For decades now, Myanmar – and especially the frontier zones along the Thai border – has been beset by violent conflict. In the south-east of the country, the government and armed indigenous ethnic groups have signed several cease-fire agreements, but peace negotiations have yet to begin, and the region is still only partially under government control. The level of social and economic growth is poor, which impacts negatively on the quality of public services. The healthcare system, water and sanitation networks, education and the road network are all inadequate.
To remedy this situation, with the agreement of the government and the armed indigenous ethnic groups, at the end of 2012 the SDC embarked upon a project to regenerate 89 remote villages in Mon State, Kayin State and the Tanintharyi region. The programme is a collaboration between the SDC, the local communities concerned and the organisations Action Aid UK, Norwegian Refugee Council and Knowledge and Dedication for Nation-Building.
The SDC’s intervention is concentrated on 29 neglected settlements in Mon State. It involves some forty local employees including engineers and social workers, and is being coordinated out of the SDC's Mawlamyine office. Technical experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) have also been deployed.
A participatory approach
The project allows the villagers to draw up their own development plan. They convene in committees to consult on project ideas. Once these have been approved, the villagers set to work. The monitoring committees meet every month to discuss progress. They receive support and technical advice from the SDC throughout the process.
Young people serving their community
In each village, a young adult – women and men alike – is appointed as a liaison officer between the committee and the SDC. The young volunteers enjoy a training with a particular emphasis on drawing up development plans, priority-setting techniques, and analysing the positive and negative implications of a given project. The training also gives them a basic grounding in community development, within a framework that tackles gender equality, intercommunity dialogue or basic hygiene.
Major changes can already be observed in the areas in which the SDC is active.
Around ten schools are being refurbished, and have already received new furniture, new toilets, and new water supply systems. In three villages, health centres are taking shape. Other communities have opted to reinforce their existing water storage systems, or to construct a system of channels to bring water down from the mountains into the village. Wells and roads are also being built.