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The Burma Environmental Working Group
Update to Burma's Environment: People, Problems, Policies
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 15:54
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Burma has extensive biodiversity and abundant natural resources, which have in recentyears been threatened by militarization, large-scale resource extraction, and infrastructure development. Burma has some laws and policies related to protecting people and the environment, but the country lacks the necessary administrative and legal structures, standards, safeguards and political will to enforce such provisions. The country is also a party to several international treaties relating to the environment, including those on protection of biodiversity and indigenous peoples, wildlife, and countering climate change. It is unclear, however, how the contents of those treaties that have been ratified have been incorporated into domestic law.
Many organizations are active in Burma on projects and programs related to environmental protection and sustainable development. This includes a broad range of community-based organizations, grassroots organizations, national and international NGOs, UN agencies, and church groups both based in government-controlled areas of Burma (‘inside’) and those based in the Thai and Chinese border regions (‘border groups’). Many organizations take the ‘traditional’ conservation approach or the rights-based approach or both. Organizations that are using a rights-based approach work from a perspective of sustainable development and livelihoods and subsequently focus on issues such as food security, land tenure and rights, and community development and organizing. Conservation organizations tend to focus specifically on environmental protection, although with varying strategies to achieve their common goal. Organizations working on environmental issues also focus on environmental awareness,education and training, policy development, advocacy and networking.

Communities continue to be excluded from protected forest areas, threatening their forestbased livelihoods. The 1990s and 2000s witnessed severe logging, first along the Thai-Burma border and then along the China border in northern Burma. Although the logging rush has somewhat subsided along these borders, the government and military continue to allocatelogging concessions to Chinese and Burmese business people, irrespective of national andlocal laws regulating sustainable forestry practices. Timber, however, contributes much less to GDP as other resource sectors boom. Community forestry is positioned to challenge the manner in which timber resources are managed, providing some promising devolution ii trends.
Land tenure remains very weak in Burma. The state owns all the land and resources in Burma, with most villagers having no formal land title for their customary agricultural land. New policies have been put in place allocating land concessions to private entities which do not respect customary land rights or informal land holdings. There are no safeguards to protect farmers from the onslaught of capitalism or mechanisms to help them benefit.

Control over natural resources is a major cause of conflict in ethnic areas, where the majority of Burma’s natural resources remain. Foreign direct investment in Burma is concentrated in energy and extractive sectors and often results in militarization and displacement. Recently there has been heightened interest from countries in the region for more investment opportunities. Given the lack of sound economic policy and unwillingness of the state to reconcile with ethnic armed groups, an increase in foreign investment could have a major impact on the environment and communities living in these areas.
While they do not provide loans, international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund remain engaged in Burma. The Asian Development Bank in particular provides assistance through various channels and facilitates private investment. 

Burma is currently facing many threats to the natural environment and sustainable livelihoods, such as construction of large dams, oil and gas extraction, mining, deforestation, large-scale agricultural concessions, illegal wildlife trade and climate change.The majority of Burma’s income comes from selling off natural resources, including billions of dollars from gas and hydropower development. Investment comes from countries within the region– most significantly China, India and Thailand. Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam and Korea are also key investors looking to increase investments after the elections. These resource extractive investments damage the environment and threaten local resource-based livelihoods, particularly in ethnic areas.

In order to take steps towards ecologically and socially responsible development in Burma, Burma must have a sound policy framework for environmental protection and sustainable development that enables citizens to take part in decision making about their own development, and ensures responsible private sector investment. Until then, new foreign investors investing in energy, extractive and plantation sectors should refrain from investing. Existing investors should immediately cease all project-related work - particularly in sensitive areas throughout Burma - until adequate safeguards are in place to ensure investment does not lead to unnecessary destruction of the natural environment and local livelihoods. At the same time, International NGOs and UN agencies should ensure people are recognized as key actors in their own development, rather than passive recipients of commodities and services; and civil society organizations should empower communities throughout Burma
to understand their rights.

You can download the update here (120k).

The full report, Burma's Environment:  People, Problems, Policies, is available in English and Burmese here.

