restricted operations and 18 months of unprecedented and ongoing national reform, UNDP — along with our partners and other international organizations such as the World Bank — is now poised to help Myanmar lift itself out of widespread poverty and isolation following 18 months of unprecedented opening and reform.
     
    The road ahead is long and filled with challenges, but the promise and potential—given Myanmar’s large, young population, vast natural resources, strategic position next to emerging economies of China, India and South East Asia, and strong commitment to reform—are encouraging.
     
    UNDP has worked in Myanmar since the 1960s, but in 1993 our mandate was restricted to interventions at the grassroots level, sidestepping the regime. We helped communities directly with livelihood support and infrastructure projects, such as building hurricane-resistant housing.
     
    Now we’re engaging the government to help sustain the momentum behind its political and socio-economic reforms.
     
    Our new country programme includes a major focus on responsive, transparent, democratic governance—a central component of UNDP’s work worldwide—in three priority areas.
     
    The first supports institutional strengthening of local governments and civil society, while providing livelihood support and poverty reduction in border and ceasefire areas.
     
    The second comprises assistance through policy advice on climate change, disaster risk reduction, energy access, and environment.
     
    Our third aim is to contribute to reform strategies and help scale up capacity in the national parliament, justice sector, and civil administration.
     
    With 60 staff based in Yangon, and another 300 in field offices across the country, our overall budget for 2013-2015 totals US$150 million to help Myanmar manage a “triple transition”: nation-building, including securing a sustainable peace with ethnic minorities; state-building, or democratizing and modernizing state institutions; and economic liberalization, moving the country from a closed, command economy to an open and transparent market.
     
    Few countries have attempted such giant leaps in the past, not even after the Arab Spring. We fully anticipate some trial-and-error and disappointments.
     
    But as a relative latecomer to reform, Myanmar is in fact well positioned to learn from the experience of others and avoid costly missteps, with policies notably geared toward sustainable, inclusive growth that benefit all of its nearly 60 million people.
     
    Over the longer term, we expect Myanmar will become fully capable of securing its own development and democratization through the strength of its public institutions and private sector —so we also have clear benchmarks, milestones, and exit strategies planned.  When development professionals are no longer needed, after all, it means we’ve done our job.