Social Accountability Programming in Conflict Settings learning workshop

Participants in the Social Accountability Programming in Conflict settings workshop

'Long-running contestation over the right to govern territory or exercise decision-making lies at the heart of many of the conflicts in Myanmar’s ethnic areas. Myanmar has a diverse governance landscape with ethnic armed groups providing service delivery and administrative systems or exerting de facto authority in their areas of influence and diverging views on the legitimacy of all these governance arrangements from different sections of society.   

At the same time, the number of international actors in Myanmar has increased dramatically since the start of the country’s reform process. These actors bring with them a plethora of agendas and funding. Although not all EAGs have signed on to the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Accord, it has nevertheless opened the possibility for aid actors to work in yet more areas (and with more groups) that were previously off-limits. In areas of Myanmar not experiencing civil conflict, there may still be high-levels of tension and risk of inter-communal conflict.   

In this context, INGO / NGO / IO-led programming to promote social accountability or the ‘social contract’ carries both opportunity and risk. External actors and their money have the potential to greatly help local actors engaged in Myanmar’s political reform and peace processes, but also the potential to do unwitting harm.

Against this backdrop Oxfam believes it is important for aid actors to better understand what, practically, it means to take a ‘conflict sensitive’ approach to governance programming in Myanmar.

This workshop brought together researchers, analysts and practitioners to discuss the ways that both national and international actors work to support good governance and social accountability in Myanmar. In particular seeking to address two key questions:

What is needed to ensure governance and social accountability programmes do not exacerbate local tensions or undermine Myanmar’s broader peace process? 
Is it possible for governance and social accountability initiatives to actively support Myanmar's peace process or contribute to local-level conflict transformation, and what would they need to look like in order to do so?

The workshop focused on Rakhine and Kachin states as case studies. Although it is recognised that Myanmar is a very diverse country and what applies in one area may not always apply in another, we anticipate that many of the insights gained from looking in close detail at Kachin and Rakhine will have relevance for governance work in Myanmar more widely.

The workshop identified a set of programming principles that would help aid actors supporting governance and social accountability work in Myanmar to be more conflict-sensitive.'