Myanmar is classified as a least developed country (LDC) with a GDP per capita of USD 300 per annum. It ranked 132 out of 177 countries in the 2007 UNDP Human Development Index. Furthermore, the country has been subject to selective economic sanctions, and there are various restrictions and limitations set on donor assistance and UN agencies’ operational mandates in-country. |
Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar on 2 and 3 May 2008, caused widespread devastation primarily in the Ayeyarwady and Yangon Divisions. The scale of human loss and suffering was vast, with nearly 140,000 persons dead according to official figures and nearly 20,000 injured. Estimated 2.4 million people were severely affected, suffering from loss of livelihoods, shelter, basic infrastructure and more.
In response to this worst natural disaster in the history of Myanmar, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Myanmar on 22-23 and 25 May, becoming the first SG to visit the country in the past 44 years. At the ASEAN-UN International Pledging Conference on 25 May, a Tripartite Core Group (TCG), consisting of high-level representatives of the Government, ASEAN and UN, was established. Since then, the TCG has been providing a forum for strategic/policy dialogue, cooperation and resolution of practical issues affecting effective and efficient delivery of post-Nargis response, to which the RC/HC and two UN Heads of Agency are actively participating.
Funding for the post-Nargis humanitarian response has been good, with the Revised Appeal 66% funded, with over USD 313 million contributed out of USD 477 million (as of 26 February 09), making it one of the better funded humanitarian appeals in 2008. Due to joint efforts, there was no second wave of morbidity and mortality amongst the cyclone-affected people.
The role of a regional organization, ASEAN, as the interlocutor between the Government and the international community in post-Nargis response has paved a new way for the engagement of the international community in Myanmar. ASEAN, under the leadership and personal commitment from its Secretary-General, will continue to be the key to international assistance in Myanmar. UN agencies, together with their partner humanitarian aid organizations, have enjoyed greater access than ever before to the cyclone-affected areas, which allowed UNCT to more efficiently and effectively deliver the needed relief and early recovery assistance. Through the cluster system, UN, its IASC partners, the Government and local civil society have been successful in achieving increased coordination and aid effectiveness, both at Yangon- and field-levels.
Summary on progress towards UNDAF outcomes
Summary on progress in UN Reform
Since the Cyclone Nargis and the increased need to strategize, coordinate and deliver together, UNCT has been meeting on a weekly basis and is an active forum of information-sharing, decision-making and collective action.
One of the challenges that UNCT faces in “Delivering as One” is the issue of agencies’ differing mandates. Some agencies, such as UNICEF, WHO and FAO, are mandated and allowed to work closely with the Government and its partners, while other agencies, most notably UNDP, are not allowed to work directly with the Government. To address this challenge, at the 1.5-day UNCT Retreat held in 28-29 August 2008, UNCT agreed to engage in a strategic planning exercise, which will allow for UN agencies with various mandatory and operational restrictions to complement each other’s work.
The UN Communications Group (UNCG), consisting of one Communications focal point from all UNCT members, was actively engaged in joint external communication efforts, such as UNCT press releases, joint activities to mark the UN Day and production of a booklet on UN Assistance in Myanmar. UNCG, through its bi-weekly meetings, ensures that the UN “speaks as one,” combining all UN agencies strengths in communication and avoiding overlaps, duplications and inconsistencies to increase efficiency, synergies and maximum impact.
i) Efforts to align with the national development processes
One area of alignment between the national and UN planning was achieved in the area of post-Nargis recovery planning. On 15 August 2008, the Government finalized its “Programme for Reconstruction of Cyclone Nargis Affected Areas and Implementation Plans for Preparedness and Protection for Future Natural Disasters,” which is a master plan that guides ministerial-level sector specific plans. Under the auspices of the TCG, in February 2009 the UN and its IASC partners launched the Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP), which is a three-year medium-term recovery plan (2009-2011) to re-establish safe and sustainable lives and livelihoods in the affected communities. Totaling approximately USD 700 million, PONREPP aims to meet the needs for eight operational sectors: livelihoods; shelter; education and training; health; water, sanitation and hygiene; disaster risk reduction; environment; and, protection and vulnerable groups. PONREPP further promotes the community ownership of the recovery process. PONREPP complements the Government Plan, and consultations- both formal and informal- were held with the Government to ensure a common understanding, credibility and complementarities between the two Plans.
