Our Perspective

Women’s economic empowerment – A Key Goal for Myanmar

08 Mar 2018

image Women’s economic empowerment will be critical not only for the achievement of SDG 5 on gender equality but also for the achievement of many of the other goals.

Myanmar continues on its path to join the group of middle income countries. Economic growth rates have averaged some 7.3 per cent annually from 2012 to 2016, outperforming the East Asia and Pacific region average of 6.9 per cent. Nonetheless, patterns of growth reveal a high dependence on capital intensive resource extraction, with little economic diversification. Performance on the creation of decent jobs has been weak, despite the government’s public commitments to promoting more inclusive growth. As a consequence, the benefits of the growth have not been equally distributed with resulting rising inequality. While growing inequality and poverty affects different groups of people, women are often most at risk of losing out from economic growth because they traditionally lack access to resources, financial services, have lower skills level and are often concentrated in a narrower range of occupations often with poor remuneration. According to the 2015 Myanmar Labour Force Survey (LFS) female labour force participation is 47.7 per cent compared to men’s 78 per cent. For those women who work, they are overwhelmingly engaged in the informal economy. Some 90.7 per cent of women who work are in the informal economy, compared to 77.4 per cent for men. The informal economy  Read More

Indonesia’s Anti-Corruption Drive Inspires Myanmar’s New Anti-Corruption Commission

21 Dec 2017

image The Myanmar delegation outside Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

I had the opportunity to be part of a high level government delegation, led by the Secretary of the Myanmar Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), U San Win to Indonesia to observe first-hand how the country is spearheading anti-corruption initiatives. The study visit came at a time where the newly appointed Anti-Corruption Commission of Myanmar under the leadership of H.E. U Aung Kyi, Chairman of the ACC, is determining its priorities and plan of action.  The new Commission was appointed in late November 2017 and is made of 12 members, three of which are women.   Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) hosted the visit and ensured that the Myanmar delegates visit key Government stakeholders involved in implementing the Anti-Corruption Strategy The Myanmar delegates had the rare opportunity to witness the KPK in full action.  On Wednesday 13 December, the prosecution of the Speaker of the Indonesian Parliament formally started at the Anti-Corruption court in Jakarta.  The Deputy Commissioner of the KPK, confided to the delegation that it was the KPK’s independence and the strong support it has received from the public that allowed it to investigate and prosecute several prominent political figures in the country.  It was evident to the Myanmar delegation that the  Read More

Developing A Rule of Law Handbook for Journalists

18 Dec 2017

image The launch of the handbook was accompanied by a panel discussion featuring Daw May Thingyan Hein, recipient of the Knight International Journalism Award; Kyaw Min Swe, editor-in-chief of The Voice; and U Htain Win, retired judicial officer and the Legal Advisor for the Rule of Law Center in Mandalay.

After months of reviewing, editing and fact-checking, I finally got to witness the launch of the Rule of Law Handbook for Journalists in Myanmar before a room full of aspiring journalists and civil society organizational representatives.  Earlier in the year, UNDP had teamed up with the German organization Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung to put together this book.  Both organizations believe that freedom of the press as well as ethical reporting are key to building a strong democracy in Myanmar, and we wanted to give Myanmar journalists an extra hand in doing their job. The Handbook is a quick reference guide to the rule of law and good governance principles that sustain a democracy as well as the best practices for media workers covering the workings of government.  As attendees signed in and picked up the little blue and white book, I could see subtle nods of approval as they flipped it over to find both Myanmar and English versions in one book, the result of KAS’ expert designing. KAS and UNDP had also organized a panel discussion during the launch with some of the most groundbreaking Myanmar journalists and jurists—faces known internationally as well as nationally for their fearless dedication to freedom of  Read More

What Can  Myanmar Learn from Brazil to Decrease Deforestation?

05 Sep 2017

image In Myanmar, the potential for mitigation of climate change through reducing deforestation and forest degradation is comparatively high.

