Everyday Justice and Security in the Myanmar Transition


Start date: 31 December, 2014 End date: 30 November, 2021 Project type: Research collaboration projects in Danida priority countries (Window 1) Project code: 14-04DIIS Countries: Myanmar Thematic areas: Conflict, peace and security, Lead institution: Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), Denmark Partner institutions: Enlightened Myanmar Research (EMR), Myanmar Aarhus University (AU), Denmark Yangon University (UY), Myanmar Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Helene Maria Kyed Total grant: 8,956,885 DKK

Project summary

This timely project will build research capacity and inform policy interventions by investigating the production of locally legitimate authority in transitional contexts with contested statehood. This is analyzed through the lens of everyday justice and security provision in two of Myanmar’s ethnic-minority states – Karen and Mon - where decades of armed conflict have subjected populations to multiple authorities and conflict stakeholders.

The state’s failure to provide public goods, including justice and security, does not imply an absence of governance or societal order, but rather the functioning of alternative governance arrangements. Evidence-based knowledge of such arrangements is acutely needed as Myanmar reforms its institutions and opens up for international donors after 65 years of conflict and authoritarian rule. Theoretically, the project contributes to state-of-the art debates on fragile statehood with an innovative focus on the importance of translocal relations. Qualitative case studies and network analysisare used. We apply the concepts of hybridization, strategies of legitimization, and translocality to connect our empirical observations to broader theories of authority. The project forms a partnership between Yangon University, Enlightened Myanmar Research, Danish Institute for International Studies and Aarhus University. Through this partnership, the project assists in strengthening Myanmar’s capacity for social science research.


Midterm report 2018:

In-depth fieldwork on everyday justice and local authority has been carried out in 17 localities across Karen State (6 sites), Mon State (6 sites), Yangon (2 sites) and in Danu, Pa-O and Naga Self-administered Zones (3 sites). This includes urban and rural areas, as well as areas fully or partly governed by the official Myanmar State and some by one of the ethnic armed organizations. Detailed interview and fieldnotes have been produced permitting cross-cutting analysis, which by June 2019 has resulted in 25 academic papers, mainly by the Myanmar researchers, and 7 policy-related reports/briefs. Research findings have been widely shared and discussed at international conferences and with key stakeholders in Myanmar, including practitioners and policy-makers. Important briefings have been translated to Burmese to facilitate policy impact. Because of its in-depth empirical findings from hitherto understudied areas, the project has earned a strong position in debates about justice in Myanmar.

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