ii) Support to the national government in the preparation and/or implementation of comprehensive MDG-based national development strategies
UN is advocating with the Government for UN to be involved in the next MDG Progress Report, since the last Government of Myanmar MDG Progress Report in 2005 was prepared without any UN involvement. Regional disparity is an important issue that had not been reflected in the Government MDG Progress Report (2005). In Myanmar, there are pockets of the population, most notably in the border areas, who are not counted by the Government when conducting such surveys. Therefore, regional disparity is an area that UN is keen to look into when working with the Government on its next MDG Progress Report.
While the UN was not involved in the MDG Progress Report, UNDP and the Government jointly conducted a household survey, results of which were endorsed by the Government in December 2007. UNDP is now planning to do the next round of joint UNDP-Government survey, upon request made by the Minister of Planning. Possibility of joint collaboration with UNICEF, who is conducting its Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) in areas including nutrition, health, WESH, education and child protection, and WHO, who is conducting a national TB survey, was explored with a view that joint surveys with collective UNCT inputs would open a high-level policy dialogue with the Government.
iii) Progress UNCT is making collectively in support of the national partners’ endeavors towards capacity development and aid effectiveness
Following the RC’s meeting with the Secretary I and the Ministers of Planning and Foreign Affairs on 2 December 2008, the RC formally requested for a regular follow-up meeting between the Government Ministers and UNCT members. The first of such meetings is scheduled to take place in mid-March 2009.
Following the RC’s meeting with the Chair of the Myanmar Human Rights Body (MHRB), a meeting between the MHRB and the UNCT Sub-Group on Human Rights took place on 5 February 2009. At the meeting, the possible areas in which the UNCT Sub-Group on Human Rights can provide capacity building support to the MHRB was discussed, and it was agreed that a follow-up meeting to further explore the areas of cooperation will take place in March 2009. Through continuous dialogue with MHRB, UNCT aims to support the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, who visited the country in August 2009.
Furthermore, the UNCT continues to provide support to the Government to fulfill its regular reporting obligations to human rights conventions signed by Myanmar, in particular in relation to Children and Armed Conflict (SC Resolution 1612) and Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). On 3 November 2008, the Government was invited to discuss its report with the CEDAW Secretariat, and UNCT submitted a supplementary report to the CEDAW Secretariat.
RC and the UNCT have also been providing support to the Special Advisor, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, as needed.
