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Myanmar’s top-down transition : Challenges for civil society

Brenner, David and Schulman, Sarah LU (2019) In IDS Bulletin 50(3). p.17-36
Abstract

This article historicises the nature of political transition in Myanmar to better appreciate the challenges faced by civil society. After Myanmar’s political reforms in 2011, Western donors rushed into the country in support of what they misunderstood as a remarkable instance of democratisation. In 2019, escalating civil war, ethnic cleansing, and contracting civil liberties urge a rethink. This article argues that viewing transition in Myanmar through the lens of democratisation has always been misleading and problematic. Partial liberalisation was orchestrated by the military to safeguard its own power. Reforms have not only benefited civil society but also enabled the growth of uncivil society, fuelling sectarian violence and... (More)

This article historicises the nature of political transition in Myanmar to better appreciate the challenges faced by civil society. After Myanmar’s political reforms in 2011, Western donors rushed into the country in support of what they misunderstood as a remarkable instance of democratisation. In 2019, escalating civil war, ethnic cleansing, and contracting civil liberties urge a rethink. This article argues that viewing transition in Myanmar through the lens of democratisation has always been misleading and problematic. Partial liberalisation was orchestrated by the military to safeguard its own power. Reforms have not only benefited civil society but also enabled the growth of uncivil society, fuelling sectarian violence and bolstering military rule. Operating on the assumption of democratisation, Western donors shifted funds from grass-roots networks to militarised state bureaucracies that seek to co-opt peace-building and development projects for the purposes of ethnocratic state-building and counterinsurgency. Rethinking the nature of transition is pivotal for preventing inadvertently aiding authoritarianism and conflict.

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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Aid, Civil society, Civil war, Civil–military relations, Democratisation, Development, Ethnic conflict, Myanmar, Peace‑building, Transition
in
IDS Bulletin
volume
50
issue
3
pages
20 pages
publisher
John Wiley & Sons
external identifiers
  • scopus:85073546343
ISSN
0265-5012
DOI
10.19088/1968-2019.128
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
d59a268e-6f2d-40fb-9eff-0267d6d666b1
date added to LUP
2019-10-29 13:01:42
date last changed
2019-11-13 05:42:09
@article{d59a268e-6f2d-40fb-9eff-0267d6d666b1,
  abstract     = {<p>This article historicises the nature of political transition in Myanmar to better appreciate the challenges faced by civil society. After Myanmar’s political reforms in 2011, Western donors rushed into the country in support of what they misunderstood as a remarkable instance of democratisation. In 2019, escalating civil war, ethnic cleansing, and contracting civil liberties urge a rethink. This article argues that viewing transition in Myanmar through the lens of democratisation has always been misleading and problematic. Partial liberalisation was orchestrated by the military to safeguard its own power. Reforms have not only benefited civil society but also enabled the growth of uncivil society, fuelling sectarian violence and bolstering military rule. Operating on the assumption of democratisation, Western donors shifted funds from grass-roots networks to militarised state bureaucracies that seek to co-opt peace-building and development projects for the purposes of ethnocratic state-building and counterinsurgency. Rethinking the nature of transition is pivotal for preventing inadvertently aiding authoritarianism and conflict.</p>},
  author       = {Brenner, David and Schulman, Sarah},
  issn         = {0265-5012},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {17--36},
  publisher    = {John Wiley & Sons},
  series       = {IDS Bulletin},
  title        = {Myanmar’s top-down transition : Challenges for civil society},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.19088/1968-2019.128},
  doi          = {10.19088/1968-2019.128},
  volume       = {50},
  year         = {2019},
}