Myanmar was under an authoritarian regime for more than fifty years and experienced a period of incessant ethnic conflicts during which a number of groups got involved in the long running civil war. After the election in 2010, the military junta was replaced by a quasi-civilian government, which put the self-imposed isolation of the country to an end. Several political prisoners were released and new measures were introduced which led to economic liberalization. Subsequently, the new government introduced a number of reforms and steps, which led to the democratic elections in 2015, bringing the long-term democratic opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi to power. However, to this day the Military still plays a crucial role in the public affairs; meanwhile Myanmar keeps struggling with armed conflicts, mainly affecting the poorest people in the country.
Myanmar is divided into seven states and seven regions, one union territory and several self-administered zones and divisions. The country has eight major ethnic minorities and over 135 officially recognized ethnic and religious groups. Despite the efforts aimed at the national reconciliation of ethnic groups, the political instability in Myanmar still continues. In October 2015 a nationwide ceasefire agreement was signed between the government and eight major armed ethnic groups. However, only half of the required representatives signed the agreement. There is no anticipated termination of the conflicts unless the agreement is complete. The ongoing conflicts in Myanmar lead to food shortages, poor access to basic services, violence, displacement of residents and migration. Poverty-stricken people and those who suffer from major structural inequality are vulnerable also in cases of natural disasters, which may befall the country. The humanitarian situation in Myanmar worsened in August 2017 when armed attacks on several police stations happened in the state of Rakhine. As a consequence, security operations by Government forces led to a large-scale displacement of Rohingya, mostly to neighboring Bangladesh. At the beginning of 2018, the situation in the state of Kachin worsened as well, with many people being trapped in conflict areas and many others being internally displaced as a consequence of the fights. People in Need has been working in Myanmar since 1997 when the organization began to support members of civil democratic groups. People in Need also provided humanitarian assistance after Cyclone Nargis and supported civil society groups in the area of Myanmar/Thai border where hundreds of thousands of Myanmar refugees continue to live. In 2012, People in Need re-established a permanent office in Myanmar.
Our programs focus primarily on knowledge transfer, capacity building and support of local initiatives in remote areas of the states of Kayin, Mon and Shan. We support civil society organizations which play a crucial role in promoting the interests and needs of local communities by opening a policy dialogue. We also focus on issues like land grabbing, which is often connected with armed conflicts and the displacement of people. Furthermore, our social cohesion program aims at promoting tolerance and acceptance of diversity in communities. Through these activities, communities are able to find solutions to the problems they are facing and alleviate tension in a non-violent way. In addition, we have been implementing child protection for children who might be affected by poor upbringing, bullying, neglect, child labor, abuse, harassment or violence.
Our humanitarian aid in the past few years includes assisting local communities after natural disasters (Cyclone Nargis and Cyclone Komen). Currently we are working in areas affected by armed conflicts (in Rakhine state since September 2017 and in Kachin state since 2018).