Daniel Marco Siegfried
Co-founder & Director of Projects


In the August 2016 Newsletter, I wrote about my optimism for Myanmar, using the phrase ‘rise like a phoenix from the ashes’. Two and a half years later, it seems that this phoenix has created a lot of ashes again. With the peace process stalled and more conflicts between the government and ethnic armed groups reported, the country is struggling to build an inclusive, just and fair society.

As INGOs and UN agencies have great difficulties to fund refugee camps in Bangladesh, more heart-breaking reports with horrendous accounts about what happened are made public. Many donors who watch these videos are questioning their support for organisations in Myanmar as they fear that these organisations are directly collaborating and therefore strengthening the government. So should donors stop supporting causes in Myanmar? Child’s Dream has been asked this question countless times and the answer is no. This young democracy needs all the help it can get to keep on track. Despite major setbacks, overall a lot of progress has been made over the last seven years politically, economically and socially and this could be jeopardised if the international community and its donors withdraw from Myanmar.

Many larger INGOs or UN agencies work through the government with the aim of strengthening its institutions and build capacity among the ministerial staff. Although this approach is now often questioned, it is still very much necessary. However, donors should use their budgets to set an incentive for dialogue and collaboration between the government and the ethnic groups. Activities that include joint training, sharing of information, coordination meetings and exploration visits in each other’s areas should be supported. Only with better understanding on both sides, can trust slowly be built to overcome the decades of conflict and suspicion.

Most smaller organisations like Child’s Dream address the health and educational needs of disadvantaged communities directly. In fact, Child’s Dream works both in ethnic states and Bamar (Burmese) areas and through our educational programmes promotes inter-ethnic and interfaith dialogue, active citizenship, gender equality and environmental sustainability. Our aim is to strengthen the capacity of a new generation of responsible leaders who can advance the peace process and build an inclusive society by raising awareness and understanding among the ethnic groups and the government.

Despite all the gloom, there is still hope. Next year Myanmar will hold national elections, which will most likely result in a more diverse parliament and government. Both the government and its army, as well as the ethnic armed groups should realise that, in a democracy, differences are resolved through discussion, referenda and elections, and not through conflict creating more ashes again.