Myanmar: Climate Actions, Conflict and Peacebuilding


Start date: 1 December, 2021 End date: 30 November, 2026 Project type: Research projects in countries with extended development cooperation (earlier Window 1) Project code: 20-05-DIIS Countries: Myanmar Thematic areas: Climate change, Conflict, peace and security, Natural resource management, Lead institution: Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), Denmark Partner institutions: Enlightened Myanmar Research (EMR), Myanmar Yangon University (UY), Myanmar Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Helene Maria Kyed Total grant: 12,000,000 DKK

Project summary

This research project (MyClimate) explores how climate change interventions affect and are affected by existing conflict dynamics over natural resources and identity politics in six of Myanmar’s contested ethnic areas (Kachin, Chin, Mon, Naga, Pa-O, Karen). Through ethnographic field research in these areas, MyClimate studies the ways that new adaptation and mitigation projects reconfigure land tenure relations and affect the institutional competition over natural resource control among a plurality of state and non-state actors. By adding an analysis of identity as a vector in negotiations over climate project benefits, we bring new insights to existing theories of the climate-conflict nexus, which predominantly focus on the material or institutional aspects of conflict. MyClimate fills an empirical gap in critical studies of climate change interventions with its focus on conflict-affected contexts that have multiple governance and land tenure systems. Through a cross-cutting analysis of the empirical case studies - supplemented with national-level interviews and document studies - we identify the conditions under which climate change projects engender conflicts or contribute to peacebuilding. This knowledge can assist policymakers and international agencies in developing conflict-sensitive and peacebuilding-oriented climate change policies and projects for fragile contexts. Myanmar is a critical case for such an endeavour given its very high vulnerability to climate change and its extensive history of recent and ongoing armed conflicts.
The project builds on a strong partnership between the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation (EMReF) and Yangon University. Through our joint fieldwork, trainings, publications and public dissemination activities we help advance social science research capacity in Myanmar on a topic of acute relevance for the country’s future that has mainly been studied from a natural-scientific perspective and without a conflict lens.


First year report
One objective of MyClimate is to produce new empirical knowledge on how communities in Myanmar perceive and cope with the effects of climate change during a time of profound crisis. Another objective is to explore how different actors (military-state, opposition groups, CSOs and international agencies) engage with climate change and how these interact with the conflict dynamics. In the first year, we focused on securing Myanmar researchers’ safety, literature readings, and on developing a methodology suitable to the volatile political situation (combining digital, remote and in situ ethnography). Preliminary findings suggest that climate change is severely impacting local livelihoods, which is exacerbated by conflict. People attribute climate change to decades of military rule and extractive initiatives which have heavily impacted the environment. Findings also suggests that both the military junta and various opposition groups appropriate the discourse of climate change to position themselves as responsible state actors, claim control over resources/territory and secure international funding. We have engaged international agencies focused on climate change support in Myanmar, including the publication of a policy brief. We have also participated in digital ethnography and security courses, held a summer school on qualitative research on climate change, organised three conference panels, and deepened relations with new partners in India and Thailand.


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