Fruit Vendor Myanmar

A vendor in Yangon, Myanmar selling various fruits. Issues related to conflict resolution could impede efforts to implement SDG goals. (Mona Christophersen)

News out of Myanmar in recent months has been dominated by the abuses being carried out against the country’s Rohingya minority population. These events often overshadow that Myanmar has also started on a democratic path towards peace and development after decades of military rule and armed ethnic conflicts. The country’s transformation both from war to peace and from military rule towards democracy could theoretically build a solid foundation for development and prosperity, particularly because government leaders have embraced the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG). Yet, among the many challenges Myanmar faces, issues related to conflict resolution—not the least the Rohingya issue—could, if not handled properly, turn into serious stumbling blocks in their efforts to implement the SDGs.

Despite progress in ceasefire agreements, the government continues to be in conflict with many of the country’s armed ethnic groups. The result is a lack of national consensus over development and the future of Myanmar, which includes the country’s engagement with the SDGs. After a recent research trip, we can identify three main ideas, ambitions, or possible visions for the country’s development and future state formation, each linked to a particular experience of the conflicts and subsequent relationship with the central government.

The first is found among the majority Bamar population who live mostly in the central low-land areas. Here the central government has control over security and a shared vision for the future of the state with the majority of the population. This population views the government as their representatives and they have trust in their intentions and ambitions. The government can thus plan and implement development in a systematic manner, such as outlined in the SDGs. Read more