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Oppression and Opportunity: Prospects for the Democratic Role of Civil Society Organisations in Post-Coup Myanmar

October 17th, 2022  •  Author:   Independent Research Network  •  2 minute read
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Executive Summary

The military oppression of political opposition in Myanmar since the February 2021 coup has been a catastrophic blow to decades of growth in the civil society sector and years of critical locally initiated engagement with communities and government. Civil society organisations (CSO) and networks have however demonstrated their creativity and resilience in continuing crucial humanitarian work, alongside resistance to the military regime and ongoing democracy building work.

More than eighteen months on from the coup, as the country is at a critical juncture, this report contributes to knowledge of Myanmar’s CSO sector in three key ways. First, as the brutal struggle against military rule extends, this report illustrates that the grinding, extreme challenges that many civil society actors face every day are having a cumulative effect on individuals, organisations and the wider civil society ‘ecosytem’. Second, the report highlights that there are key emerging opportunities for CSOs to play a democratizing role in the country – working on research and documentation, advocacy with EAOs and UG/NUCC, regional political structures such as consultative councils, or on grassroots governance mechanisms. Finally, the report gives tangible feedback to international agencies about their support to civil society and provides recommendations for building the capacity of  international agencies to adapt to the context. Crucially, as the post-coup instability and regime oppression extends beyond 18 months, civil society actors are hoping for solidarity from international agencies – supporting CSO sovereignty and empowerment – rather than the perceived attitude of self-preservation and risk aversion.

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