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Burma

Overview of Australia’s aid program to Burma

2013/14 Estimated Outcome: $85.5 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate: $90.0 million

Australia supports a peaceful and prosperous Burma, which can engage constructively within our region and internationally. Developments in Burma, including its transition towards democracy, present new opportunities to make a greater impact in reducing poverty and creating conditions to encourage economic growth and prosperity. Political, social and economic reforms underway in Burma are enabling Australia’s aid to reach more people in need. Australia is committed to building the capacity of people and institutions to prepare for the future and move towards long-term poverty reduction in the country. This includes working with the Burmese Government to identify aid priorities and build capacity to deliver essential services. We’re also working closely with other donors to coordinate international assistance to ensure aid is delivered effectively and efficiently to achieve the best results.

Burma has the lowest social development indicators in the region. Over a quarter of its estimated 51 million people live in poverty (below $1.25 per day) and public investment in both education and health is among of the lowest in the world. Australia’s assistance to Burma totaled $81.4 million in 2013-2014 and focused on education, health, economic development, peace building, humanitarian support, and governance. Australia’s development assistance is scheduled to reach $90 million in 2014-2015. Australia became the first western nation to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Development Cooperation with Burma in January 2013.

Education

Australia is a leading bilateral donor in Burma’s education sector, because we believe an educated and skilled workforce is necessary to maximise the benefits of the economic reform process. We are working closely with the Burmese Government to improve access and quality of education for children, and are supporting locals NGOs and ethnic education systems to assist children in heard to reach, conflict-affected areas access education.

Education assistance in Burma

Agriculture

Australian aid, including our support through ACIAR, is lifting incomes in the agricultural sector and ensuring food security. Our support includes projects that improve agricultural production and access to markets, training and support for non-agriculture related livelihoods.

Agriculture assistance in Burma

Governance

Australia’s support to Burma is helping meet reform priorities as identified by the Burmese Government and will help strengthen democratic institutions, promote human rights, improve economic governance and advance the rule of law.

Democratic and economic governance assistance in Burma

Peacebuilding

Australia is promoting stability by supporting the peace process. Our assistance helps to build an environment conducive to successful peace negotiations between Burma’s government, military, ethnic armed groups and affected communities.

Peacebuilding assistance in Burma

Humanitarian

Australia is providing humanitarian assistance to address the needs of conflict and disaster-affected people in Burma and refugees on the Thai-Burma border. Assistance is provided on the basis of need and does not discriminate based on ethnicity or religion.

Humanitarian assistance in Burma

Health

Australia is committed to promoting better health outcomes which are essential to creating a productive and healthy workforce. Our aid program prioritises essential maternal, newborn and child health services, and improving the health system.

Health assistance in Burma

Our results

  • Improving access to quality education by distributing learning supplies to 299,962 children and enrolling an additional 24,330 children into government, monastic and community schools.
  • Supporting the development of a comprehensive and prioritised education sector plan to guide government, donor and private sector investment and providing advice on the revitalisation of Burma’s tertiary education sector, including Rangoon University.
  • Vaccinating 9,300 children and providing skilled birth delivery assistance to 5,800 women to strengthen maternal and child health.
  • Delivering humanitarian assistance to 138,354 vulnerable people affected by conflict and natural disasters.
  • Working with local and international organisations to support ongoing negotiations between government, military and ethnic armed groups to engage women in the peace process, and help establish a lasting peace.
  • Supporting the government to deliver key health and education services and promoting economic growth by increasing incomes and providing access to financial services and agricultural technologies for poor rural women and men.
  • Establishing a new $55 million public financial management reform program to build government capacity for efficient, accountable and responsive public service delivery.

Related documents

Agriculture assistance in Burma

Overview

Agriculture accounts for approximately 70 per cent of employment in Burma (mainly in rural areas) and around 36 per cent of gross domestic product. Growth in the sector is hampered by low levels of mechanisation in farming practices, poor quality seed, lack of access to finance for small- and medium-level farmers, and outdated agriculture policies. Supporting development in these areas—particularly among the rural poor, who comprise the majority of people engaged in agriculture—is important to promoting economic growth and reducing poverty.

