EU Development Policy seeks to eradicate poverty and support sustainable growth, in line with key documents including the 2011 Agenda for Change , as well as the UN-sponsored Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In July 2013, the Foreign Affairs Council agreed on the EU Comprehensive Framework for the EU’s policy and support to Myanmar/Burma which sets out the EU and Member States’ goals and priorities until 2016. Priority areas of engagement are: Peace; Democracy; Development and Trade; and Myanmar’s re-engagement with the international community. The EU's work in Myanmar aligns closely with the government's own Framework for Economic and Social Reforms (FESR), and the Joint EU Development Partners' Transitional Strategy for Myanmar/Burma 2014 – 2016 that has been put in place to allow effective coordination with EU Member States on shared development objectives.
Isabel Faria de Almeida, Head of Operations at the EU Delegation in Myanmar discusses EU Development Cooperation in Myanmar
The EU is one of the largest providers of development funding to Myanmar, with EUR 688 million (approximately USD 858 million) of bilateral assistance allocated for the period 2014-2020. Under this Multiannual Indicative Programme , development assistance is primarily to be used to support four priority sectors, which were identified after extensive discussions with the government and other stakeholders:
- Rural development, agriculture and food and nutrition security (EUR 241 million)
- Education (EUR 241 million)
- Governance, Rule of Law, State capacity building (EUR 96 million)
- Peacebuilding support (EUR 103 million)
In addition to EU bilateral support, Myanmar benefits from assistance through EU thematic programmes such as the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the Non-State Actors and Local Authorities programme (NSA-LA), the Environment and Natural Resources including Energy Thematic Programme (ENRTP) and the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP). Myanmar is also eligible for regional programmes, including those implemented through ASEAN. The EU has also expanded its support to Trade and Private Sector Development.
EU development assistance to Myanmar dates back to 1996, when aid was primarily focused on health care and HIV/AIDS programmes, as well as repatriation schemes for returnees. The first country-specific EU aid strategy for Myanmar was formulated in 2007, and EU assistance was vital in supporting the recovery after cyclone Nargis in 2008. In response to the political reform process that started in 2011, the EU announced in February 2012 an additional EUR 150 million in development aid for 2012 – 2013, focusing on health, education and agriculture, as well as providing assistance for institutional capacity development and supporting the peace process through working with ethnic groups and displaced people in ethnic areas. Since 2013, the EU has increased support and strengthened collaboration with the government and people in order to better meet their needs. The Council of the European Union agreed on the first Comprehensive Framework for Myanmar on 22 July 2013, outlining key political and developmental areas to support 2013-2016. This was followed by the first EU-Myanmar Task Force in November 2013, which brought together all of the EU’s political and economic instruments for Myanmar. Chaired by former EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Minister of the President's Office U Soe Thane, a series of forums were held to deepen the bilateral relationship on a number of issues including development assistance, civil society, the peace process, and trade and investment.
The Task Force was followed by the first EU-Myanmar Human Rights Dialogue in May 2014, which allowed representatives to explore how EU assistance could support efforts to foster human rights, democratic governance and the rule of law on the ground. The EU also offered its support to the Myanmar government in its efforts to ratify and adhere to international human rights conventions and instruments.
Against this background and towards Joint Programming of EU and Member States' development aid, the Joint EU Development Partners’ Transitional Strategy for Myanmar was prepared and agreed by fourteen EU Member States' Delegations and the EU, and officially handed over to the Government of Myanmar in November 2014. The aim of the Transitional Strategy is to enhance the effectiveness European Development Cooperation by providing a single framework to guide all European development partners’ support to Myanmar. The period of this first Transitional Strategy has been set at 2014-16 to allow the subsequent strategy to align with the next Government's presumed planning cycle and elections expected in late 2015.
Since establishing its presence in Myanmar the EU has held numerous consultations and meetings with representatives from civil society to ensure inclusive discussions are taking place and to give them a voice in decision-making processes. The development of the EU Country Roadmap for engagement with civil society will be the result of such consultations held in Yangon, Mandalay and Mawlamyine throughout 2014. The Roadmap will provide a common strategic framework to engage with civil society in Myanmar, with the aim of improving the impact, predictability, consistency and coordination of EU action.
The launch of EuroChamber, the European Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar, in December 2014 brought together top level institutional and private sector representatives to mark the beginning of strengthened business relationships between the EU and Myanmar. EuroChamber’s aim is not only to reinforce links between Myanmar businesses and their European counterparts but also to give greater visibility to Myanmar in Europe and to share experiences on good management practices, including Corporate Social Responsibility.
In December 2014, the EU announced the allocation of EUR 688 million to Myanmar over the next seven years under the Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) 2014 – 2020. The Programme is the result of extensive discussions with representatives from all parts of society, including at the Task Force in November 2013, and it is in line with the Government's own development objectives.
These landmark events, coupled with the significant commitments that have been made, demonstrate the strength and vitality of the EU-Myanmar partnership. With general elections scheduled in 2015, the EU stands ready to support the country's continuing transformation into a fully-functioning democracy.