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change for children in Myanmar

November 22, 2011

 

These are exciting times in Myanmar, and the country has been in the news frequently in the last few weeks. There was a (limited) release of political prisoners, Myanmar will chair ASEAN in 2014, Hilary Clinton has announced a visit to the country for next week and Aung San Suu Kyi has decided to run in a by-election to become a member of parliament. Despite the country’s oppressive history in the last twenty years, these changes give rise to cautious optimism. Certainly as they are also mirrored by small, but significant, changes that I noticed during my visit to the country last week. The growing flow of tourists made it difficult to book a hotel room; I had access to virtually all websites; and posters of Aung San Suu Kyi, and her father, were sold on the streets in the centre of Yangon. Small, but very notable, changes since my previous visit in December last year.

This sense of positive change also seems to ring through, albeit slowly, in policy discussions. The opening of policy space allows for more constructive debates around development in the country, and a response to the dire living conditions of many people in Myanmar. I presented preliminary findings of a study on child well-being and, against the backdrop of those findings, took part in a workshop to discuss the potential for social protection to improve the lives of children in the country. It was very encouraging to see the level of commitment with national participants in that workshop, and the growing momentum around issues of social policy and social protection. Yes, there is a danger to be too optimistic, but last week’s experience confirmed my belief it would be a missed opportunity not to engage at all – change is happening and now is the time to be supportive in making that change a positive one.

 

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