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Policy paper: UK–Myanmar development partnership summary, July 2023

July 17th, 2023  •  Author:   United Kingdom (Foreign , Commonwealth & Development Office)  •  13 minute read
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The Strategy for International Development (IDS) places development at the heart of the UK’s foreign policy. It sets out a new approach to development, anchored in patient, long-term partnerships tailored to the needs of the countries we work with, built on mutual accountability and transparency. This approach goes beyond aid and brings the combined power of the UK’s global economic, scientific, security and diplomatic strengths to our development partnerships. Our 4 priorities are to deliver honest, reliable investment, provide women and girls with the freedom they need to succeed, step up our life-saving humanitarian work, and take forward our work on climate change, nature and global health. The Integrated Review Refresh (IR23) reiterates that sustainable development is central to UK foreign policy and sets out how the UK will go further and faster on development to reduce poverty and reinvigorate progress towards the SDGs. This Country Development Partnership Summary details how the IDS and IR23 will be put into practice with Myanmar.

Country context

Myanmar is a complex and deeply divided country, but it has huge potential, abundant natural resources and a strategic location at the crossroads of India, China and SE Asia. Fifty years of military rule and 70 years of civil war has generated deep social cleavages, weak institutions and a distorted economy.

The military coup in 2021 has left the country mired in a deep political, security, economic, humanitarian and human rights crisis, which has particularly hit women and girls. In 2023, the UN expects that 17.6 million people (of which 5 million are children) will need humanitarian aid. Myanmar now ranks joint sixth with Ukraine on numbers in need. Before the coup, around 330,000 within Myanmar had been forced to flee their homes. As of May 2023, the UN estimates around 1.8 million people are internally displaced, including 1.5 million displaced people since the 2021 military coup. Food insecurity is increasing. Childhood immunisation rates have plummeted, threatening outbreaks of measles and polio. Almost half of the population is now under the poverty line. One third of all displaced people are children and over 5 million children are currently out of school, half of the school-age population. Human rights abuses are widespread. Myanmar is the 2nd most vulnerable country in the world to climate change and is highly disaster-prone. Ongoing conflict and displacement have meant that communities face greater risks of climate hazards and have limited coping capacity to adapt.

It is in the UK national interest to reduce poverty outside of our borders; to support Myanmar find a pathway to a stable and inclusive democracy; and to mitigate the impacts of the conflict on the most vulnerable. The ongoing conflict poses significant risks to regional stability and multilateralism, as arguably the greatest threat to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) unity. Myanmar is a failing state in the heart of the region, torn apart by civil conflict, and home to increasing serious and organised crime. Economic collapse in Myanmar poses real risks to regional stability as does the increased refugee flows to Myanmar’s neighbours.

Our long-standing presence and deep historical connection between the UK and Myanmar provide good foundations for us to influence and reduce poverty. Since the coup, a major focus of our work has been to continue to stand with the people of Myanmar in a time of need. We have flexed our portfolio to reach hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people. UK support reached over 640,000 people with humanitarian assistance, and enabled many more to access basic services, with a strong focus on communities that others have been unable to support. We have supported over 235,000 children to access education, including over 120,000 girls, and reached over 128,000 people with emergency health services in IDP camps.

We take a long-term and patient approach to supporting Myanmar in developing inclusive political settlements and institutions. This includes supporting cooperation across dividing lines to support models that promote more transparent, inclusive and accountable governance and service delivery. Since the coup, the scope and nature of civil society has transformed. Many pre-coup groups and CSOs have been forced to cease their activities or go underground due to increased pressure and scrutiny from the de facto authorities, new registration requirements, lack of funding or conflict and security issues. We continue to support diverse CSOs to survive and build resilience in the face of a tightening civic space. We have dedicated funding to strengthen the capacity building of local partners and actors to prioritise localised approaches.