 
Training Materials for Sustainable Development
Friday, 21 March 2014 14:27

 

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BEWG has produced a set of training materials for communities and community-based organisations learning to advocate for sustainable development.  Please feel free to use and circulate these materials.

  • Advocating for Sustainable Development Presentation:  This presentation covers the basic facts about what the environment is, climate change and threats from unsustainable development, what sustainability is, and how communities can stand up for their rights against authorities and project developers.  Download it here.
  • Sustainable Development Training Course: This is a curriculum for a two-day course in advocating for sustainable development.  It covers the basics about the environment, what communities' rights are, and how to gather information, get community support, and make your voice heard.  The curriculum includes a lot of training games to help participants understand the concepts it teaches.  Download it here.
  • Development & Decisions: This is a roleplaying game that can be used in a training.  It takes players through the steps of creating an advocacy campaign, and tests how well they can respond to obstacles.  Download it here.
All of these materials are designed to go with BEWG's guidebook for communities, Advocating for Sustainable Development in Burma.
 
An Open Letter to Telenor
Thursday, 26 September 2013 15:27

The government of Burma recently granted a licence to the Norwegian company Telenor (along with Quatar Telecom) to develop a wireless network and deliver mobile phone services in Burma.  According to Telenor's website, the company intends to move quickly and "drive significant growth in mobile penetration through a rapid network roll-out".

Telenor has said that it will consult with Burma civil society about its operations.  Therefore, BEWG has submitted an open letter to the directors of Telenor, raising concerns about risks to communities and asking about Telenor's plans for dealing with these risks, in the hopes that this will help create an open discussion.  You can read the letter here.

 
Advocating for Sustainable Development in Burma - Now In Local Languages!
Thursday, 15 August 2013 18:02

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Advocating for Sustainable Development, BEWG's guide to environmental advocacy for grassroots organisations, is now available in the Kachin and Shan languages.  Find all versions of the report, along with updates on Burma's environmental law and the World Bank's role in Burma's development, here.

 
Advocating for Sustainable Development in Burma - Now Available!
Thursday, 09 August 2012 17:42

Sustinable_by_Dreo

 

BEWG's latest publication, Advocating for Sustainable Development in Burma, is now available online in English, Burmese, Kachin, and Shan. Advocating for Sustainable Development in Burma is a resource for grassroots organisations and individuals; it provides information about the concept of sustainable development and about the government of Burma’s commitments and responsibilities when it comes to sustainable development.

 


A special online-online section looks at the green economy and Burma. Advocating for Sustainable Development in Burma will also receive regular online updates; the first two updates, below, examine Burma's new Environmental Conservation Law and its relationship with the World Bank and other IFIs.

Burmese version (5.6M)

Full English version (1.7M) | Text Only English Version (481k)

Kachin version (870k)

Shan version (1.3M)

Online-Only Section: Green Economy in Burma (36k)

Update! - Burma's New Enviornmental Conservation Law (24k)

Update! - A Quick Guide to the World Bank and Other International Financial Institutions (146k)

 

 
ျမန္မာ့ သဘာ၀ပတ္၀န္းက်င္အလုပ္အဖြဲ႔မွ စြမ္းအင္၊ ဓါတ္သတၱဳတူးေဖၚေရးႏွင့္ ေျမယာက႑တြင္ ရင္းႏွီးျမွဳပ္ႏွံမႈ စံသတ္မွတ္ခ်က္ႏွင့္ပတ္သက္၍ ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကျငာခ်က္။
Saturday, 28 April 2012 12:14

