UNDP in Rakhine

Working for all people living in Rakhine

Rakhine is one of the poorest and most populous states in Myanmar. It has a history of ethno-political conflict, chronic poverty, social exclusion and low resilience to climate change impacts and natural disasters. Periodic ethnic tensions and violence have forced hundreds of thousands to flee across the border, most of them to neighboring Bangladesh.

An estimated 145,000 people live in camps of internally displaced people (IDP) and an approximate 25,000 have been resettled within Rakhine State. Movement restrictions, in particular to (but not only) Muslim communities, are severely limiting economic opportunities and preventing access to key basic services. Inter-ethnic distrust is on the rise. People living in IDP camps have been excluded from interactions in cities and towns where they had lived, worked, studied and socialized for years.

Due to persistent gender inequalities and discrimination, the challenges facing Rakhine are felt especially by women and girls.

Lack of access to public services, poor infrastructures, joblessness, meagre living conditions and unavailability of legal mechanism affect all communities in Rakhine, creating mutual fear and distrust. Even if the conflict is usually framed in terms of Rakhine and Muslim communities, Rakhine is a diverse State where many different groups live and coexist.

The Government of Myanmar, the State Government, the Hlutaw (Parliament) and Rakhine’s townships and village administrations are pursuing many different strategies to address the range of humanitarian, development and political challenges confronting the State.

UNDP is convinced that due to Rakhine’s diversity, privileged geography, natural and environmental resources and human capital, there is tremendous potential to build “a peaceful, fair and prosperous future for the people of Rakhine”.

UNDP’s approach: area-based programme

Taking into account the complexities and overlapping development challenges across the State, UNDP understands that it is necessary to put into place a multidimensional approach. With a focus on addressing the root causes of the conflict, UNDP is pioneering an area-based programme approach working closely with all levels of the government, the UN system, civil society and communities.

UNPD’s area-based programme approach implies addressing simultaneously these overlapping challenges so development results become more sustainable and impact is multipliedIn Rakhine this includes:

  • Local governance. UNDP actively supports democratic local governance under township planning interventions by giving local people a voice to influence annual township planning and budgeting through elected representatives, being Hluttaw members, ward and village tract administrators and representatives from civil society organizations.
  • Access to justice and rule of law. To rebuild trust, measurable progress needs to be made by the government to improve the quality and fairness of all actors and institutions across the justice sector. UNDP provides services for conflict resolution through fair and affordable mechanisms and legal support on particularly acute problems in Rakhine such as gender-based violence and land right.
  • Gender equality and women’s empowerment. Addressing the social and structural barriers that prevent women’s participation and voices both in the formal peace process and in bottom up peacebuilding exercises. To this end, UNDP works closely with UN Women, UNFPA and women’s organizations.
  • Social cohesion. UNDP works for all Rakhine State and all communities living in the State, aiming at fostering social cohesion. A social cohesion and collaborative infrastructure approach aims at deepening networks of trust, cohesion and collaboration that ‘bridge’ across group lines, communities or other cleavages. The approach focuses on promoting: 1) social relationships, 2) connectedness, 3) orientation towards the common good, and 4) equality.
  • Promote inclusive economic empowerment of women and youth and revitalize the local economy: UNDP will seek to support inclusive entrepreneurship training of women and youth in Rakhine which is expected to spur development of micro and small scale enterprises including along in agriculture and fisheries value chain to unlock the economic potential while restoring and strengthening market linkages of emerging opportunities in the country.
  • Evidence-informed development. Robust assessments and high-quality data is key to solve the problems of the people of Rakhine. UNDP supports all levels of government in their efforts to undertake a joint assessment for joint planning in Rakhine State, with a particular focus on livelihoods and vulnerability issues and piloted in a few specific areas in Rakhine State with the possibility of scaling to cover the entire State. UNDP will engage the State government in an evidence-driven development planning process that is sustainable beyond the life of the project, and expects to use big data and new technologies for sentinel surveys to provide new angles to look at the dynamics and drivers behind development issues, conflict sensitivity, marginalisation and social tensions in Rakhine.

Strengthening the humanitarian development nexus

The district of Maungdaw has been particularly affected for the last waves of violence. Refugees temporarily living in camps across the border, amounting to 1 million according to the most recent estimates, may voluntarily decide to return to the land they fled from but only if conditions for a voluntary, safe, dignity and sustainable returns are in place.

With that aim, UNDP plans to deploy a dedicated team to work in Maungdaw. Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the Government of Myanmar and UNCHR - the UN refugees’ agency - Subject to provision of effective access by the government, UNDP will start quick impact projects that create new livelihood opportunities, promote social cohesion and create new job opportunities for all people living in this area.

UNDP has designed a phased approach from immediate response and early recovery to longer term development responses, with the aim of strengthening the humanitarian, peace and development approach nexus in Rakhine State. The goal of UNDP is improving the lives of all people living in Rakhine.