Following 50 years of authoritarian military rule, Myanmar/Burma is embarking upon a remarkable transition which is evolving at a rapid pace. Following the suspension of most EU restrictive measures in May 2012, the EU is now fully engaging with the Myanmar/Burma government.
Its prime goal is to help a legitimate, civilian government foster social and economic development – respecting human rights – and to rebuild relations with the international community. EU development cooperation is assisting the civilian government's goals of inclusive, sustainable growth and development for all of the population of Myanmar/Burma.
EU development cooperation has more than doubled in value and has expanded its scope of action. In February 2012, Commissioner Piebalgs visited Myanmar and announced a package of €150 million for the country's democratic reform and inclusive development initiatives. An EU Office was opened in Yangon in April 2012.
The first EU-Myanmar Task Force took place on 13-15th November 2013 in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw. It comprised of several high-level events, including a Development Forum chaired by Commissioner Piebalgs, where EU support and the countries development challenges were discussed and resulted in a Joint Statement from EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and President U Soe Thein.
Until 2012, the focus of EU assistance to Myanmar/Burma was on tackling deep-rooted structural poverty mainly through cooperation with NGOs and UN agencies. The focal sectors were education, health and livelihoods with funding channelled through multi-donor trust funds. Funding was also directed to civil society organisations to promote change and protect human rights.
The EU rapidly responded to the opening of the country and the government's commitment to reform by significantly increasing the amount – and scope – of assistance. In February 2012, European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs visited Myanmar/Burma to review the changes and options for the new €150 million package of assistance. This package – earmarked to be spent in 2012 and 2013 – builds upon existing support to social sectors of health, education, and livelihoods as well as improving the capacity of government and encouraging democratic reforms, inclusive development and the peace process. Highly relevant for Myanmar/Burma, these objectives are also in line with the EU's new development policy framework set out in the Agenda for Change. Added to existing assistance, this new funding brings the portfolio of support to some €200 million.
The Comprehensive Framework for the European Union's policy and support to Myanmar/Burma of July 2013 lays out the EU's goals and priorities geared towards building a lasting partnership and promoting closer engagement. It states that authorities in Member States and EU Institutions will work together to plan their programmes of assistance. In this context the EU is fully engaged in development partner coordination efforts locally in the framework of the Nay Pyi Taw Accord agreed in January 2013 and it is proceeding towards Joint Programming of EU and Member States development aid with a Joint EU and Member States Strategy.
Commitments in 2012
€100 million of the total €150 million were committed in 2012. It built upon the EU's existing education and health support and for improving livelihoods. Funding has also been provided to people who have been internally displaced as a result of the country's numerous ethnic conflicts. A package to support the capacity of the government is also being implemented as well as on-going programmes to strengthen civil society organisations, including those involved with human rights issues.
The €100 million have been allocated as follows:
|Aid to Uprooted People (AUP)||€20.00 million|
|Capacity Building||€5.50 million|
|Civil Society||€5.00 million|
The capacity building programme – the first bi-lateral programme with the government since the suspension of restrictive measures – will support the Ministry of Planning and the Ministry of Environment to improve government statistics, planning and environmental policy. The capacity building programme will also be used to enable Burma/Myanmar to fully benefit from the reinstatement of EU trade preferences – the Generalised Scheme of Preferences – providing duty free access to the EU market.
Support to civil society organisations under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and Non-State Actors Programme (NSA) – broadly €5 million – is ongoing. It is helping to strengthen civil society organisations to monitor the reforms and transition, addressing discrimination (ethnic tensions) and domestic observation of the electoral process.
Commitments in 2013
For 2013, commitments total €50 million covering longer-term support to Trade and Private Sector Development, Ethnic Peace, Climate Change, as well as more support to civil society. A programme to support the Peace Process and development in Ethnic Areas is beginning for €25 million. There is also a Climate Change programme (€4 million) launched in 2013 and further actions to strengthen civil society organisations. Under the EIDHR new actions could include further support the Union Election Commission (UEC), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Parliamentary Committees, the media, etc.
|Trade and Private Sector||€10.00 million|
|Euro-Chamber (Business centre)||€3 million|
|Climate Change||€4.00 million|
|Capacity Building||€3.00 million|
|Civil Society||€6.00 million|
Peace process issues have been given a high priority by the government, and progress in this area will be key to inclusive and sustainable growth that can improve livelihoods and living conditions of the whole of the population. The Myanmar Peace Centre (MPC) was created by the government with the goal of securing lasting peace and prosperity to ethnic areas after decades of conflict. President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso, pledged EU support and announced funding for the MPC from the Instrument for Stability on his visit to the country in November 2012. Additional support to the Peace Process and development of Ethnic Areas (amounting to €25 million) will complement that provided under the Instrument for Stability. Ethnic groups have also received assistance to enable their participation in talks on ceasefire agreements and political negotiations and agreements. This includes a broader and longer-term technical assistance package covering Trade, Investment and Private Sector Development (€13 million). The support could include Capacity-Building, Technical Assistance, support to ASEAN Economic Community completion by 2015.
Future Assistance 2014-2020
The European Commission has proposed the following main sectors for development cooperation with Myanmar/Burma for 2014–2020: Rural Development, Education, Governance and Support to Peace Building. Funding levels for the upcoming programming period are likely to be substantially increased, up to €90 million annually. The EU and its Member States are engaged in a process of preparing joint programming of support to Myanmar/Burma for 2014-2020, aligned to the government’s own development planning with their Framework for Economic and Social Reforms (FESR).