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Talking about poverty in Myanmar

August 12, 2009

 

Last week I returned from a trip to Myanmar where I was a resource person for two workshops organized by UNICEF. The first workshop was a two-day event for government officials, academic researchers and civil society delegates on social policy. This included topics such as the social budgeting, experiences of social policies in the Asian region and poverty, the topic about which I spoke. The second workshop was a smaller get-together of UNICEF and UNDP staff, going into the more technical details of monetary and multidimensional poverty measurement and what makes it different for children.

It was a very interesting week in Myanmar. The workshops encouraged active discussion and received positive feedback, which was in contrast to expectations. Of course, poverty is a sensitive topic to discuss and we (the resource persons as well as UNICEF) were a bit unsure about how to approach the discussion. But it appeared to be no problem to actually call poverty ” poverty”  and participants seemed comfortable enough to discuss issues around conceptualization and measurement. Also, without having much previous information about the country of Myanmar apart from the obvious, the country  positively surprised me. People are very friendly and open and the landscape is just beautiful. Just a shame that it was the middle of the monsoon period so everything had to be watched from behind a curtain of rain…

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