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The 'civil society strategy' of the EU in Myanmar

PK Forum spoke with Pedro Campo Llopis, Deputy Head Of Cooperation in the EU Delegation to Myanmar about the new EU Strategy for Myanmar CSOs .

PKF: What lessons have been taken by the EU from developing previous civil society strategies in Myanmar?

The EU Strategy for a strengthened Partnership with CSOs in Myanmar was developed based on the assessment of the implementation of the EU Roadmap for Engagement with Civil Society in Myanmar, which identified the main achievements, challenges and lessons learned. These included: i. The space for civil society has changed and therefore a new approach needs to be found; ii. Communication needs to be clearer in order to avoid creating false expectations; iii. The definition of ‘civil society’ within a Myanmar context needs to be better defined; iv. Clear objectives need to be set; v. More consultations with civil society should have taken place;

In order to ensure that the development process for the new EU/CSO partnership strategy was as inclusive as possible, a wide range of CSOs and organizations were involved. Over 300 representatives of local CSO's were consulted in a total of 4 regional consultations in Mon, Shan, Mandalay and Yangon. Additionally, the draft strategy was presented at the INGO forum and at other implementing partners' platforms for their feedback.

The new EU Strategy for a Strengthened Partnership with Civil Society in Myanmar aims to create a sustained dialogue between civil society and the EU on issues of importance to Myanmar society. It was officially launched in Yangon on 4th April with a dialogue forum that brought together 120 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), EU member states, donors and the European Union Delegation to look at trends impacting civil society in Myanmar, the role that civil society can play in a transition to democracy as well as the steps that other actors may need to take to support civic space. Interactive discussions and a panel session provided space to engage in questions surrounding the future of civil society in Myanmar.

PKF: The EU has been active in stressing to international NGOS and multi donor trust funds that their project selection should 'avoid a bias toward large international organisations'. This seems like an important initiative. In what ways is the EU addressing this potential bias in its own programs?

* The ongoing call for proposals allows local NGO to be lead applicants (no need to involve INGO). * An annual overview (publication) of the awarded funds and the partners is planned.

PKF: In a practical sense, the figure '100 million euro to Myanmar civil society organisations since 2014' has been used by the EU. Some readers are interested in an overall break down of which EU programs this $100 million euro came from?

Between 2014-2017, the total amount of support the EU (only) has provided to CSOs is around EUR 100 million including multi-donor trust funds (LIFT and JPF) bilateral programmes and funding to INGO's. Out of the 100 million EUR, 19 million EUR was directly awarded to civil society through the Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities programme.

The projects supported to date have addressed key areas for democratic transition such as the protection of human rights defenders, the promotion of active citizenship, gender equality and the strengthening of ethnic voices.

At the moment, there is an ongoing call for proposals under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, and Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities (CSO/LA) Thematic Programme, launched in January 2019. This call for proposals will award 8.000.000 EUR for projects that focus on the following:

- The respect for diversity, the promotion of cultural pluralism, and the combat against hate speech and radicalization - The governance of extractive industries and advocacy for land rights, with a focus on transparency, accountability and combatting corruption - Protecting the freedom of press, freedom of expression and freedom of association.

PKF: Last year, as part of the strategy consultations, the EU committed itself to - “provide centralised information about open calls for proposals managed by the EUD and/or its implementing partners; - publish of an annual forecast of funding opportunities for Myanmar CSOs from the EU, - a database of EU-funded projects including projects implemented through partnerships with other international partners and (inter)national and regional CSOs” Can you give us an update on progress has been made on these commitments?

* The new CSO-LA and EIDHR Call 2019 was just launch on 7 January 2019. Information of the call was provided through EU website and FB. Information session of the call was held on 6 Feb 2019. *A database of EU-funded projects can be founded in Mohinga ( * An EU/CSO partnership facebook page is set up that and will provide updated and relevant information on funding opportunities. ( * An e-newsletter is under development which will also provide updated and relevant information on funding opportunities. * An annual overview (publication) of the awarded funds and the partners is planned.

PKF: The EU has said that their new strategy will not provide civil society with new funding opportunities, but will influence access for civil society to their existing geographic and thematic instruments.

The strategy itself will not mobilse additional funding but the funding for civil society projects in the period 2018 – 2020 through the Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities programme will remain the same as in 2014 – 2017 period: 9 million Euros. This budget is in addition to continued funding through other channels such as multi-donor trusts funds and bilateral programmes.

PKF: How influential was the new strategy in the recent allocation of €221m to the education sector? (Question from PK forum Facebook).

Education is a responsibility of the state/government but in order to get a clear idea of what is going on the ground the role of civil society is important. Moreover it is recognized that for certain specific activities or geographical context civil society (in collaboration with government) is a better provider.

Therefore: • During the programming phase of the education sector budget support operation our education partners (inclusing civil society organisations) were consulted; • Part of the 221 M EUR (to be determined how much) will be allocated to civil society to implement technical and vocational education activities; • On top of the 221 M Eur for budget support the EUD is currently in the process of allocating 20 M Eur to civil society for education in ethnic areas. • During the annual education reviews (which is part of the monitoring for the budget support operation) civil society (including teachers' unions) is consulted.

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