Australia’s support for agricultural and rural development in Burma promotes long-term food security and improved livelihoods among the rural poor. Our programs are focused on helping farmers improve farming practices so they may produce greater yields and better quality products, on building capacity of the farming fraternity, government institutions and universities involved in the agriculture sector, on improving access to finance and on helping rural farmers better connect to markets, including by forming links with the private sector.

Related initiatives

ACIAR Multidisciplinary Research Program for Burma

$12 million, 2011-2016

The ACIAR Multidisciplinary Research Program for Burma aims to increase food security and improve farmers’ livelihoods in Burma through research, capacity building and education on agricultural techniques and skills. The Program focuses on improving agricultural policies and building capacity in Burma’s agricultural institutions by working closely with the Myanmar Government and universities. ACIAR is undertaking important research on improving quality of seeds and food production techniques for the benefit of farmers and rural households. The ACIAR Program focusses on research in key food producing sectors including rice, legumes, livestock and fisheries, and implementing a socio-economic and agricultural skilling program that enables the practical application of research findings by rural households to increase their incomes and food security.

Related links

Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT)

$19 million, 2009-2014

LIFT is a multi-donor trust fund administered by the United Nations Office for Project Services. LIFT supports agricultural and livelihoods development activities—mainly in the Ayeyarwady Delta and Central Dry Zone of Burma—through grants to local and international NGOs and private sector partnerships. LIFT was first established in 2009 to provide humanitarian assistance in response to Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma in 2008 and devastated the Ayeyarwady Delta, affecting an estimated 2.4 million people. LIFT activities have evolved since then to deliver long term development assistance focused on assisting the rural poor to build better livelihoods. Activities focus on improved agricultural and farming practices, establishing village development committees and farmer groups, promoting small- and medium-scale enterprise development and vocational training, and by providing access to finance to rural households and farmers.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
LIFT Annual Report 2009 2010 Progress report
LIFT Annual Report 2010 2011 Progress report
LIFT Annual Report 2011 2012 Progress report
LIFT Annual Report 2012 2012 Progress report
LIFT Annual Report 2013 2013 Progress report
Related links

Democratic and economic governance assistance in Burma

Overview

Australia aims to help the Burmese Government transition Burma to become a stable, more democratic and more prosperous country in our region and the international community. On 18 March 2013, during a visit to Australia by President Thein Sein, Australia announced the Myanmar-Australia Partnership for Reform under the aid program. Australia’s support will help meet reform priorities identified by the Burmese Government and activities funded through the partnership will help to strengthen democratic institutions, promote human rights, improve economic governance and advance the rule of law.

Australia also supports initiatives focused on preventing children’s exposure to violence, abuse and exploitation in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including preventing recruitment as child soldiers.

Related initiatives

Myanmar-Australia Partnership for Reform

$20 million, 2013-2015

The Partnership for Reform supports activities focused on strengthening democratic institutions, promoting human rights, improving economic governance and advancing the rule of law. This includes support for transparency and environmental sustainability in the mining sector, public financial management, law and justice, and human rights. Additional partners will be added as new projects commence in 2014-15.

Related links

UNICEF child protection program

$2.7 million, 2012-2014

The UNICEF Child Protection Program aims to reduce exposure and vulnerability to violence, abuse and exploitation in 80 per cent of identified at-risk and marginalised children. UNICEF is working with Burma’s Government to improve child protection through social protection and policy mechanisms with a focus on implementing Burma’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. With Australian aid, UNICEF will help Burma’s Government to design and implement a national child protection policy in line with the Child Law. UNICEF is also helping Burma’s Government implement a Joint Action Plan signed with the Armed Forces in June 2012 to help prevent abuses of children in armed conflict, such as the recruitment of child soldiers.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
UNICEF Myanmar country programme document 2011-2015 2012 Policy document
Situation analysis of Children in Myanmar 2012 Policy document
Related links

Education assistance in Burma

Overview

Australia is helping Burma establish the skilled and productive workforce necessary for economic growth through a $100 million investment in the Burmese education sector. As a leading donor, Australia supports education planning to inform the development of new policies, legislation and budgets that will sustain Burma’s economic growth and stability.

