Since its independence in 1948, the people of Myanmar have been exposed to more than 50 years of military rule, civil war and widespread human rights violations.

The country is undergoing a period of unprecedented reform and social change, and the current government led by Aung San Suu Kyi is leading a transition from authoritarian rule to inclusive democracy. Despite this, the government continues to use discriminatory policies toward ethnic minorities and human rights activists. The government has a poor record on protecting the human rights of communities negatively affected by the work of international companies engaged in largely unregulated land confiscation, deforestation, and extraction of minerals. This represents a key concern for Cord and the communities with whom we work.

Cord is currently running a small number of innovative projects in Myanmar that help to defend the human rights of local communities and that contribute toward improved relationships between the state and civil society (e.g. human rights activists, faith groups, community organisations etc). Two of these projects are focused on developing the confidence, skills and knowledge of local human rights organisations. This is allowing them to more effectively consult communities on the biggest challenges they face in meeting their families’ needs and to inform them of their fundamental rights. It also allows them to communicate these needs to local authorities in the hope that public spending on poverty reduction will increase and become more inclusive of marginalised groups.

One of these projects is called Strengthening the Defence of Human Rights project (SDHR), and is also carried out by Cord in Cambodia. This project provides local organisations in both Cambodia and Myanmar with opportunities to network and share experiences with each other.

In areas of the country where armed struggles continue, such as Kachin and Rakhine States, sexual violence against women is common yet all too often overlooked, with perpetrators not held to account. Through an exciting new project, Protecting Women from Sexual Violence during conflict in Myanmar (PW-SVC), launched in 2016, Cord is working to develop the confidence, skills and knowledge of community organisations, legal practitioners, those involved in dispute resolution, as well as local authorities to more effectively investigate, document and report cases of sexual violence and protect women’s rights in areas of conflict.