Think about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, usually from the energy and transport sectors come to mind. But globally around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions are generated through forest loss and forest degradation.   In Myanmar according to government data, the annual forest loss for the last 10 years is  around 1.9% (645,000 ha annually), while the rate of reduction of Closed Forests, which goes largely into Open Forests, is around 4.6% annually (around 730,000 ha). Thus the potential for mitigation of climate change through reducing deforestation and forest degradation is comparatively high.   Brazil has been successful in decreasing deforestation in the Amazon, the largest contiguous tropical forest area in the world. This is why a delegation of Governemnt officials and members of the UNREDD team visited Brazil in July. I was part of that team.   During the nine-day visit, the delegation saw many examples of how public and private institutions coordinated their actions to fulfill goals across different sectors, and what their roles and responsibilities were at different levels.  We met with the Brazilian Cooperation Agency, Ministries of Foreign Affairs; Environment; Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication; and Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply; the Brazilian Institute of the  Read More

Myanmar’s State and Region MPs Learning on the Job, and Online

25 Jul 2017

image Six political parties are represented in the Kachin State Hluttaw - three of these parties had never been represented in the Kachin State Hluttaw previously, namely the National League for Democracy, Kachin State Democracy Party and Lisu National Development Party

When newly elected Members of Parliament took their seats in Myanmar’s State and Region Hluttaws (Parliaments) in April 2016, the majority of MPs were new to their role, with many having limited prior experience in politics and government. The high turnover of MPs also meant limited access to MPs with knowledge of the parliament’s customs and practices. The State and Region Hluttaws are also relatively new institutions (initially constituted in early 2011) and the legal framework in which they operate is still developing. For the new MPs building their understanding of their legislative, oversight and representation roles within the constitutional framework can also create challenges. An online course in parliamentary practices and procedures, available in Myanmar language and edited to reflect the Myanmar context, has provided Myanmar’s State and Region MPs with tools and guidance for their role as an MP, and for making their parliament more effective and open. A UNDP-supported professional development programme has been introducing the online course to Myanmar’s State and Region MPs since late 2016. The online learning environment, and the use of a laptop, are new experiences for many MPs, and the professional development programme has involved bringing all MPs from a particular State or  Read More

Everything we envisioned, nothing we could expect- Civil Service Reforms in Myanmar

18 Jul 2017

image Myanmar's new Civil Service Reform Strategic Action Plan was launched on July 10.

Myanmar's new Civil Service Reform Strategic Action Plan is at one and the same time everything that we might have envisioned, and nothing that we could have expected, when we first started working in Myanmar in 2013 and 2014. The Civil Service Reform Plan aims to make the civil service more ethical, more diverse, and better equipped to address the complex challenges confronting Myanmar. Its development was led by the Union Civil Service Board- in Myanmar, the body that performs many, but not all, civil service management functions at national level- with UNDP support. The ambitious content, the year-long nationwide consultations that preceded it, and the public support from the highest levels across state institutions that the Plan received are commendable for any government, not least one emerging from decades of authoritarian rule. Its timeliness and potential importance is evident in the continuing media coverage it is receiving. The Plan’s frankness about sensitive issues like corruption would have been difficult to contemplate just a few years ago. H.E. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, launched the Plan, saying “tackling corruption will contribute to a wider objective of the Strategic Action Plan: the  Read More

Why the launch of the Supreme Court Annual Report is More Than Just a Launch

28 Jun 2017

image The leader of a women’s journalist association shares inputs from her breakout group’s discussion around “Priority vs. Impact” of possible activities the Supreme Court can include in their new Strategic Plan to increase public awareness and access to court information

