We appreciate the statement by the Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) on the World Bank’s Peaceful and Prosperous Communities Project.
This proposed $200 million project, which is still being prepared and has yet to be approved by the World Bank’s Board, is designed to improve basic infrastructure and increase economic opportunities for rural communities in conflict-affected areas of Myanmar - which have some of the highest and most persistent levels of poverty and deprivation in the country.
All along, the project has been developed in a conflict-sensitive manner that puts communities first, by helping them directly manage resources to finance the types of infrastructure and services that they need the most.
The project emphasizes joint ownership -- project activities would not begin until the government and ethnic organizations have jointly agreed on geographic areas for such activities, and the investment priorities identified by the communities have been screened and endorsed at the township level by all parties - including the government, ethnic organizations, local civil society organizations, and the communities themselves.
In line with this people-centered approach, the World Bank has already conducted extensive consultations for this project. More than 60 meetings, involving more than 1,000 individuals and 130 organizations, have been held to date.
We understand the concerns raised in the statement by KPSN, and we take them seriously. Before this project goes to our Board, we will continue to reach out and discuss these issues - including with the signatories of this letter - to ensure that the project is designed to deliver real benefits to those in need while not furthering tensions or otherwise doing harm. We agree that peace and prosperity in conflict affected areas cannot be realized by development alone. At the same time, those who have suffered through decades of conflict have real needs – to send their children to school, to have access to quality healthcare, to access livelihood opportunities. We will continue to look for ways to ensure that the benefits of Myanmar’s transition are more inclusively shared across the country.