Launch of Myanmar Local Governance Mapping Reports - Address by Country Director Toily Kurbanov

Feb 24, 2015

Your Excellency Union Minister of Home Affairs Lt-Gen Ko Ko
Your Excellencies Union Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Your Excellencies Ministers of State and Regional Governments
Ms Renata Dessallien, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar
Members of the diplomatic corps, development partners, heads of UN agencies
Government officials, distinguished resource persons
My fellow UNDP colleagues

Alo Mingalabar!

At the end of World War II a great leader addressed his nation with the following words:

“There are now possibilities for new democracies to develop themselves. Possibilities, however, are not probabilities and they will certainly not become actualities of themselves. We cannot bank our hopes on possibilities. We must put our trust in ourselves, in our capabilities and efforts and strengths and possibilities. The ability to prepare for success comes to those and only to those who know in their very consciousness what are their strengths and weaknesses and what should be their tasks; who know, in their knowledge of their strength and limitation, of the factors within them and around them, to use the knowledge, they thus have, to best advantage and to use it actually and energetically.”

The name of this leader was Bogyoke Aung San. And the nation he addressed was the still to be born independent Burma.

Such were the wisdom and the foresight of the founding father of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar – whose 100th Anniversary we celebrate this month – that his words, spoken just before the dawn of the independence, give inspiration to our Forum.

It is therefore a great pleasure and distinct privilege to report to you this morning on the completion of the nationwide local governance mapping. The mapping, undertaken by the Government of Myanmar in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, was an exercise of an unprecedented scale and speed. In little more than a year the Government and UNDP carried out comprehensive data collection and local governance analysis in all 14 states and regions of Myanmar and in 56 select townships; conducted hundreds of community meetings; and interviewed thousands of people. This huge effort allowed us to get an in-depth understanding of strengths and weaknesses of local governance in the country; to understand the factors within them and around them exactly as Bogyoke Aung San saw it many decades ago; and in order to improve the lives of more than 50 million citizens of this great land.

While the results of the mapping differ in details from one State/Region to another, as you will note from the 14 State of Governance Reports, I would like to bring to your attention two key cross-country findings:

1. The local authorities at all levels (from State/Regional governments all the way to village track administrators) are going beyond their traditional role of maintaining law and order to provide better services to the population. This is reflected in wide perceptions of improved service delivery;

2. People of Myanmar are already giving direction to local governance as measured by rate of participation in public consultations. Moreover, the citizens-authorities feedback mechanism grew stronger not only since the beginning of reforms but even throughout the mapping exercise last year

In spite of overall positive trends revealed by the joint mapping team, there are still areas requiring focus and significant improvement. Without giving away too much from the findings – so that you still have an incentive to read the reports – let me also offer two examples where the data shows less than a rosy picture:

1. At aggregate, national level, the mapping suggests that across the country the ratio of people who feel comfortable to speak up is still less than 50%;

2. For cross-nation comparisons, there are disparities in quality service provision between one State/ Region to another (eg 2x between Chin and Mandalay)

As Bogyoke Aun San said 70 years ago, “we need to know our strengths and limitations, the factors within and around us”. The local governance mapping serves exactly that purpose, by equipping both the government and the communities with tools measuring not only the achievements since the start of reforms but also what needs to be prioritized in the next phases. In this context, I warmly congratulate the people and the government of Myanmar. Each of the State and Regional report is significantly expanding the knowledge base for forward looking decisions in the area of public administration and local governance – the Third Wave of Reform as declared His Excellency President U Thein Sein – the decisions that now will be made based on evidence of what has worked well or not so well in the reform process.

Not only the end-result of this massive scale mapping exercise is important, but also the process and the methodology behind. I don't think it will be an exaggeration to say that the General Administration Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs, other Union Ministries and State/Regional governments, are coming out of the exercise having gone through a series of inter-agency and community interactions that have made an impact in gradually changing the mindset of our colleagues, government officials.

Those of you who have participated in the exercise directly, and that means hundreds of people across the government, have learned an invaluable experience of applying internationally recognized methodologies and good practices in Myanmar in close interaction with local communities. You have set new benchmarks, which hopefully will be reinforced at regular intervals in future, of upholding XXI century governance for XXI century Myanmar:

- Governance as a science: a systemic effort of improving institutions based on strong logic and evidence;

- Governance as an art: an inspirational combination of collaborative network and creative solutions; and

- Governance as a service: responsive and tireless work, focusing on people, and on expanding choices and opportunities for each new generation of Myanmar citizens

To reach the aspiration of people-centered governance is an arduous travel but it starts with local governance. Myanmar has firmly chosen the destination. We – United Nations Development Programme and our development partners – are convinced that the local governance mapping will help you to reach it.

As Bogyoke Aung San has once said:

“One generation after another our nation rose and rallied again and again so that we might live and develop freely as a nation and individuals”

Thank you.

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