The Myanmar Chief Justice was smiling broadly this morning: after months of hard work by his reporting team, he officially launched the 2016 Annual Report of the Supreme Court to an audience of civil society representatives, private lawyers, journalists, police and prosecution officials, and the diplomatic community in Myanmar. This is a new way of doing business for the Court – inviting a wide range of organizations and stakeholders in a successful judiciary to hear directly from the Chief Justice about the internal deliberations of the court’s planning process is a significant stride towards transparency, public participation and collaboration. The 2016 Annual Report of the Supreme Court provides meaningful information about cases, disposition rates, human resources, budget allocations and even salaries of all employees of the court. This kind of information was simply not shared with the public in earlier years. But the collaboration and steps towards transparency did not stop there. The rest of the day was devoted to group presentations with lawyers and civil society, as well as heads of police units, Hluttaw committee members, law officers from the Attorney General’s office, and other justice sector officials to explain the Supreme Court’s Strategic Planning process for 2018-2022. The Supreme  Read More

So near the State Capital, yet so little exposure to development

02 Jun 2017

image Naryikan villagers learn about basic legal rights.

After a 30 minutes’ car drive from Sittwe town, the capital of Rakhine State, a UNFPA colleague and I arrived at 8.30 in the morning at Naryikan. We came to this village to observe a legal awareness training by Legal Clinic Myanmar,  a legal organization that promotes and strengthens rule of law, democracy and human rights. The training is part of the UNFPA/UNDP initiative to increase access to justice for women and girls in Rakhine State. We were welcomed by a woman leader of the village. Before the start of the training we had some time to learn about the background of the village. Naryikan has over 200 households, all belong to the Rakhine ethnic community. Every year during the dry season they face a water crisis, the village wells are drying out, so the families need to go to a nearby village to get their water. Only a few households in the village have regular employment. The income families get from cultivating their lands is too low, therefore most of the families depend on income earned as daily labor. The woman leader is appointed by the village administrator. The only government service in the village she is aware of is  Read More

The Enterprise Sector in Myanmar – Status and Potential

23 Feb 2017

Myanmar is at a crossroads. With a democratically elected government, growing levels of foreign direct investment, rich endowments of natural resources and one of the highest rates of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region, the future looks bright. However, as experience around the world shows, FDI and natural resources alone do not guarantee equitable economic growth. To achieve this, growth needs to be more broad-based with strong linkages to the local economy. The business sector, in particular small and medium enterprises, or SMEs, can be critical in promoting more equitable growth. SMEs have great potential for creating employment, including for youth. In Vietnam and Thailand, for example, SMEs account for 77 and 78 percent of total employment, respectively. SMEs can also play an important role in alleviating poverty in rural areas and provide local opportunities through agro-processing and other agricultural-based businesses. The creation of more businesses also means increasing the potential for tax collection and thereby creating more fiscal space to support increased public spending. In order to learn more about businesses in Myanmar, the Central Statistical Organisation and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have conducted the Myanmar Business Survey, a comprehensive study of businesses in Myanmar with at least one  Read More

40 Young Volunteers Travel to Celebrate Twenty Two Thousand Rural Women

26 Oct 2016


It is 9 o’ clock ona quiet Saturday morning in Yangon and 40 university students are gathered in the garden of the UNDP office, fervently waiting to know to which Myanmar state they are going to travel to the following week. The sun is shining and the UN blue umbrellas are not big enough to offer shade to such a cohort. It has already been one year! These fantastic students have been volunteering to teach rural women how to use mobile technology, to write theatre role plays that make it easier to understand the internet, and to record inspiring audio stories for rural women who cannot read.   One year ago on International Rural Women’s day, October 15th, 2015, the Myanmar first Rural Women’s National Network, May Doe Kabar, was officially launched. Few months later, May Doe Kabar’s very own iWomen - Inspiring Women App, an application co-designed by Myanmar rural women and young tech women, was released. The iWomenApp has now hit the 6,000 active rural women users mark.   One year on 22,000 rural women across eight states in Myanmar are getting ready to celebrate a triumphant first year packed with victories and achievements. 2016 saw May Doe Kabar  Read More

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