The humanitarian and development role played by NGOs in Myanmar

The humanitarian and development role played by NGOs in Myanmar

There is no clear-cut definition of ‘non-government organizations (NGOs)’ but according to Merrill (2008, p. 4), the term generally refers to non-profit organizations that are not government instruments and that aim at representing, protecting and advancing public interests and values. NGOs may also represent interests and values of specific groups and can include community-based or grass-root organizations. In Myanmar (also known as Burma), there are approximately 214,000 local and international NGOs which support various programs and services (Steinberg, 2010, p. p. 126).

The locally-based NGOs in Myanmar operate at various levels, focusing on giving support to various programs and services that the government does not want to give, ignores or is incompetent to provide (Steinberg, 2010, p. p. 126). These NGOs operate on condition that they do not threaten the power base or engage in any efforts to undercut the state. According to Steinberg, (2010, p. p. 126), their effectiveness in any region in Myanmar depend on their relationship with the local military command. Prior to 2006, there were approximately international NGOs operating in Myanmar. Since January 2006, the number reduced significantly as country’s military government increased operational requirements and surveillance for NGOs (Steinberg, 2010, p. p. 126). However, more recently, the regulations have relaxed, giving chance for international organizations to expand their roles in the country.

According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR (2010), HIV/AIDs crisis has been a major cause of concern in Myanmar with almost 1% adult population HIV positive as of 2009 (UNICEF, (2010). Malnutrition is also a severe problem in this nation with more than 25% of new born babies underweight and approximately a third of the children suffering from malnutrition by the age of five (World Health Organization, 2012). Since the military took over the government in 1989, women from all ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds in Myanmar have been denied most of their fundamental rights (O’Shannassy, 2007, p. 5).

Further, according to the UNHCR (2012), a significant number of Myanmar population suffers from lack of health care and education, with little government support. Another report produced by UNHCR in 2008 showed that only 43% of this nation’s population had access to safe water and adequate sanitation (UNHCR, (2008). Both the local and international NGOs operating in Myanmar focus on supporting various humanitarian programs and services such as confronting the HIV/AIDs crisis, providing food relief, supporting access to health care and education, providing safe water and sanitation, promoting the rights of women and starting community-based development projects and micro-loans. This paper seeks to investigate the humanitarian and development role played by both international and local NGOs in Burma.

1.1 Aim/Objective of this studyThe central aim of this study is to analyse the humanitarian and development role played by both local and international NGOs in Myanmar.

Research Questions

The research will seek to answer the following questions:

Which humanitarian programs do local NGOs support in Burma?

Which humanitarian services do local NGOs support in Burma?

Which development programs do International NGOs support in Burma?

Which development services do International NGOs support in Burma?

What has been the impact of the local and international NGOs’ interventions in Burma?

How effective have intervention efforts by local and international NGOs in Burma been?

Research Methodology

Research strategy

Research strategy influences the design and gives an opportunity for the researcher to examine how each of the various available approaches may limit or contribute to his/her study, (Trochim, 2001, p. 96). Depending on the nature of a study, the researcher may adopt either qualitative or quantitative approaches or both. Qualitative tools are based on content analysis, among other things and after which the results are presented in a non-numerical format. This approach helps the researcher to gain a deep insight into the topic of study. On the other hand, quantitative tools generally borrow from physical sciences in that they are structured to analyse data collected rather than views and perceptions, (Katsirikou & Skiadas, 2010, p. 96).

The researcher plans to adopt a naturalistic approach so as to apply the topic of this study in specified contextual settings and also due to the probing nature of the study topic. To achieve the objective for this study, the researcher opts for a qualitative approach defined by Creswell (2003, p. 214) as a “Sequential Exploratory Strategy”. This strategy, according to Creswell (2003, p. 214), provides a very flexible approach in collecting and analysing data.

Research methodThe research will be both ethnographic and desk-based. Scholarly articles and books on the humanitarian and development role played by both local and international NGOs in Myanmar will be examined. Additionally, primary data on the same topic will be collected using interviews.

