Burma is at a development crossroads. Since 2010, the new government has made slow changes to show that it may be opening its doors to the world to let in increased investment and aid. However, despite minor political and economic changes, Burma’s people still live in appalling social, political and economic conditions. For over fifty years, the ruling junta has been heavily criticized worldwide for its human rights abuses and environmental violations, particularly targeting ethnic minority groups. The country has been in a downward spiral following the seizing of power by the military in 1962, and the Burmese government has been at war with many of its own people ever since. In 2012, there is renewed hope for Burma as it reengages with the world, after years of isolation.
Despite these changes, many people in Burma still lack basic access to food, health and education, despite Burma’s abundance of natural resources. Combined with the government’s harmful agricultural and economic policies, pollution from new industries and unsustainable development practices have all resulted in a chronic state of suffering for many marginalized populations throughout Burma.
It is within this context that the Network for Environment and Economic Development (NEED-Burma) was created in 2006 and is attempting to act as a catalyst for progressive change within Burma. It is our belief that Burmese civil society, particularly youth, must be strengthened and empowered at the grassroots level, so that youth capacity for building a sustainable future is possible. Through ecological farming practices at our Model Farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we are working to build a network of model organic, sustainable farms in Burma, to serve as learning centers for farmers and youth.
However, there are still major obstacles to overcome for a free, democratic and prosperous nation. Burma’s future must be in the hands of its people – not multinational investors seeking to exploit Burma’s natural resources. It is the responsibility of all Burmese people to ensure that the losses of years of civil war were not in vain.
Civil society in Burma, particularly farmers, possesses significant potential, and in fact is the primary motivator for change. This journal is just one example of Burmese people coming together to try and effectuate real and meaningful change in Burma.
We hope you will find our new website helpful, filled with information to help social change-makers overcome their fears and fulfill their responsibilities for the future of Burma. Together, we can create a sustainable development path for Burma, motivated by the rich diversity of our land and people.
Khaing Dhu Wan
Network for Environment and Economic Development (NEED-Burma))