ေန႔စြဲ - ၂၀၁၂ ခုႏွစ္၊ မတ္လ (၂၂)ရက္။

လူထုအေျချပဳ အဖြဲ႔အစည္းမ်ားျဖင့္ မဟာမိတ္ဖြဲ႕စုစည္းထားေသာ ျမန္မာ့သဘာ၀ပတ္၀န္းက်င္အလုပ္အဖြဲ႔မွ ျမန္မာႏို္င္ငံ၏ စိုးရိမ္ရသည့္က႑မ်ားျဖစ္ေသာ စြမ္းအင္၊ ဓါတ္သတၱဳတူးေဖၚေရးႏွင့္ ေျမယာက႑တို႔တြင္ ရင္းႏွီးျမဳပ္ႏွံမႈဆိုင္ရာ စံသတ္မွတ္ခ်က္ အား တာ၀န္ခံ၊တာ၀န္ယူမႈရွိသည့္ ရင္းႏွီးျမဳပ္ႏွံမႈဆိုင္ရာလုပ္ငန္းေဘာင္အျဖစ္ လိုက္နာၾကရန္အတြက္  ေၾကျငာခ်က္ ထုတ္ျပန္လိုက္ သည္။ ဤေၾကျငာခ်က္သည္ အေနာက္အုပ္စု ဒီမိုကေရစီႏိုင္ငံမ်ားမွ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံ အေပၚစီးပြားေရးပိတ္ဆို႔အေရးယူထားမႈကို ေလ်ာ့ခ်ျခင္း (သို႕) ရုတ္သိမ္းျခင္းႁပဳေတာ့မည့္အေရးႄကီးသည့္အခ်ိန္ ႏွင့္ ကုမၸဏီမ်ား နွင့္ နိုင္ငံမ်ားမွ စြန္႕စားမႈၾကီးမားသည့္ ရင္းႏွီးျမဳပ္ႏွံမႈမ်ားျပဳလုပ္ရန္ စိတ္၀င္စားလ်က္ရွိသည့္အခ်ိန္ႏွင့္ အခ်ိန္ကိုက္ ထုတ္ျပန္လိုက္ျခင္းပင္ ျဖစ္သည္။ အကယ္၍ ဤစံသတ္မွတ္ခ်က္ကို စြဲၿမဲစြာလိုက္နာပါက သမိုင္းတြင္သည့္ ရင္းႏွီးျမဳပ္ႏွံမႈ ႏွင့္ ယွဥ္တြဲလ်က္ျဖစ္ပြားသည့္ လူ႔အခြင့္အေရးႏွင့္ သဘာ၀ပတ္၀န္းက်င္ခ်ိဳးေဖာက္ခဲ့သည့္က႑မ်ားတြင္ ရင္းႏွီးျမဳပ္ႏွံျခင္းသည္ လူထုဘ၀အက်ဳိးျဖစ္ထြန္းရျခင္း ႏွင့္ အေရွ႕ေတာင္ အာရွတြင္ ေပၚထြန္းလာမည့္ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံ၏ ႏိုင္ငံေရး၊ လူမႈေရး ႏွင့္သဘာ၀ပတ္၀န္းက်င္အရ တိုးတက္ျဖစ္ေပၚမႈကို ထိခိုက္ေစမည္ မဟုတ္ပါ။ ၁၉၈၀ ေႏွာင္းပိုင္းခုႏွစ္မ်ားမွစတင္တိုးပြားခဲ့ေသာရင္းႏွီးျမဳပ္ႏွံမႈမ်ား အထူးသျဖင့္သဘာ၀သယံဇာတကို အငမ္းမရ မက္ေမာေသာ အိမ္နီးခ်င္းအာရွႏိုင္ငံမ်ား၏ အထူးစီးပြားေရးဇုံမ်ားတည္ေဆာက္ျခင္းအပါအ၀င္ ရင္းႏွီးျမဳပ္ႏွံမႈက႑မ်ားသည္ အၾကမ္းဖက္မႈမ်ားကို တိုးပြားလာေစျခင္း၊ ေဒသခံလူထုအေပၚလူ႔အခြင့္အေရးခ်ိဳးေဖါက္မႈျဖစ္ေပၚေစျခင္း၊ ေဒသခံတို႔၏ အစဥ္အလာ အသက္ေမြးဝမ္းေက်ာင္းမႈကို ၿခိမ္းေျခာက္လာျခင္းႏွင့္ သဘာ၀ပတ္၀န္းက်င္ ပ်က္စီးယိုယြင္းမႈမ်ားကို ယခုတိုင္ ျဖစ္ေပၚေစခဲ့သည္။

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Burma Environmental Working Group Issues Benchmarks for Investment in Energy, Extractive and Land Sectors in Burma
Thursday, 22 March 2012 14:06

Today, the Burma Environmental Working Group (BEWG) – an alliance of grassroots-based organizations – issues its Benchmarks for Investment in Burma’s Energy, Extractive and Land Sectors to serve as a framework for responsible investment in critical sectors in Burma. The release of the benchmarks comes at a very important time when Western democracies are considering easing or eliminating existing economic sanctions against Burma, and companies and countries are showing renewed interest in investment in Burma despite a high risk investment environment. Adherence to the benchmarks will increase the likelihood that investment in sectors that have been historically linked with human rights and environmental abuses will benefit the people of Burma and does not undermine effective political, social and environmental progress in this emerging South East Asian country.

