Launch of Myanmar's First Adaptation Fund Project - Speech by Nicholas Rosellini Deputy Assistant Administrator & Deputy Regional Director, RBAP

Feb 17, 2015

Your Excellency, U Win Tun, Union Minister for Environmental Conservation and Forestry,
Your Excellency, U Ye Myint, Chief Minister of the Mandalay Region Government,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great honour for me to be here today at this Inauguration Ceremony of the Adaptation Fund Project in the Dry Zone. It is truly inspiring to be here in Mandalay, a long-standing hub of cultural, socio-political, and historic heritage for the people of Myanmar; and an influential city for the country’s economic and educational growth.  

I am told that the central lowland area of Myanmar has great historical significance. That the Myanmar people who lived in this Central lowland during that period enjoyed prosperity and favorable living conditions, including fertile lands.

But over the last 150 years, there have been significant changes in Myanmar, in particular in this central lowland.  Environmental degradation, compounded by global warming, has transformed this land into one of the most climate-sensitive and resource-depleted regions in Myanmar, now known as: the Dry Zone.

Now the Dry Zone is the most food insecure region in the country…yet it is home to 34% of the country’s total population.

Water scarcity, resulting from longer and more severe droughts is the most critical threat to livelihood in the Dry Zone. A majority of the households here spend most of their time and efforts fetching water for drinking and other uses, depriving them of income generating opportunities.

Due to the scarcity of jobs youth are migrating to other cities and other countries in search of making a living, besetting the region with economic and developmental consequences.

While the situation is dire, there is hope! There is significant potential to boost the Dry Zone economy, and the Government is prioritizing socio-economic development here. It has started several projects focused on livelihoods, safe drinking water, and irrigation. The World Bank, Asian-Development Bank, JICA and now UNDP are joining hands with the Government of Myanmar to bring about a higher quality of life for communities in the Dry Zone.  Through such initiatives, it is expected that 72 percent of the population will soon have easy access to safe drinking water.

However, as we move forward in solidifying partnerships for future development investments we must recognize that a paradigm shift is imperative.  We must aim for transformational change, beyond what is urgent and immediate, and invest in planning and implementing longer-term solutions.

We can no longer pretend that business-as-usual efforts to end poverty, inequality and exclusion are sufficient. We can no longer ignore the compelling impact that climate change is already having in anthropogenic environmental degradation, and the catastrophic consequences this has on the development agenda, and especially the lives of the people of Myanmar.

It is therefore an honor to be here with the Government of Myanmar to launch this initiative aimed at investing in climate change resilient development, for the most vulnerable population in the Dry Zone. This project financed by the Adaptation Fund and UNDP is timely and consequential for the sustainable development of Myanmar in two ways:

o    First, this is the first active project on the ground which responds to Myanmar’s climate change adaptation needs, recognized by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and in alignment with its National Adaptation Program of Action. Through this project, the Government of Myanmar demonstrates its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol that it is a party to, and under which the Adaptation Fund was established. The project is a stepping stone for Myanmar to build its institutional capacities, and to integrate climate risks in development planning.  So, this is a strategic initiative, which will help increase access to additional climate change finance from funds such as the Green Climate Fund.

o    Second, this project is significant because of its sheer outreach to and impact on the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations of Myanmar. It is expected that small-scale water management infrastructure will be developed for 280 villages to cope with droughts. This will include canals and community ponds to foster livelihood activities, and water pumps and tube wells for drinking water. In addition, nearly 5,000 hectares of watersheds will be rehabilitated to improve erosion control. In total, the project has the potential to bring adaptation benefits to nearly a quarter of a million people in these 280 villages across the Dry Zone. The people who live here are the ones whose lives and livelihoods are most dependent on the natural environment. So poverty reduction, and the potential of the project to provide food security is of enormous importance.  

Myanmar is making solid efforts to become “a modern and developed nation that meets the aspirations of its people for a better life”. This means a society whose people have more opportunities, more security, and more choices—the fundamental aspects of human development. This better quality of life should be enjoyed by all the people of Myanmar, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, affiliation, gender, or disability.

Government ownership is the main driving force behind the success and sustainability of this and any other development initiative. It is therefore of paramount importance that the Government of Myanmar -- particularly the Dry Zone Greening Department -- provides continuous strategic guidance in implementing the project; promotes the active engagement of vulnerable communities in decision-making; and where necessary, provides human and financial resources for the achievement of the project’s expected results. The presence today of the Union Minister for Environmental Conservation and Forestry, and the State Minister for Forestry and Mining is a testament of the government’s commitment, and UNDP looks forward to strengthening this partnership further.

As the development arm of the United Nations, UNDP’s vision is focused on supporting countries to simultaneously achieve the eradication of poverty and significantly reduce inequality and exclusion. Supporting the Government of Myanmar and its citizens in building resilience to the effects of global warming in the most vulnerable part of the country, such as the Dry Zone, is an integral part of UNDP’s mandate.    

In closing I would once again, like to thank the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, and the Regional Governments of Mandalay Magwe and Sagaing for this opportunity, and I look forward to our joint efforts in implementing this Adaptation Fund project.

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Myanmar 
Go to UNDP Global