SEEK­ING PEACE – Progress made, but still a lot re­mains to be done

Progress made, but still a lot more re­mains to be done

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Anew re­port by the Asia Foun­da­tion, ‘The Con­tested Ar­eas of Myan­mar: Subna­tional Con­flict, Aid, and De­vel­op­ment’ states that ‘sig­nif­i­cant progress to­ward peace has been made since 2011. But heavy fight­ing and deadly clashes have in­ten­si­fied in many of the coun­try’s con­tested ar­eas, in par­tic­u­lar, Rakhine State, which has led to mas­sive dis­place­ment, and Kachin and the Shan States.’ It also notes that ‘th­ese con­flicts are among the world’s most en­dur­ing, pos­ing sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges to na­tional po­lit­i­cal re­forms, eco­nomic growth, and hu­man de­vel­op­ment.’ The year-long study comes at an es­sen­tial mo­ment amid long­stand­ing con­flicts in many parts of Myan­mar but espe­cially in north­ern Shan State where the North­ern Al­liance op­er­ates. Although po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue to ad­dress the con­cerns of nu­mer­ous eth­nic groups, and not un­sur­pris­ingly a de­sire among in­ter­na­tional donors and aid agen­cies to sup­port the peace­build­ing process play a ma­jor part in the on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions they con­tin­ues to fal­ter.

Find­ings from the Asia Foun­da­tion study high­light struc­tural changes that are crucial for achiev­ing sus­tain­able and com­pre­hen­sive peace in the coun­try and re­veals the in­ti­mate con­nec­tions be­tween what it de­fines as subna­tional, as in eth­nic, con­flicts and na­tional pol­i­tics in Myan­mar. The re­port mainly points out that, ‘[There are] in­stances where de­vel­op­ment in­ter­ven­tions have con­trib­uted to un­even power dy­nam­ics and fu­elled armed [eth­nic] re­sis­tance,’ and that ‘in­ter­na­tional aid can some­times dam­age prospects for peace when ini­tia­tives are not sen­si­tive to con­flict.’To ad­dress this, the study un­der­scores a crit­i­cal need to con­tinue the on­go­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­forms while build­ing a sys­tem of gov­ern­ment that is widely recog­nised as le­git­i­mate by peo­ple of all eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties. “As Myan­mar emerges from decades of au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism, armed con­flicts, and en­trenched poverty, the on­go­ing re­forms and peace process in the coun­try are in­her­ently linked. Un­der­stand­ing how dif­fer­ent forms of de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance in­ter­act with con­flict and gov­er­nance dy­nam­ics on the ground re­mains crucial to as­sess prospects for peace in a rapidly trans­form­ing na­tion,” said Dr Kim Ninh, The Asia Foun­da­tion’s coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Myan­mar. “We hope the find­ings can con­trib­ute to the on­go­ing di­a­logue on de­vel­op­ment and con­flict as part of Myan­mar’s on­go­ing his­toric tran­si­tion.”

Key find­ings of the study

Myan­mar’s subna­tional con­flicts are not a pe­riph­eral is­sue and di­rectly af­fect mu­chof the coun­try In 2016, ar­eas af­fected by ac­tive or la­tent subna­tional con­flict were found in at least 11 of Myan­mar’s 14 states and re­gions. One hun­dred and eigh­teen of 330 town­ships, con­tain­ing al­most one-quar­ter of Myan­mar’s pop­u­la­tion, cur­rently demon­strate live or la­tent char­ac­ter­is­tics of con­flict.

Myan­mar’s con­flicts are not caused by un­der­de­vel­op­ment

There is no sim­ple cor­re­la­tion be­tween hu­man de­vel-- subna­tional con­flicts will not be re­solved by mea­sures to im­prove de­vel­op­ment out­comes. Con­flict town­ships are on av­er­age only marginally less de­vel­oped than non-con­flict town­ships, no­tably when Yan­gon is ex­cluded. Some con­flict town­ships ex­ceed na­tional av­er­ages, while oth­ers have the low­est de­vel­op­ment in­di­ca­tors in the coun­try.

Tack­ling un­der­de­vel­op­ment alone will not cre­ate peace

De­vel­op­ment in­ter­ven­tions alone can never lead to peace. Myan­mar’s con­flicts are in­her­ently po­lit­i­cal and con­nect to the struc­ture of the state. Po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tions are,

there­fore, re­quired to solve subna­tional con­flict. Given the com­plex na­ture of Myan­mar’s armed con­flicts, in­ter­ven­tions and poli­cies should be strength­ened to ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing driv­ers of con­flict and be more re­spon­sive to the power in­equities that have driven con­flict over years, espe­cially dur­ing tran­si­tional po­lit­i­cal pe­ri­ods.

De­vel­op­ment poli­cies can drive subna­tional con­flict

In many con­tested ar­eas, eco­nomic changes and in­creased nat­u­ral re­source ex­ploita­tion have ratch­eted up ten­sions, en­gen­dered ri­val­ries, fu­elled griev­ances, and pro­vided funds that have sus­tained con­flict. For­eign as­sis­tance can some­times be ma­nip­u­lated to serve se­cu­rity ob­jec­tives, par­tic­u­larly where gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials or lead­ers of eth­nic armed or­gan­i­sa­tions are able to de­cide project lo­ca­tions. In short, de­vel­op­ment in­ter­ven­tions are never neu­tral.

Aid can build mo­men­tum for peace as well as dam­age the prospects for peace

Projects that serve the se­cu­rity aims of one side can dam­age the con­fi­dence of eth­nic groups in the coun­try’s tran­si­tion, while pro­grams that sup­port po­lit­i­cal re­forms, such as de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion, can help build mo­men­tum. USD 13.7 bil­lion in aid was com­mit­ted to new projects be­tween 2011 and 2015. Closer align­ment of donors with gov­ern­ment of­fers ad­van­tages in cov­er­age, cost-ef­fec­tive­ness, and sus­tain­abil­ity, but it also poses risks for peace.

In­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple in Kachin State. Photo: Khon Ja-Face­book

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