Press Release in English, in Burmese

Benchmarks Statement in English, in Burmese

Contacts:
For English contact Paul Sein Twa at +66.(0)81.724.7093 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
For Burmese contact Wong Aung  at +66.(0)85.713.3344 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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End Burma’s Resource Curse Says Watchdog Group
Thursday, 22 March 2012 16:28

AOW 2012 Burmas Resource CurseAs investors start flooding in to Burma, a lack of revenue transparency and accountability is set to exacerbate the country’s resource curse, warns a watchdog group today.

According to a report by the Arakan Oil Watch, billions of dollars in revenues from the sale of natural gas have gone unrecorded in Burma’s public accounts and been siphoned off by corrupt military rulers, leaving Burma with some of the worst social indicators in the world and embroiled in conflicts over natural resources.

Natural gas exports are the biggest foreign income earner for Burma, amounting to over US$2 billion in sales per year since 2006. Revenues are set to increase by 60% as new gas exports to China and Thailand begin as early as next year. An additional 41 oil and gas blocks are currently under exploration by various foreign companies.

Despite recent moves by the new government to improve the budgetary process, detailed income and disbursement of oil and gas revenues remain undisclosed. The role of military enterprises in controlling gas revenues is also opaque.

“With new gas projects in the pipeline and more investors pouring in, Burma’s people urgently need to know where the gas money is and how it is spent” said Jockai Khaing of the Arakan Oil Watch. “A new influx of revenues without transparency will simply entrench military dominance of the economy.”

The report calls for the establishment of laws and institutions which will manage oil and gas revenues transparently before further extraction of natural resources by foreign investors. Laws that require impact assessments and the free, prior and informed consent of affected communities are also needed to ensure the protection of rights and the environment.

Press Releases, Briefer and full report, which includes case studies of revenue transparency systems from other oil and gas rich countries, can be downloaded here:

Arakan Oil Watch Burma's Resource Curse - Press Release - English, Chinese, Thai, Burmese

Arakan Oil Watch Burma's Resource Curse - Briefer - English

Arakan Oil Watch Burma's Resource Curse - Report - English, Burmese

Alternative Download Site for all files

The Arakan Oil Watch is a community-based organization monitoring oil and gas projects in Burma.

Contact:  Jockai Khaing +66 82 184 1335 +66 88 157 1328

 
Arakan Oil Watch to launch Revenue Transparency Report / BEWG to launch Benchmarks
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 16:39

AOW-2012-BurmasResourceCurseYou are invited to the launch of a new report by Arakan Oil Watch titled ‘Burma’s Resource Curse’ the case for revenue transparency in the oil and gas sector at 10 am on March 22, 2012. Read it here! EnglishBurmese

The report highlights the lack of transparency and accountability by successive Burmese governments and continuing military control over the country's natural resources. Arakan Oil Watch suggests alternative models of revenue transparency management from oil and gas rich countries such as Timor Leste, Brazil and Norway, and analyzes key lessons for Burma at this critical time.

The Burma Environment Working Group (BEWG), an alliance of grassroots-based organizations, will also be presenting its “Benchmarks for Responsible Investment in Burma’s Energy, Extractive and Land Sectors”.  Benchmarks have been developed to ensure that growing investment in Burma does not undermine effective political, social and environmental progress in Burma.

Speakers:
Jockai, Arakan Oil Watch
Paul Sein Twa, Burma Environment Working Group
Launch Date: March 22, 2012
Place: Laeelawadee Room ( IC ), Chiang Mai
Contact email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Phone: +66 (0)82 184 1335
 
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