Myanmar: Promoting inclusion in Chin State with CDD
May 26, 2014
In the last few years Myanmar has embarked on an exciting and yet challenging transition of its political, economic and social systems. The international community, including the World Bank Group, has been keen to support the country in this new phase of history.
Much progress has been made but major challenges remain in lifting millions of people out of poverty and creating an inclusive, participatory society. The economy has been doing relatively well, but further transformation will be needed to create the growth and job opportunities to allow all people in Myanmar to fully participate in a dynamic economy.
When one visits Yangon and the other major cities, one gets a sense of the changes that are happening. But what about people living out of the public eye and outside of the media coverage?
Yesterday, I visited Chin state, a sparsely populated, very remote, poor area about 650 kilometers northwest of Yangon. It is the poorest state in Myanmar, with a poverty rate of more than 70 percent. It took a six-hour drive from Bagan Nyaung Oo Airport to reach Kanpetlet Township. The purpose of my visit was to see firsthand how several of the poorest villages are implementing a community-driven development (CDD) program launched 1 ½ years ago, with $80 million in World Bank funding. The goal of this program is to support projects identified by the communities to improve their lives, including repairing schools, water supply systems and roads, as well as installing solar lights in public buildings and streets. The strength of the program is that it puts citizens at the center of decision-making. This empowerment encourages active participation by citizens. Implementation is completely transparent and participatory, with full accountability ensured.
The purpose of my visit was to see firsthand how several of the poorest villages are implementing a community-driven development program launched 1 ½ years ago, with $80 million in World Bank funding. The strength of the program is that it puts citizens at the center of decision-making. This empowerment encourages active participation by citizens. Implementation is completely transparent and participatory, with full accountability ensured.
The amazing and very encouraging news is that this approach is working. People have been longing to shape their lives in these poor communities and this project is showing that they are actively seizing the opportunity. One village elder told me that this was the first time in his entire life he was able to say what was important for him and his community. For the first time, he feels he has a voice in his community's future.
The village elder and others like him are providing the first evidence of the positive impact of the national CDD program in Chin State. Altogether, several hundred people in the villages surrounding Kanpetlet Township are among the first to participate in this community-driven development project. In going through the process of selecting the right project, there were meetings to discuss the many competing demands. In the end, the men and women of affected villages decided to build what would improve their daily lives the most: a foot path, allowing them to make a short cut to town, a water supply system and a new roof for a dilapidated primary school. When I visited these villages, I saw impressive proof of the real benefits that community-driven development projects can bring to one of the poorest areas of the country. People are investing in their future and changing their lives for the better.
The challenge now is how to quickly scale up this approach, so that many more poor communities can shape their own future with a little help from outside the community. The objective is to support CDD projects in 15 poor rural townships – one in each of the 14 States and Regions, plus the Union Territory – benefitting 3,000 villages, which are home to approximately 2.5 million poor people in Myanmar. This empowerment process will not only be key to shaping the prospects of these poor communities but it will be important in helping Myanmar develop its most important resource, its human capital.
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