UNDP chief pledges more development aid for Myanmar

From left, UN Resident Coordinator Renata Lok-Dessallien and UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner at a recent press briefing in Yangon (Photo-Khine Kyaw, Myanmar Eleven)


IN a bid to overcome the challenges Myanmar is facing during its transition period, United Nations organisations would increase its development assistance for the nation over time, said a top UN official. 

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator and the chair of the UN Development Group, said in an event at Yangon University that UN organisations are contributing around US$300 million per annum through a wide range of its programmes to support the nation’s sustainable growth.

“I hope the figure will grow in the years to come because our discussions with the government remain active, and we are aware of higher demand for our support,” he said.

 Steiner believes active engagements with the government will allow the UN to become a more proactive partner. He therefore chose Myanmar for his first official visit to a programme country since he assumed his responsibilities as the top UN development official in June 2017.

He considered the visit as an opportunity to listen and learn about the development challenges Myanmar faced and how the UN could support the nation in addressing them. He gained a deeper understanding of how the development system and UNDP worked in Myanmar and explored the relevance of Agenda 2030 in that context. 

He said the official development assistance (ODA) had grown 450 per cent over the past five years. In 2017, Myanmar is expected to receive $2 billion in ODA. 

“Since the beginning of the democratic process in Myanmar, we have seen a massive increase in sources of development finance and assistance. Despite those impressive growth rates, employment generation has not kept pace. Growth that is not inclusive and fails to create wider economic benefit for ordinary people will result in growing inequality,” he said.

According to Steiner, more than a quarter of Myanmar’s people still live in poverty, and poverty rates in rural areas are double in urban areas. 

He urged the government to ensure that development could reach all parts of the nation. He reiterated the UN commitment to invest millions of dollars in the development of Myanmar by supporting both government and civil society institutions. 

“Despite being blessed with significant natural resources, and having a strategic geographic location between India and China, many development challenges remain. The price of internal conflict and past policies has been high when measured in terms of poverty and livelihoods,” he said. 

Under the Millennium Development Goals, Myanmar performed rather poorly in terms of inclusive and sustainable development, mainly because of economic policy choices, sanctions, and isolation from global markets, he added. 

Steiner stressed the need to overcome the nation’s low levels of human development and to formulate solutions that could achieve transformative results rather than just GDP growth. 

He lauded Myanmar’s 12-point economic policy which focused on supporting national reconciliation. He urged to leave no one behind. 

He also revealed 5 key recommendations for sustainable growth in Myanmar. They include investing in data and evidence, strengthening the voice of excluded and marginalised groups, investment in prevention of conflict-affected settings, supporting green economies to benefit poor communities, and investing in people’s health, education and living conditions.