Why and how: the UK’s development offer with Myanmar

In Myanmar global and national politics, conflict, humanitarian crisis, and deep development challenges are closely intertwined. The context demands an integrated approach, bringing together different tools and partnering closely with others. We are working to maximise UK impact, by bringing HM Government’s levers together in new and more integrated ways to achieve the following objectives:

  • work to deescalate the crisis and support ASEAN-led solutions, progressive stability and an end to violence to create space for a political solution
  • sustain and support a plurality of voices in Myanmar to protect and build the foundations for peace and democracy and build an inclusive vision of the future
  • respond to urgent humanitarian needs, build human capital, increase resilience of vulnerable communities, particularly women and girls, to prevent more people relying on humanitarian aid
  • support progress towards criminal accountability and broader justice for human rights violations, particularly for the Rohingya and other at-risk minorities

Our development objectives in Myanmar are centred on supporting local and regional efforts to find a solution to the crisis and helping to meet the needs of the Myanmar people. These are closely aligned to three of the 4 priorities set out in the International Development Strategy.

Our ongoing support to the most vulnerable communities supports conflict-affected and internally displaced people to get access to life-saving humanitarian assistance. We reach these communities through international and national partners – with a strong focus on localisation, increasing the role and voice of local partners. We will respond to the challenges of Myanmar’s worsening humanitarian crisis, such as spiralling displacement, growing food insecurity and international organisations’ constrained access to non-junta controlled area. We will look for opportunities, including sanctions and international pressure, to incentivise the military to de-escalate violence and open-up humanitarian access. In line with conflict reduction objectives set out in the IDS, we will encourage all conflict parties to consider opportunities to find a route that could lead towards an inclusive political solution.

Myanmar is a focus country for the UK’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and we maintain a focus on women and girls across our development programming. Our health and education programmes represent the largest contributors to the UK’s women and girls spending in Myanmar. We will need to keep space open to continue to save lives through our health portfolio and maintain our support to ethnic education systems, as they face new regime restrictions, and convene the international community to address the national education crisis. Our focus on women-led organisations is a clear demonstration of our efforts to promote diverse voices in the context of Myanmar’s shrinking civic space. We use various levers to deliver on gender equality, and achievements in the past year have included promoting gender transformative health services; tracking gendered human rights issues; responding to urgent humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable; building inclusive education systems.

We are working through civil society groups to support communities to strengthen their resilience to climate change through awareness building, monitoring of natural resource exploitation, policy advocacy on land and forest, and nature-based solutions.

We are working through several key multi-donor pooled mechanisms to achieve our development objectives, designed in such a way to allow us to reduce or stop payments and to encourage more investment by international development banks and other donors alongside UK ODA. This increases our ability to coordinate funding across donors and can increase our impact by pooling funding across donors.

Who we work with

Following the coup in February 2021, the UK halted all support to the regime. We do not fund the regime or provide capacity building support. We would only consider providing assistance through state facilities if there are exceptional humanitarian reasons. We are committed to localisation efforts in Myanmar. Bilateral programmes are implemented through Myanmar civil society and through international partners such as the UN agencies, the World Bank, INGOs and the private sector. Through our local civil society partners, UK funded programmes are able to access people in parts of the country which are hard to reach, including conflict-affected communities where access is constrained due to violence and military authorities’ restrictions. The UK, as the newest Dialogue Partner to ASEAN, can offer our conflict resolution and development experience to support ASEAN’s work to push for progress in Myanmar.

We aim to maximise the impact of every pound that we spend on poor people’s lives by working closely with implementing partners to improve their value for money and by building the evidence base in Myanmar across the various sectors in which we work.

Key programmes

Flexibility is embedded across our ODA portfolio as demonstrated by our ability to pivot programmes to respond to both COVID and the coup. Both crises altered the ability of partners to deliver and programme monitoring. Programmes were restructured following the UK’s response to the coup. Our top 3 spending bilateral ODA programmes in FY2023 to 2024 include:

