Launched in October 2012, Amatae has played a unique role supporting civil society in Burma (Myanmar) during a period of transformation that brought both excitement and uncertainty in equal measure.
Funded by the Department for International Development, the Amatae project provided a scaffold for organisational development in Burma. By offering a platform for growth, Amatae enabled new and existing civil society organisations (CSOs) to develop the skills and capacities to secure their future by giving them the power to play a more influential role in society.
After four years supporting 16 core CSOs, project Amatae has come to an end, allowing representatives from Burma’s social and political development community a window on which to reflect on past success and look ahead to the future.
The Yangon School of Political Science (YSPS), an autonomous political science institute and the lifelong dream of a group of locally-based grassroots scholars, was able to become a reality through Amatae support. YSPS were one of Amatae’s partners to have increased sustainability and offset donor funding needs by developing a social business to cover core costs:
“We have become a genuine academic institution. We have a Masters’ programme that will be certificated with an overseas university and a strong research capacity. We believe our survey methodology ranks first in the country.”
Along with the need for mentoring and coaching to make the most of new organisational systems, alternative income generation strategies were a key topic of discussion. For the Ecosystem Conservation & Community Development Initiative, their green perspective led them to make plans for well into the future: “Our fuel wood plantation should, eventually, bring in sufficient revenue to see us through good times and bad times. It is also of benefit to the communities around the plantation, environmentally and socially”.
In light of recent in-depth research on Amatae that looked to the future and explored ideas for Amatae 2.0, CSO and development partner representatives have been considering what further support could be made available. While building on the programme’s flexible approach, any similar future fund could, amongst other things, maximise effectiveness through a much longer project period and therefore play a role in promoting wider donor discussion on civil society support.
Despite the positive changes in Burma in recent years, and the high expectations for its nascent democracy, strong and autonomous civil society organisations will be vital to ensure that its social, political and economic development is sustainable, inclusive and equitable.