About half of Burma’s five million school aged children do not complete primary school, but Australia’s investment will allow 110,000 children to attend school, lift the standards of basic education for more than a million children, boost funding and education services to 43,000 schools and deliver education services in some of Burma’s most hard to reach areas.

Australia is also investing in Burma’s next generation of leaders, providing 50 long-term Australia Awards for study in Australia in 2015 and through the launch of the New Colombo Plan in 2015.

Related initiatives

Quality Basic Education Program

$27.5 million, 2012-2015 (UNICEF) Quality Basic Education Program
$2.5 million, 2014-2015 (UNESCO) Strengthening Teacher Education in Myanmar Project

Implemented by UNICEF and funded by Australia, European Union, DFID (UK Aid), Denmark, and Norway, the Quality Basic Education Program is providing teaching and learning materials for over one million children and helping 110,000 more children enrol in school. UNICEF is introducing child friendly teaching approaches with teachers working to make classrooms more stimulating spaces, and by developing early childhood development centres that are attracting strong community engagement and support. UNICEF is also building the literacy, numeracy and life skills of 10,000 out of school children through non-formal education classes.

2014 marked the commencement of the Strengthening Teacher Education in Myanmar (STEM) project in partnership with UNESCO, which Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced on 5 July 2014. Teacher training delivered through STEM will help teachers manage their classrooms and allow them to educate diverse groups of children. New teacher courses will be designed and tested in pilot teacher training colleges and replicated across Burma.

Related links

The Myanmar Education Consortium

$23 million, 2012-2015

Australia is supporting local non-government and civil society groups delivering education services in monastic and community schools. Australia is helping to reach the 10 per cent of children in Burma who are most disadvantaged and without access to formal education. This investment will enrol 40,000 children in education services and is targeting girls’ learning and children with disability. Australia is supporting projects across 13 states and regions covering early childhood development, primary schooling, and education programs for disabled children and out of school children. This support is provided in conjunction with the United Kingdom.

Related links

The Burma School Grants and Stipends Program

$25 million, 2014-2018

Australia is supporting the Burmese Government’s education program to promote free, compulsory education across 43,000 schools through the Government’s school grants and stipends program. Australia is contributing $25 million of a $200 million investment in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the World Bank. The school grants and stipends program will provide 43,000 schools funding for essential school supplies, as well as helping up to 150,000 children stay in school by providing financial stipends. Australia’s investment is helping to improve the management approach and assessment, increasing the possible benefits for schools, and introducing a conflict sensitive approach for the program.

Health assistance in Burma

Overview

Australia’s assistance in the health sector has promoted better health outcomes for the Burmese people. Improved health outcomes are essential to improving livelihoods, enabling people to participate more fully in the economy and lifting living standards. Australia has provided lifesaving treatment in response to crises, including Cyclone Nargis, and helped strengthen essential health services.

Women and children bear the brunt of Burma’s underfunded health system. High rates of communicable diseases place significant strain on an already stretched system. With increasing rates of drug resistance, infectious disease control is becoming a regional concern. Australia has therefore consolidated health spending through the Three Millennium Development Goals Fund prioritising essential maternal, newborn and child health services, responses to HIV, tuberculosis and malaria and improving the health system. Australia is also supporting improvements in emergency medicine, and medical training with the assistance of Australian Volunteers and Australia Award Fellowships.

Related initiatives

The Three Millennium Development Goals Fund

Up to $100 million, 2012-2017

Australia’s investment of up to $100 million to the health sector has been consolidated through the Three Millennium Development Goal (3MDG) Fund, which plays a critical role in expanding access to health services for Burma’s poor. This is in partnership with the United Kingdom, the European Union, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States (2012-16 US$330 million combined).

