Myanmar's geographic position combined with its richness in natural resources such as gems, timber and gas, makes the country well-positioned for benefitting from international cooperation and trade. Careful management of land and natural resources could improve living standards of the people in the extracting areas as well as benefit the people of Myanmar in general. Unfortunately, deep-seated problems of illegal trade, land-grabbing and unequal revenue-sharing from natural resource extraction continue to fuel a number of long-running conflicts.
Despite its strategic geographic location and the abundance of natural resources, Myanmar remains one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 150 out of the 187 countries covered in UNDP's 2014 Human Development Index. The civilian Government is strongly committed to reduce poverty and improve living conditions. It has initiated policy reforms to promote socio-economic development. However, progress is challenged by the limited capacities of the administration. Despite an increase in public spending, social sectors are still suffering from underinvestment and are in need of comprehensive reform. As a result, the country lags behind its neighbours on most socio-economic indicators.
Myanmar's economy suffers from years of mismanagement with a per capita GDP of approximately USD 1,105 in 2014, and the official national poverty incidence standing at around 26%. Decades of conflicts between the Government army and ethnic militias have had a detrimental effect on the people of Myanmar. The ongoing peace process initiated by the government raises expectations on the possibilities of further expanding development assistance to former conflict areas.
Since Myanmar is also prone to natural hazards, including cyclones, earthquakes and floods, disaster prevention and management remains a priority for the country. Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which killed some 140 000 people and destroyed thousands of homes in the Irrawaddy delta, led to the establishment the Crises Response Centre in Nay Pyi Taw. However national capacity to respond to natural disasters still remains limited.
Objectives of EU assistance
EU Development Policy seeks to eradicate poverty and to help sustainable growth. This is in line with the UN-sponsored Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and therefore one of the main goals of EU assistance to Myanmar. 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. Priority areas of engagement are: Peace; Democracy; Development and Trade; and Myanmar’s re-engagement with the international community.
To reach these overall objectives current bilateral assistance under the Multiannual Indicative Programme has been allocated to support four main priority areas over the period 2014 - 2020:
- Rural development, agriculture and food security with the overall objective of contributing to the eradication of poverty and hunger in rural areas of Myanmar/Burma through sustainable rural development, including environmentally sustainable agriculture.
- Education the overall objective of contributing to Myanmar achieving education-related Millennium Development Goals and the national goal of Education for All.
- Governance, rule of law and state capacity building with the main objective of supporting Myanmar’s democratic transition processes and reform agenda.
- Peacebuilding support with the main objective of contributing to lasting peace, security and sustainable development in Myanmar by supporting the ongoing peace process.
In addition to EU bilateral support, Myanmar benefits from assistance through various EU thematic and regional programmes, such as:
- European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR): The instrument contributes to the development of democracy and the rule of law, and promotes the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
- Non-State Actors and Local Authorities programme (NSA-LA): The programme facilitates local contributions to poverty alleviation in the context of sustainable development.
- Environment and Natural Resources including Energy Thematic Programme (ENRTP): The programme aims to strengthen environmental governance with activities focussing on helping countries to cope with climate change and sustainable management of natural resources.
- Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP): The instrument provides short-term assistance or long-term support to prevent conflict, support post-conflict political stabilisation and ensure early recovery after a natural disaster.
- Investing in People: The programme promotes human and social development, particularly good health for all; education; gender equality; employment and social cohesion; culture; children and youth.
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.
Methods of implementation
Currently, much EU development assistance in Myanmar is implemented through NGOs and UN agencies, in collaboration with local partners wherever possible. The majority of EU assistance is channelled through three UN-managed multi-donor trust funds:
- Livelihoods and Food Security Multi-Donor Trust Fund (LIFT): a USD 205 million multi-donor consortium is helping poor and disadvantaged people of Myanmar to lift themselves out of poverty, overcoming malnutrition and building livelihoods. So far, LIFT has reached over 500,000 beneficiary households, or nearly 2.5 million people. More than 290,000 beneficiary households have reported that they have increased their food security resources by more than a month.
- Quality Basic Education Programme (QBEP): a programme to increase equitable access to basic education and early childhood development, especially in disadvantaged and hard to reach communities. With an overall donor support of USD 84 million for the period 2012-2015, the QBEP aims at improving education systems nationally, including legislative and policy reforms, as well as increasing the number of children in Myanmar accessing and completing primary education.
- Three Millennium Development Goal Fund (3MDG): a multi-donor consortium programme with over USD 334 million committed in the health sector during 2012-2016, and that builds on the experience of The Three Diseases Fund. The aim is to reduce the burden of three communicable diseases, i.e. HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, and to improve health of mothers and children in Myanmar. It also supports the development of a more effective and responsive health system.
To find out exactly how much assistance the EU is allocating and disbursing to our various focus areas visit the Mohinga website. This Aid Information Management System is dedicated to aid transparency and open access to aid information and was launched by the Government of Myanmar during the Myanmar Development Cooperation Forum in early 2015.