Three journalists participating in a course in television journalism run by International Media Support and Fojo with support from Sida.
Photo: Petra Quiding/Fojo
Our work in Myanmar (Burma)
Sweden has supported the Burmese democracy movement for several decades, first outside the country's borders, and since the early 2000s mainly in Myanmar. Sweden's support focuses on human rights, peace and health, and the target group is mostly women and ethnic minorities.
The Swedish Government's results strategy for Sweden's international development assistance in Myanmar 2013–2017 focuses on:
- increased respect for human rights, freedom of expression and accountability
- broad popular participation in peace processes
- improved health for women and children, focusing particularly on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Sweden also provides humanitarian aid to meet acute humanitarian needs in the country.
Refugee crises and humanitarian needs
As a result of protracted internal conflicts and recurring natural disasters, there have long been humanitarian needs in Myanmar. The INFORM Risk Index, which analyses the risk of humanitarian crisis or disaster, ranks Myanmar as the twelfth most vulnerable country in the world. Concerning the risks of natural disasters, Myanmar is counted as the most vulnerable country in the whole of Asia and the Pacific Rim.
Since 2002, 13 million people have been affected by natural disasters, and historical data shows that Myanmar is repeatedly hit every couple of years by medium to large natural disasters, such as hurricanes, flooding, landslides and earthquakes. People who have been affected by the ongoing armed conflicts and have been forced to flee are also in need of humanitarian assistance.
The situation for the vulnerable Rohingya population in Rakhine State is very severe. The worst affected areas are in principle closed, and the international community has called for immediate humanitarian access to the area. Some limited humanitarian help has been resumed for shorter periods.
Sida's humanitarian aid to the Rakhine crisis in 2016 goes mainly to food and nutrition, health and to protection. Among other organisations, Sida supports ACF (Action Contre la Faim/Action Against Hunger), which has long experience of working in Rakhine and has been one of the few international bodies to have some measure of access. Sida also supports the work of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the ICRC. Sida also supports refugees from Rakhine who have crossed the border to Bangladesh and are living under very difficult conditions.
Humanitarian access is also a major problem in areas where fighting is taking place in Kachin and northern Shan.
Support to civil society, human rights and gender equality
Swedish support to the part of civil society pursuing civil and political rights and independent media has contributed to democratic progress and greater respect for human rights in Myanmar.
Sweden also contributes to strengthening the public institutions, which are central to democratisation and strengthening the principles of the rule of law, such as parliament, the judicial system, the census and parts of the central and local administration. Part of the aim is to change the state's role and relationship with regard to citizens, and so create conditions for civil society and democratisation actors to demand accountability from the state.
Swedish support has reached a variety of local organisations and contributed to a vital and pluralistic civil society. Most of the contributions have promoted women's influence at different levels.
Sweden is one of the biggest donors to media development in the country and has helped to improve the conditions for independent media, partly through access to financing.
Support for improved health for women and children
Swedish support in the health sector through the 3MDG programme has contributed to national training of new midwives, further training for already active midwives and the training of local health volunteers. Thanks to the programme, accessibility to health services and midwifery has increased markedly. Children and women run a much lower risk of contracting deadly diseases, and the vaccination of children is almost 100 per cent in the places where the programme is available.
The programme operates in the areas of greatest conflict and inaccessibility, such as Rakhine and Kachin. Health support has also proved important for peace-building and has contributed to increased confidence especially among ethnic groups, and state institutions such as the Ministry of Health.
Sweden also supports UNFPA’s programme for sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender-based violence with a focus on women and girls in conflict areas. The programme has also created a valuable link to populations in need of humanitarian assistance.
Broad popular participation in peace processes
Sweden supports the peace process in the country through organisations that work for peace at the grassroots level and through actors that manage tensions and conflicts between people groups. These include inter-religious conflicts and problems in Rakhine; issues that have so far been marginal in the national peace process. It is important for the peace process also to consider these conflicts so as to secure broad popular participation and ultimately sustainable peace in the country.
Sweden also supports contributions based on the reality of women at the local level, such as through the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, whose partner Dawn Action on Women Network works to reduce violence in the home and ultimately for women to have greater influence – politically and in the country's peace process.
Another example is the research and advocacy institute TNI, which has held seminars around the country in order to meet civil society, ethnic minority groups and members of political parties to discuss how women can assume a greater role in the peace process. One result of this work is a well received document No Women, No Peace, which highlights the role of women in the peace process. TNI also helps to inform the general public about various events in the official peace process.