Through the TCG mechanism, UNCT under the leadership to the RC/HC has been collectively providing capacity development and aid effectiveness support to the Government in the area of post-Nargis efforts. In the past nine months, the TCG has commissioned and overseen a number of milestone activities to improve the effectiveness of aid in a challenging environment. The Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PoNJA), launched on 21 July, identified needs to guide the ongoing and planned humanitarian relief and early recovery activities, informed the Revised Appeal (May 08 – April 09), and provided inputs for longer-term recovery and reconstruction planning. The PONJA, also translated into Myanmar language, has been widely disseminated amongst the Government Ministries, local NGOs and civil society organizations. The Periodic Review, completed in December 08, monitored the cyclone-affected areas, providing a snapshot of the progress made in recovery at both household- and community-levels, informing and guiding the strategic decision-making amongst all relevant stakeholders to address outstanding needs in a comprehensive manner. The Post-Nargis Social Impacts Monitoring, completed in January 09, is a study that assesses the social dimensions of the impacts of Nargis and of aid delivery from the perspectives of affected communities. It focuses on issues of aid effectiveness, the socioeconomic impacts of the disaster, and the impact on social relations within and between communities. These assessments and reviews, as well as PONREPP mentioned above, have been critical achievements in terms of supporting the Government cyclone relief and early recovery efforts, also addressing the issue of aid effectiveness. PONREPP in particular clearly spells out the contribution of the UN and its IASC partners to the recovery efforts in the Delta. By so doing, it allows UN to increase its visibility and transparency, as well as to set up appropriate management and coordination structures and funding mechanisms to ensure effective implementation of recovery interventions. iv) Experiences of common programming, including joint programmes and HACT, as well as other highlights in coordination
In order to ensure aid effectiveness and greater donor coherence, various meetings and consultations with donors, both Yangon- and Bangkok-based, have been regularly taking place. Since October 2008, UNCT under the leadership of the RC and together with the IASC have been organizing a bi-monthly donor meeting with both Yangon- and Bangkok-based donors, combined with a field visit to UN/IASC project sites. Taking a thematic approach, the aim of these donor meetings is information-sharing and advocacy towards the issues in Myanmar, as well as attracting new donor interest. In so doing, UNCT and its IASC partners have been speaking in one voice on how, in spite of the various restrictions, constraints and obstacles, it is possible to effectively address the needs of the Myanmar people.
There have also been almost weekly ad-hoc meetings with key Yangon-based donors on various humanitarian, political and other policy issues.
Furthermore, the RC and other UNCT members continued to participate in the Bangkok Informal Group on Myanmar Assistance Issue (BIGMAI), which is an informal monthly meeting of Bangkok-based donors, until November 2008. Continuation of their participation is currently under consideration. Coordination with international NGOs has been ongoing through the regular IASC meetings as its main forum, chaired by the HC. In addition to information-sharing, the IASC meetings have been useful in addressing operational challenges and other concerns faced by the international (and national) NGOs.
Highlights in coordination from the operational management side include increased common services and harmonized business practices. In view of increased operational size of the UN agencies, RC had approached the Government for new premises for the UN, which was positively received. UNCT, with the Operational Management Team’s support, has identified a number of possible common UN premises. In 2009, steps will be taken to proceed towards this end. Already, UNDP, WFP and UNFPA share a common premises and services (including ICT services), while ILO, IOM, UNAIDS, UN HABITAT, UNICEF and WHO are co-located in a commercial hotel, having jointly worked out a collective, economic deal.
In 2007, UNCT asked that Myanmar be exempted from HACT implementation, as UN agencies are restricted from cash transfers to Government implementing partners.
To ensure staff safety and security, regular SMT meetings were held in 2008. During the early months following the Cyclone Nargis, joint security assessments were conducted in the cyclone-affected areas. Also in 2008, 24/7 Radio Rooms became operational in Yangon and in the Delta to meet the security needs of all staff.
Key aspects of the proposed 2009 workplan
With the recruitment of a senior Strategic Planning Advisor based in the Office of the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator starting end March 2009, 2009 will be a key year in preparing a joint strategic plan for Myanmar. In particular, UNCT will be engaged in:
• Joint analytical assessment of the main issues (by sector) facing Myanmar and its people, to ensure that the UN System has a common understanding; • Development of a joint UN vision and strategy to support coordinated assistance to Myanmar based on common UN System priorities; • Development of a joint UN framework to implement the UN vision/strategy; • Establishment of a joint monitoring mechanism for the UN framework implementation, as well as joint resource mobilization and communication strategies; and, • Identification of joint programming opportunities and preparation of joint programmes.
At the UNCT Retreat planned for early April 2009, the UNCT is planning to identify possible areas of joint programming.
Furthermore, with the phasing out of clusters for coordination of Nargis response, UNCT, together with the IASC, is in discussion on the way forward to strengthen nation-wide coordination through existing and new Thematic Working Groups and Geographical Coordination Groups.