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FEATURE STORY

Q&A: Myanmar National Community Driven Development Project - March 2014

March 31, 2014

Helping Communities to Help Themselves

Last updated: March 2014

The Myanmar National Community Driven Development Project is funded by a $80 million IDA grant approved in November 2012 and is the World Bank’s first project in Myanmar in 25 years.

Why Community Driven Development?

Community Driven Development (CDD) programs devolve decision making to communities, by putting them in charge of what to do with and how to manage development resources. This type of intervention helps match scarce resources to priority needs by turning spending decisions over to those who understand their  needs and aspirations  best – local communities themselves.  By empowering communities to identify priority interventions and providing the funds to implement them, CDD allows for context-specific aid delivery that is responsive to citizen demands. Moreover, by channeling funds directly from central-level government to communities, CDD approaches minimize leakages. International evaluations indicate that CDD methods enable delivery of small scale infrastructure and essential services more cheaply and at a better quality than similar projects implemented by regular government service delivery channels.

CDD approaches can thus be an important element of an effective rural poverty reduction strategy. Over the last decade, the World Bank has used CDD approaches in a diverse range of settings to help national governments and communities address a variety of urgent needs, including water supply and sewer rehabilitation, school and health post construction, nutrition programs for mothers and infants, building of rural access roads, and support for micro-enterprises. Experience in countries such as Indonesia, Philippines and Afghanistan have also shown the potential of CDD approaches to work at national scale, operate in conflict-affected areas, to serve as platforms for natural disaster recovery.

What does the Myanmar National Community Development Project aim to achieve?

The development objective is to enable poor rural communities in Myanmar to benefit from improved access to and use of basic infrastructure and services through a people-centered approach. Approved in November 2012 using an $80m IDA grant, this six year project is empowering rural communities in 15 townships to identify and implement investments they need most, such as roads, bridges, irrigation systems, schools, health clinics or rural markets.  The Project is an element of the operationalization of President Thein Sein’s vision of “people-centered development”, a significant shift in the way that Government interacts with communities in rural areas, and a beginning to reach poor and historically underserved areas. 

The project is financing small-scale, community-identified infrastructure methods. In the first year of operations in a given township, the project uses a “closed menu”, with financing available for rehabilitation or minor extension of selected public assets such as health centers, school buildings, roads, water supply, electrification, community centers, markets, small scale irrigation and sanitation facilities. In subsequent years, communities will be able to choose from an open menu the type of public infrastructure they would like to build, rehabilitate or upgrade.

How does the project help poor rural communities?

Assets constructed under the Project should help to address key community needs and aimed at reducing poverty rates in beneficiary villages. In addition, the project empowers villagers to manage and participate in their own development, with communities making decisions in project design and being responsible for implementation. The project has four components: (i) block grants to communities; (ii) capacity building; (iii) knowledge and learning; and (iv) implementation, including monitoring and evaluation.  A fifth component allows the use of project resources to respond to emergency needs, for example in the wake of natural disasters.

Who is benefitting from the project?

The project is financing three annual block grants of on average $27,000 each for about 640 village tracts in 15 poor rural townships—one in each of the 14 States and Regions, plus the Union Territory. Eventually over 3,000 villages, which are home to approximately 2.5 million people, will benefit from the project across the country. Participating townships are selected by a union-level based on the following criteria: high levels of poverty, absence of external funding, and the commitment by regional government to the objectives of the project.

How the project is financed?

The total cost of the project is currently $86.3 million. It is financed by an $80 million IDA grant, as well as a government contribution of $6.3 million. The design of the project allows easy scaling up, and other donors are currently considering financing the expansion of the project to cover additional townships.

Who manages the project?

Ultimately, local communities manage sub projects at the village level, with decisions being made at the village tract level. The Foreign Aid Management Central Committee (chaired by the President, and composed of Ministers from a range of line ministries) acts as steering committee and provides project oversight and policy guidance. The Department of Rural Development is the implementing agency that also provides capacity building at union and township levels. Experienced international NGO’s have been contracted to provide technical assistance at the township level. The World Bank, in its turn, supports the Myanmar Government in project implementation, as well as monitoring and evaluation.

How is the project ensuring the participation of marginalized groups and ethnic minorities?

The project includes a range of measures to ensure the full participation of vulnerable groups and ethnic minorities, including: the recruitment of village volunteers elected from among ethnic groups; free, prior and informed consultations for village and village tract development plans; the involvement of ethnic minorities in community decision-making and monitoring and evaluation; and the use of local languages. There are also strong gender components to ensure that women have an equal voice in decision-making.

How does the project engage with civil society?

The project design benefited from multiple consultations with a range of civil society partners in Myanmar, to learn from the experience in particular of those groups that had been engaged in grass-roots level community work in the country for a long time. During implementation, the project includes provisions for social audits at the village tract level, as well as an annual national-level multi-stakeholder review that provides opportunities for interested civil society organizations to engage with and provide feedback on the project and its implementation. The project will also organize an annual Development Marketplace to showcase innovation around rural poverty reduction in Myanmar – including initiatives from within and beyond the project. 

How is the use of funds being monitored? How are complaints or misuse of funds tackled?

Project monitoring happens in several ways: 1) At the community level, through social accountability mechanisms that include the public display of expenditures incurred for community sub-projects, and through a complaints mechanism accessible to villagers; 2) At the project level, through clear procedures for financial management and procurement and a management information system that tracks the flow of funds and disbursements; 3) Through independent financial and technical audits of a sample of sub-projects as well as annual external audits of the union-level government accounts by the Office of the Auditor-General.

The project contains strong measures to mitigate possible governance and corruption risks, including a robust management information system and a grievance redress mechanism to monitor and respond to complaints relating to the project and the potential misuse of funds. Furthermore, the project will finance regular technical audits to ensure the quality of the community works.

What are the roles for NGOs in this project? How will these NGOs be identified?

The Department of Rural Development is in charge of technical assistance at the township level to support project implementation, including in the area of community facilitation. The contracts for the first three townships were awarded to the International Rescue Committee (for Chin State) and Mercy Corps (for Shan State and Thanintharyi Region) following a competitive and open tendering process. Additional township-level technical assistance will be procured in years 2 and 3 of the project, in keeping with the project’s gradual rollout schedule (see below).

What is the project current status?

As of March 2014, the project is under implementation, with activities underway in the first three townships (the project employs a gradual rollout model, with three townships participating in the first year, five being added in the second, and seven in the third year). Community consultations have been held, village committees and volunteers identified, village tract development plans formulated and approved, and subproject implementation now underway. 

Where can I find official documents about this project?

In accordance with the Bank’s Access to Information policy, the full project paper was made available on our website immediately following approval by our Board. All other relevant project documents, including regular Implementation Status Reports, have also been posted on our website, in accordance with all applicable policies. Upcoming project documents will continue to be made available on the National Community Driven Development Project webpage, as well as at the Department of Rural Development in Myanmar webpage dedicated to the project. Translations into Myanmar may take a bit longer to be published than their corresponding English originals.