  • our recently launched Myanmar Humanitarian Assistance Programme (MHAP) – £15 million – provides multi sector humanitarian support to vulnerable and displaced people in Myanmar and builds the leadership and capability of Myanmar humanitarian organisations. The programme will address a range of humanitarian needs, including: protection, support to survivors of gender-based violence, food and cash assistance, nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and intends to reach over 300,000 people
  • the Myanmar-UK Health Partnership programme (MUHP) – £6 million – aims to promote equitable access to health services for people from the most disadvantaged areas in Myanmar – especially in ethnic and conflict-affected areas – and to enhance the health partnership between the UK and Myanmar. The key intended impacts of the programme are: a reduction in maternal, newborn and child illness and deaths; and a reduction in the burden of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), drug-resistant tuberculosis and malaria through supporting stronger local health responses including in partnership with UK institutions
  • Livelihoods and Food Security programme (LIFT) – £3.5 million – is a multi-donor fund that aims to enhance the resilience of the most vulnerable people, households and communities as well as civil society organisations. It is centred on addressing Myanmar’s food security crisis that has resulted from the multiple crises of COVID-19, the coup, rising conflict, as well as global effects of rising commodity and food prices. The programme is structured around 4 pillars:
    • increasing the availability of food
    • improving access to food
    • enhancing the utilisation of food
    • strengthening the stability of food systems and community resilience

We continue to build important relationships with a wide range of Myanmar stakeholders: helping to strengthen the capacity of the federal democracy movement to build alliances, and to develop a political vision and strategy for a peaceful, federal and democratic future. Our new Myanmar Foundations for Peace and Democracy programme (MFPD) builds on learning from recently completed programmes on local governance and peacebuilding to respond to the post-coup context. It will support civil society and bottom-up peace initiatives, which are designed to link to openings for a long-lasting political settlement, if and when they emerge. Our Economic Response Facility (ERF) develops targeted, quality research and evidence to enhance UK’s understanding, policy and engagement in the changing economic and political context.

Our Myanmar Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) programme brings together ODA and non-ODA projects that aim to mitigate the risks of regional instability that threaten UK strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific by supporting long-term accountability for human rights violations; advancing women’s rights and leadership; and supporting the conditions for domestic and regional actors to engage in dialogue towards de-escalation.

Our Myanmar-UK Partnership for Education (MUPE) is improving the reach and quality of education services in Myanmar with a particular focus on supporting ethnic education in conflict areas, and supporting education as a bridge between communities in Rakhine.

Beyond our bilateral portfolio, UK-supported global partnerships such as the Global Partnership for Education, Education Cannot Wait, Global Fund to fight HIV, TB and Malaria, have an increasingly important role ensuring essential services, as regime systems collapse.

Financial information

Initial allocations have been set internally to deliver the priorities set out in the International Development Strategy (May 2022) and the Integrated Review Refresh 2023, based on the FCDO’s Spending Review 2021 settlement.

The department’s spending plans for the period 2022 to 2023 to 2024 to 2025 have been revisited to ensure the UK government continues to spend around 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI) on ODA. This was in the context of the significant and unexpected costs incurred to support the people of Ukraine and Afghanistan escape oppression and conflict and find refuge in the UK, and others seeking asylum. The Government provided additional resources of £1 billion in 2022 to 2023 and £1.5 billion in 2023 to 2024 to help meet these unanticipated costs. The Government remains committed to returning ODA spending to 0.7% of GNI when the fiscal situation allows, in line with the approach confirmed by the House of Commons in July 2021.

The country development partnership summaries include the breakdown of programme budgets allocated to individual countries for 2023 to 2024 and 2024 to 2025. These allocations are indicative and subject to revision as, by its nature, the department’s work is dynamic. Programme allocations are continually reviewed to respond to changing global needs, including humanitarian crises, fluctuations in GNI and other ODA allocation decisions.

It should be noted that these figures do not reflect the full range of UK ODA spending in these individual countries as they do not include spend delivered via core contributions to multilateral organisations, or regional programmes delivered by the FCDO’s central departments. Other UK Government departments also spend a large amount of ODA overseas. Details of ODA spent by other UK government departments can be found in their Annual Report and Accounts and the Statistics for International Development.

FCDO’s approved bilateral ODA budget for Myanmar in financial year 2023 to 2024 is £30.1 million.

Of ODA spend in this country/region in financial year 2023 to 2024, 100% is marked as being principally or significantly focused on promoting gender equality and 10% is marked as being principally or significantly focused on disability inclusion.

Allocated ODA budget FY 2023 to 2024: £30.1 million.

Indicative ODA budget FY 2024 to 2025: £44 million.

Supporting information sources

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