On August 26, the IFI Watch Myanmar is releasing its findings on the unreported realities in the National Community Driven Development Project or NCDDP. This report is intended to inform the project lender, the World Bank, and the government, the international community and other non-State actors about the gap between the grand objectives that have been overhyped and the actual conditions that communities face in the management of the CDD projects. The report challenges donor and government assumptions and their public pronouncements on the economic benefits and empowerment of target communities.
This report has two components. One, it is diagnostic. It identifies the emerging issues on the ground based on community voices and over three years of project site monitoring and engagement with the World Bank, the government officials, and project consultants. Two, it is pro-positive. It provides a set of community-based recommendations to address the real governance problems before a pattern of mistakes is repeated over and over again. Otherwise, the intended results would not be fully realized by the target communities. If left unaddressed, the overhyped community-driven and community empowerment expectations that the World Bank and the government promote remain an illusion.
About the CDD
The first project approved by the World Bank Executive Directors in 2012, the CDD was initially planned with USD 80 Million funding to cover 15 townships. It is now being scaled up to 62 townships with USD 554 Million where USD 444 Million comes from an IDA (concessional) loan with financial contribution from the governments of Italy and Japan. The Myanmar government covers the rest of the project costs.
According to the World Bank, the project will empower rural communities to identify and implement investments they need the most, such as roads, bridges, irrigation systems, schools, health clinics, and rural markets. The expectations they promote are that the projects will strengthen community capacity to manage their identified priority projects, with the participation of the poor, the women and men, and in partnership with the authority.
But what is really happening on the ground?
Our findings, collected from field visits and engagement with the World Bank and the government since late 2012 till this report, show a recurring pattern of governance problems that produce negative results and unintended consequences.
In Kyun Su Township in Tanintharyi Division, awareness and consultations of the CDD projects were lacking in the community-at-large, thus effective community participation was not found. They were not adequately informed about project selection and community representation processes, which were complicated by the lack of transparency on work contracts including on discrepancies between budget and actual payments, project delays, insufficient time for project preparation, absence of technical and project management training, and failure to have grievance redress mechanism at the local level. As such, community interest was low, quality of project design suffered and the intended community ownership and empowerment remains questionable.
In one township in Rakhine state, reports of corruption and in Ayeyawaddy, mishandling of funds, surfaced. Villagers were also threatened that if they do not use the grant properly and complete the CDD project within the project period, World Bank can both arrest and detain them. These misinformation and fear are a result, yet again, by failure to consult communities effectively about project operation manual, the scope and limits of project funding, and the defined roles of the government, community facilitators, and the project committees. These occurrences of project management problems at the village level overshadow the results desired by the government and the World Bank as communities do not feel they’re actually benefiting from and being empowered by the project.
These issues from the field manifest the broader governance problems that plague the national CDD program. While there may be a few successful CDD projects in some townships, they don’t paint encouraging signs where recurrent governance problems, from program design, implementing structure and monitoring system, all the way to capacity development, complaint mechanism and community leadership, are addressed. Key areas of concern are:
Time (the timeline does not allow for sufficient time to inform the community, train the management, or implement the project. This results in the community members feeling left out, the facilitators and managers either being overworked or following their own interests, and deadlines being rushed)
Coercion and threats to local communities
Corruption (kickback payments connected to recruitment of local staff)
Transparency (insufficient information disclosure to local communities at all stages)
Capacity-Building and Training (inadequate training of NCDD community facilitators)
Timing- most of the sub-projects periods coincide with the communities livelihoods peak seasons and is not appropriate for them to participate in the projects.
The implementation period was too short to implement their 1st priority for most of the villages.
Few believe that there are discrepancies, although they have no proof of this.
The villagers were too busy with their livelihood and could not work as hired laborers in the CDD Project. As such, they do not feel the belongingness.
Investing into village ‘infrastructure’ development and rehabilitation is critical to livelihood improvement, especially among communities who are poor and transitioning from decades of conflict. The “community-driven” goal is at the core of this project. But if the people that this project is intended to benefit and empower are not able to participate fully, then is this truly “community-driven”? As a lender, bound by its safeguards and transparency requirements, the Bank has a responsibility to ensure adequate oversight so that what is said on paper matches what is happening on the ground.
The report highlights the key governance problems that must be addressed in the CDD before it is further scaled up and before questionable claims of project success are promoted to the government donors and the public. Contrary to any hype, the CDD project in Myanmar is not yet a success story – although IFI Watch and others will continue to engage to help make it work. However, the World Bank should urgently undertake a comprehensive review and stakeholder consultation to address these issues sufficiently before scaling up. If it does not, the project would only reinforce existing forms of corruption and elite capture that the project was designed to change, and would only exacerbate existing conflicts and patronage politics. A poorly-implemented project risks losing trust, interest and community participation, as well as the loss of the projects’ integrity.
Our specific recommendations are outlined in the report. We look forward to promote a culture of tripartite cooperation that includes government, communities and international financial institutions.
IFI Watch Myanmar works to ensure democratic space for civil society and communities in the activities of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in Myanmar. Community-based and national-level organizations initiated the IFI Watch in October 19, 2012 in response to the early stage of re-engagement by multilateral banks including the World Bank Group and Asian Development as the Myanmar government was undergoing multiple transitions.