Many civilians at the grassroots level are determined to make a contribution to peace in their communities, but lack the confidence or the ability to influence the country’s current decision-makers. Others have the confidence and the networks, but lack a basic understanding of issues concerning peace and security. This makes it hard for them to work effectively.
Five decades of military rule, an isolated economy, and ongoing war in ethnic minority areas have left Myanmar weak and divided. Officials are ill-equipped to create a political and cultural environment that supports openness, and builds trust among the people of Myanmar. Wealth and power remain in the hands of a few, and only those with political connections have opportunities to better their lives.
Since 1987 Myanmar has been listed among the least developed countries in the world, according to the United Nations. It is impoverished, it’s underdeveloped, and because it lacks trustworthy sources of information, misinformation is rampant. While the military allowed the current civilian-elected government (the National League for Democracy) to take office in 2015, the military still retains control over key areas of policy, especially security and home affairs. Because the country has more than 100 ethnic groups, with many of them having their own militia, it’s politically and culturally at odds.
Nonviolent Peaceforce is helping local actors to protect civilians and build peace in regions where there’s conflict. Between 2012 and 2017 NP trained civil society and ethnic armed groups in ceasefire monitoring and civilian protection. Since 2018 NP supports women and youth to become leaders, training them to respond to issues that are important to their communities. In doing so, NP is creating opportunities for discussions between groups and allowing civilians to participate in the early stages of Myanmar’s peace process as well as local decision-making processes. NP also has brought together representatives of civilian protection networks from different ethnic areas to reduce isolation and create learning opportunities. In a similar way, NP has connected women and youth from various groups to strengthen their voices and encourage the population to pay more attention to their needs.
Nonviolent Peaceforce sees a need to continue strengthening the resilience of communities in conflict affected areas, especially for women, youth and displaced people. As Myanmar's peace process is facing a deadlock and the 2020 elections may move the country's attention elsewhere, communities on the ground are likely to experience continued armed conflict in the foreseeable future. While programming in support of the peace process has become increasingly difficult, opportunities to support local civil society initiatives at the grassroots level remain. Many of the ceasefire monitoring networks NP has supported over the past five years have repositioned themselves as peace support networks and moved their focus away from the peace process towards social cohesion, inter communal harmony, human rights, or internally displaced person (IDP) support. They have requested NP to continue to support them through this transition and beyond. In particular, NP sees a need for community-based networks that assume a nonpartisan, mediator role in bringing different communities, ethnic groups, authorities, religious leaders together in safe spaces to address issues of concern. These efforts could help not only to resolve these issues, but to increase trust among communities and authorities, de-escalate tensions between different ethnic groups and model nonviolent approaches to managing conflict.
“It’s not just society that does not favor women, it is also the women themselves who think they only deserve to be the supporters, but not the main characters… training can make women realize that they are not inferior to men and they are equally capable to be monitors”. Peace observer in Shan State
community peace observers in Myanmar have been trained and coached by NP who are currently operating in 112 townships and 8 states
percent of women are trained peace observers in Myanmar vs. men
percent of peace observers are youth under age 35 in Myanmar vs. seniors (over age 35).
Our Team in Myanmar
Head of Mission: Rosemary Kabaki
Office: No. 99B Myay Nu Condo, Room 406 Myay Nu Street, Sanchaung Township Yangon, Myanmar