The 3MDG Fund prioritises essential maternal, newborn and child health services, interventions in HIV, tuberculosis and malaria and health system support to improve basic health care management, financing and delivery. Australia will help provide vital immunisations against communicable diseases for around 280,000 children, provide antenatal care to around 300,000 women and support skilled health professionals attend around 300,000 births. The 3MDG Fund is catalysing reforms to build a more robust health system including engagement of the private sector in service delivery.

Australian NGOs seeking funding for health proposals are encouraged to review the regular calls for proposals advertised on the 3MDG website.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Description of Action 3MDG Fund 2012–2016 2011 Policy document
Related links

Humanitarian assistance in Burma

Overview

Conflict between the government and ethnic armed groups has been ongoing for more than 60 years and has led to widespread displacement and statelessness. While progress is being made towards a peace agreement, substantial humanitarian needs remain across the country. Burma also ranked first on the UN list of most at-risk Asia Pacific countries to natural disasters in 2012.

Australia provides humanitarian assistance to address the needs of conflict and disaster-affected people in Burma and refugees on the border with Thailand. This includes providing food, shelter and primary health care and vocational skills-training to refugees, as well as assistance to internally displaced people and those in conflict affected areas. In accordance with the international humanitarian principles, Australia provides humanitarian assistance on the basis of need and does not discriminate based on ethnicity or religion.

Related initiatives

Assisting Burma’s Conflict Affected and Displaced People

$18 million, 2013-2016

The situation of conflict-affected people from Burma living in Thailand is one of the most protracted refugee situations in the world with refugees arriving since 1984. There are approximately 120,000 refugees based in nine temporary shelters (camps) along the border with Thailand.

All key stakeholders agree that the conditions are not yet right, but that preparing refugees for eventual return is important. Australia is responding to the new conditions by increasing our funding on the border to $4 million a year. This support will provide assistance which focuses on durable long-term solutions for displaced people from Burma. This includes providing food, shelter, basic health and education services, enhancing skills and livelihoods, and supporting preparedness for a safe return if and when conditions are conducive and people are ready. Consistent with international principles, Australia continues to advocate that any eventual refugee returns to Burma should be undertaken in safety and with dignity.

Australia also provides $10 million of humanitarian funding to respond to emergencies inside Burma. This includes humanitarian assistance in Rakhine State following ethnic conflict in 2012 that has left 140,000 people displaced and in Kachin State where conflict has displaced 100,000 people since 2011. This assistance, delivered through trusted United Nations and non-government organisation partners, provided emergency food; shelter; water; blankets and other essential items; and helped protect children separated from their families. Australia provides humanitarian assistance on the basis of need and does not discriminate based on ethnicity or religion.

See links to partners below.

Related links

Peacebuilding assistance in Burma

Overview

Since 2011, the Burmese Government has reached agreements with all of the major ethnic armed groups in Burma and progress is being made towards a nationwide ceasefire agreement and the beginning of a process of political dialogue. This process represents the best chance for a lasting peace in Burma’s history.

While Australia does not directly participate in the peace negotiations, our aid helps strengthen the locally-led process. Australia is helping to build an environment conducive to successful peace negotiations between Burma’s Government, military, ethnic armed groups and affected communities. Australia is providing technical advice, including to the Myanmar Peace Centre, to strengthen ceasefire monitoring, and supporting the work of local stakeholders to assist the parties to participate and articulate their negotiating positions. Australia is promoting women’s participation and leadership in the peace process.

Related initiatives

Building Confidence, Supporting Peace

$12 million, 2012-2015

Australia provides funding to a range of non-government organisations to help support the peace process (see links to partners below). Australia’s investment provides practical solutions to improve and sustain confidence in the peace process. It aims to help shift people’s attitudes, expectations and perceptions of the peace process, and support the settlement of protracted internal conflicts. It will support activities to strengthen community engagement in the peace process, enhance the representation of women, improve cooperation between conflict actors and encourage transparency in negotiations.

Related links

Last reviewed: 15 December, 2014