Yangon, June 17, 2014 — The Asia Foundation released a report examining the delivery of social services by ethnic armed groups and their associated networks of service providers in Myanmar’s contested regions. The report, Ethnic Conflict and Social Services in Myanmar’s Contested Regions, provides informed analysis and guidance on how international aid agencies can strengthen the relationships between state and ethnic armed groups, and ultimately support the evolution of legitimate and inclusive institutions necessary for peace.
A bewildering number of ethnic conflicts have persisted in varied forms and intensity in Myanmar since independence from Britain in 1948. Numerous small militias still operate in the border areas, and over 20 ethnic armed groups control parts of the country, primarily in remote and frontier regions. The quasi-civilian government that came into being in 2011 has made a concerted effort to reach a comprehensive solution to the ethnic conflicts, including the signing of 16 bilateral ceasefire agreements in the past couple of years, and ongoing effort to achieve a national ceasefire agreement leading to political dialogue.
Against this backdrop and a dramatically transformed aid environment in Myanmar, the report is significantly and timely. The research includes interviews and focus groups conducted in early 2014, in both Myanmar and Thailand. The report is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
For decades, administrative and social services have been delivered by the ethnic armed groups’ political structures and associated networks of service providers and social organizations in the areas under their control, rather than by the state. Confidence in the peace process in some conflict-affected areas is being undermined, however, by the expansion of government service delivery with insufficient conflict sensitivity, as well as internationally implemented projects. To that end, this new study explores the significance of collaboration between the state and ethnic armed organizations to peacebuilding and provides broad guidance on how international aid agencies can direct social service spending to support peace in this way, and avoid further exacerbating conflicts.
“As the momentum of the peace negotiations reaches a critical stage, this exploratory study will help illuminate the dynamics of social service delivery in contested regions of Myanmar,” said Dr. Kim Ninh, Myanmar Country Representative for The Asia Foundation. “Much more analytical work is needed on a range of thorny issues that the peace process will have to take into account, and we hope that the Foundation’s research agenda, of which this paper is a part of, will help make a useful contribution.”
In Myanmar, the Foundation works with partners in government, the private sector, and civil society to build the country’s capacity for regional integration, strengthen the core institutions and processes of democratic governance, and support increased access to information.