Addressing Negative Perceptions In Myanmar

Addressing Negative Perceptions In Myanmar

What happens when INGOs and UN agencies are perceived as favouring one ethnic group over another in a conflict setting?

Integrity and the Popular Engagement Policy Lab (PEPL) were commissioned by UN OCHA on behalf of the Myanmar Humanitarian Country Team in January 2013. The objective of the assignment was to better understand:

  1. What are the current perceptions of communities towards INGOs/UN in Rakhine State?
  2. How do people find out what is happening in their community?
  3. What can the humanitarian community do to strengthen engagement with key stakeholders in each community to overcome these challenges?

In Myanmar’s Rakhine State, recent outbreaks of conflict between the Rakhine and Rohingya ethnic groups in June and October 2012 have resulted in the displacement of 115,000 people. INGOs and UN agencies have faced accusations over their lack of transparency in operations and partiality to one group over the other. Emergency response programmes have been severely hindered by action aimed at stopping aid from reaching Rohingya, including staff intimidation, blocking of aid movement, perpetuation of rumours, and organised demonstrations against aid agencies.

Among many findings, the research revealed a general misunderstanding of the concept of ‘fairness’ among the Rakhine community. When applied to communities as a whole, the research highlighted the need to reframe definitions from an individual household perspective and provide clearer explanations of aid deliverables and selection criteria.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) are perceived by many as the instigators behind organised demonstrations and as operating outside the humanitarian system. The research recommends that channels need to be created for positive collaboration between CSOs and the humanitarian community as a whole in order to share information and foster dialogue.

The full report will be shared with UN OCHA for circulation with agencies working in Rakhine State, and UN OCHA have reported on the project here.
For more information contact Kate Ives at [email protected]

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