Research procedure

This research project will rely on two basic phases; a conceptualisation and an empirical phase. In the conceptualisation phase, relevant literature related to the topic of study will be reviewed and the tools of data collection, interview schedules, developed. During the empirical phase, the required data for the research will be collected from the sections selected. During this phase the data collected will be analysed according to content validity as per the set objective of the research. The process of collecting data will start with addressing traditional ethical issues of access, acceptance, privacy, and confidentiality. The researcher will seek permission from all relevant institutions in the places where data will be collected. The researcher will also take initiative to inform participants what the research was about so that they will be able to prepare for the interviews. Study population

Personnel from local and international NGOs based in Myanmar form the population for this study. Since the researcher does not have capacity to study all local and international NGOs based in Myanmar, a sizeable and manageable segment of the population will be identified through the sampling process.


This is a process of selecting a number of individuals for study in such a way that the individuals selected represent the larger population from which they were selected (Gill and Johnson, 1997). The researcher targets to conduct interviews on 20 to 30 personnel in around 20 local and international NGOs based in (the client can state the suitable geographical location) in Myanmar. The researcher will use simple random method of sampling to choose the institutions from which the sample would be drawn Myanmar.

Data collection methodsInterviewsSeveral semi-structured interviews will be conducted to explore the questions advanced for this study. As noted earlier, the researcher will focus on interviewing personnel working in local and international NGOs. Enquiry designs will be sent to the interviewees in NGOs ahead of interview date. Then interview sessions will be flexible and will be planned based on each interviewee’s availability. The interview sessions will be recorded on tape and the most important information highlighted by the participants will be noted. The researcher will use open-ended questions since this will help to obtain extensive information related to the topic of study.

Documentary and electronic sourcesThe researcher will gather part of the information needed for the study through documentary sources, especially books, electronic journals, newspapers, magazines and websites for NGOs operating in Burma. The researcher will also seek to be provided with reports and other documents with relevant information such as newsletters from the NGOs where primary data will be collected. Documentary sources, both physical and electronic, help to provide basic background information for a study (Gill et al, 2010, p. 28). Thus they will greatly help the researcher to make a study design.

Time (Research Schedule)

The research will be conducted during the month of March 2012. Sampling the responses, analyzing the data and writing a report of the findings will be done in April 2012. This is shown in the schedule below. (The client can change details here to suit him/her)

1st to15th March 2012 16th to 31 March 2012 1st to15th April, 2012 16th to 30th April, 2012

Preparing and sending Conducting interviews Data analysis Report writing Limitations to the research

There are several limitations and assumptions that relate to this study. First, the researcher has limited capacity to conduct analysis in NGO institutions from diversified geographical areas in Myanmar and thus, the study will be conducted on NGOs based in (the client can state the suitable location/area where the study will be carried out). Thus, it is not quite evident that the sample to be used in the study will be typical of the whole population of study. Another major challenge that the researcher might face is time available to access to the different NGO institutions to conduct interviews on the targeted participants.


Betsill, Michele Merrill, NGO diplomacy: the influence of nongovernmental

organizations in international environmental negotiations, Bern: MIT Press, 2008

Creswell, John W., Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods

Approaches, California: Sage Publications, 2003

Gill John, Phil Johnson and Murray Clark, Research Methods for Managers, London:

Paul Chapman Publishing, 2010

Katsirikou, Anthi & Christos H. Skiadas, Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries: Theory and Applications: Proceedings of the International Conference on QQML2009. New York: World Scientific, 2010

Steinberg, David I. (2010), Burma/Myanmar: what everyone needs to know, New York:

Oxford University Press

Teresa O’Shannassy, Burma’s excluded majority: women, dictatorship and the democracy

movement, London: CIIR, 2007

Trochim, William M. K.., the Research Methods Knowledge Base, (2nd ed.), Cincinnati:

Atomic Dog publishing, 2001

UNHCR, (2008), “Myanmar, Republic of the Union,” accessed March 11, 2011.

UNICEF, (2010), “Myanmar statistics,” accessed March 11, 2011.

UNHCR, (2012), 2012 “UNHCR country operations profile – Myanmar, Working

environment,” Accessed March 11, 2011. HYPERLINK “”

World Health Organization, 2012, “Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition,”

Accessed March 11, 2011.

Rebecca J.
Rebecca J.
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