Myint Su, GRET’s representative in Myanmar, took up her position in September 2017. Before joining GRET, she worked for 20 years in the development sector, in particular as a trainer in participatory rural appraisal. She answered our questions.
What are the main development issues in Myanmar?
When dealing with development in Myanmar, the highly complex context of this country needs to be considered. Made up of various cultures and ethnic groups, Myanmar is currently in a period of transition. Having been governed for decades by a military regime, it is now evolving into a system of democratic federal government. For the moment, it is reassuring to observe that the government is handling the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); however, the achievement of these goals in Myanmar is closely linked to the political context in the country and its future evolutions.
How does GRET contribute to fighting against poverty in Myanmar?
GRET has been active in Myanmar since 1995, and fighting against poverty is at the core of its activities. It works with its partners in five key areas of expertise: agriculture, nutrition, microfinance, drinking water and sanitation, and natural resource management.
The majority of the activities it conducts in the country are aimed at improving food security and diversifying sources of income for rural communities. The NGO also supports local civil society stakeholders – in particular those who are active in the Chin Ayeyarwaddy Delta regions – to source funding and develop their network. Over time, GRET has also developed solid expertise on the issue of land tenure, working with partners from diverse ethnic communities.
GRET is also present in several Myanmar cities, in particular Magway and Mandalay, where it implements projects aimed at improving the quality of urban services – water, sanitation and waste – with a strong component focusing on strengthening of operators. (See the video entitled “Supporting operators for urban services in Myanmar”.)
What are the main future challenges for GRET in Myanmar?
GRET – as is the case with all civil society stakeholders and other international NGOs working in the country – needs more freedom of action. Because paradoxically, despite our expectations, restrictions have worsened recently, which makes implementation of projects complicated. An example of this is the fact that authorisations to travel in project zones are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.
From a financial viewpoint, GRET needs to consolidate its viability by diversifying its sources of funding and identifying new partnerships with civil society groups, government institutions and the private sector.
To respond to issues raised by the transformations occurring in this changing country, GRET must use its experience in areas of expertise identified by the government as priority areas to be worked on. This is particularly the case with urban development. Working on the issue of legal empowerment for women workers, similar to the work carried out recently in Vietnam, could also be an interesting area to work in.