Addressing challenges of urban local governance in Myanmar


VNG International, a Netherlands based global organization having decades of experience in municipal governance, has launched an EU funded project MAGIC to support Development Affairs Organizations (DAOs) in urban municipalities, that govern and provide public services to the urban population of Myanmar.

The formal launch of the project, Municipal Accountability, Governance, and Inclusive Communities (MAGIC) was held recently in Yangon in the presence of officials of municipal affairs of Tanintharyi Region and Chin State, CSO representatives and donor and INGO community.

Welcoming the participants, program director of VNG International, Mr Chris van der Valk pointed out that through MAGIC, it brings the global experience of strengthening local governance and the focus would also be on sharing knowledge and experiences with other stakeholders.

Speaking on the occasion, Head of Cooperation of EU Delegation Dr Johan Hesse stressed the commitment of EU in supporting the ongoing democratic and policy reforms and improving conditions of people at the grassroots level in Myanmar. Identifying criticality of local governance and establishing accountability of local agencies towards the citizens, he pointed out that MAGIC would be able to identify tools and methods of improving efficiency and effectiveness of public services delivery at the municipal level and meet the expectations of the people.

The proposed project would also meet the needs of the urban population in identified townships with a focus on aspects like waste management, water management, and development planning. He stressed the need for strengthening coordination among the line departments and different other entities at the municipality level and coordination with the region and state governments and union ministries in improving the efficiency of public services. Focusing on expanding women’s participation in decision making in urban bodies would also go a long way in addressing gender equality.

Netherlands Ambassador to Myanmar Mr Wouter Jurgens commended VNG International to take up this project as it has decades of experience of working with Dutch municipalities on governance issues. Extending the commitment of the Netherlands in the democratic transition of Myanmar, he pointed out the need for working through partners and different government stakeholders, as the municipal administration is a complex process. Supporting and strengthening municipal organizations is critical as they are closer to the people and meet the day-to-day expectations of the people living in municipal areas.

Representatives of DAOs of Tanintharyi and Chin States welcomed the project and assured cooperation from the government in its implementation. Identifying that there has been an expansion of the geographical scope of urban bodies over the years, they sought the need for technical assistance from VNG and its partners in the planning process, ensuring public services accountability and governance.

MAGIC being implemented by VNG International in partnership with Lok Ahlinn and Hornbill Organization in Tanintharyi and Chin States aims to improve the functioning of DAOs in terms of their governance, accountability and community participation. In the context of Myanmar, DAOs are the only bodies that have been entrusted with the municipal administration with the direct responsibility of the state and region governments. This provides a unique opportunity of engaging on policy advocacy with the state and regional governments for reforming DAOs.

The MAGIC project aims to strengthen DAOs through capacity building of these entities in terms of planning, budgeting and revenue collection, delivery of quality public services, access to information, transparency and accountability and establishing linkages between town level DAOs with the state and region level DAO offices and the ministry. Seeking administrative, political and social accountability in DAOs is one of the unique features at this stage, as DAOs are under direct control of the state and region governments who can exercise a legal mandate.

VNG International with the support of implementation partners is planning to provide technical assistance in the areas of participatory and gender-responsive budgeting, revenue generation opportunities, social accountability, political leadership and public communication so that DAOs are able to function effectively in meeting the needs of the people.

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