After decades of isolation, Myanmar started to undertake major reforms toward a democratic system and market-based economy. The country has strong potential for broad economic expansion, possessing abundant natural resources, a strategic location, a young population, and a sizable market with wide-ranging investment opportunities. Successful national elections, held in November 2015, represented an important milestone in Myanmar’s political transition.
However, Myanmar faces a number of significant challenges. It must achieve and maintain stability, both on the macroeconomic front and in terms of peace and reconciliation. It must tackle substantive infrastructure and human resources deficits. It must sustain its reform momentum toward good governance, effective public sector management and a conducive business environment. Last but not least, it is at constant risk of some of the worst recurring natural disasters in the world, and a fierce impact of climate change.
Myanmar is the third country most affected by extreme weather events in the past two decades between 1997 and 2016, with the highest overall death toll (Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index 2018). 25,6% of its population live under the national poverty line and 67% of paid workers earn less than USD 2 per day (World Bank data). The UNDP Human Development Report 2017 ranks Myanmar number 148. Myanmar ranks 8th on the EU Inform Index of Fragility, while the Fund for Peace puts it at the 26th rank, well within the alert zone.
Despite the nascent peace process, the country is still marred by continuous conflict and recurring natural disasters, leading to a high vulnerability of large amounts of people. At the same time, it offers substantial opportunities. Its recent opening to the world has secured the interest of the donor community, and provides for a government mentality of openness to cooperation. This makes Myanmar a highly suitable country for Cordaid's strategic agenda of building resilient and flourishing communities in fragile settings.
Since early October 2016, the Northern Rakhine State is becoming increasingly more insecure after clashes between military forces and the Rohingya minority. Late August 2017, the situation deteriorated dramatically after intensified security operations by the Myanmar military displacing nearly one million Rohingya. Access to Northern Rakhine State is currently impossible. While waiting to explore opportunities for assistance inside the country, Cordaid is actively involved in relief operations for Rohingya refugees in the neighboring country of Bangladesh.