Peacebuilding, Public Authority, and Forests in Myanmar

Project summary

The project seeks to understand how authority is produced through the governance of land, natural resources, and people in areas of prolonged armed conflict and contested statehood. It
contributes to wider debates about the impact of natural resource governance on access to resources, rural livelihoods, state-building, and sustainable peace in contexts where various
state and non-state actors compete and collaborate for the right to rule. Drawing on political ecology the project will investigate everyday governance practices of land and forests in
Tanintharyi region of Southeast Myanmar where the Karen National Union competes with the Myanmar Central Government over the right to govern the land, natural resources, and people.
The project deploys a mixed-method approach to explore and document the patterns of collaboration, competition and conflict that exist between different public authorities as well as
the basic social contracts, which link enforceable resource rights, through citizenship, to public authority. Empirically, the project will investigate (i) the daily governance practices of land and forest resources, (ii) local communities’, de facto, forest and land rights, (iii) rural livelihoods under conditions of fragmented public authority, (iv) the stakes of the competition over the right to govern land and forest resources at multiple levels, and (v) how these practices and processes constitute public authority over forest and land resources at the local level. Enhanced knowledge on these issues can inform actors involved in the peace process by identifying important hurdles as well as conflict-mitigating, equitable, sustainable, and legitimate resource governance practises, which donors can realistically support.


First year report
Due to Covid-19 restrictions and the military coup in Myanmar on 01 Feb 2021, the project partners agreed to initiate our activities by employing two PhD students at Chulalongkorn University by mid-August 2021. The reason being that, according to Chulalongkorn's PhD programme, PhD students must do full time coursework in their first two trimesters, i.e. eight months. All other planned project activities were put on hold in 2021, to assess the political development in Myanmar and the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

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