The Open Society Foundations in Myanmar
Open Society has been actively involved in Myanmar since 1994, when it began supporting the country’s democracy movement during the years of direct military rule. Since 2017, Open Society Myanmar has been registered as a national, independent foundation in the country, following the establishment of a memorandum of understanding with the government in 2012. Open Society Myanmar has continued to work with governmental and civil society actors to expand inclusive education and access to health care, support drug policy reform, protect the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and support a new generation of political leaders who will help secure the country’s democratic reforms.
Nine Facts about Myanmar and the Open Society Foundations
- Since 1994, Open Society has supported more than 5,000 Myanmar students with full scholarships to study at top international universities. In education, Open Society Myanmar has worked since 2014 to analyze and support the education sector, including an assessment of the quality of monastic education, helping to upgrade a national vocational education and skills training program, and delivering a postgraduate diploma course in early childhood development at the Yangon University of Education.
- Open Society has worked to strengthen Myanmar’s independent media scene for decades. During direct military rule, the foundation supported exiled outlets like the Democratic Voice of Burma, which provided much-needed information from inside the country. Since 2015, Open Society has invested $1.2 million to support at least 13 grassroots media outlets.
- To promote economic justice, the foundation has invested $5 million in small- and medium-sized enterprises since 2018. This investment funds 417 small businesses, mainly in the agriculture sector, which employ some 41,700 people in total.
- The foundation has provided technical advice to the government to improve electricity provision across the country, particularly in remote and rural areas. The foundation’s support has helped 5 million more people to gain access to electricity, including through solar energy.
- Since 2017, Open Society has invested $3.3 million to support at least 11 civil society organizations to help reduce the harms of drug use; expand access to evidence-based health services; and foster effective, humane drug policies in Myanmar.
- Since 2017, the foundation has devoted $ 1.2 million to at least five national think tanks. Open Society is working with leaders inside and outside government to promote evidence-based research efforts to assist policy makers on issues that can strengthen democratic policies and practices.
- To bolster the ability of the government to raise revenues and strengthen the provision of government services, Open Society has provided technical assistance on tax reform and the natural resource policy to Myanmar’s Ministry of Planning and Finance, the Internal Revenue Department, and the National Economic Coordinating Committee, with the aim of promoting fiscal responsibility.
- In 2020, Open Society committed more than $500,000 to support civil society organizations working to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Myanmar by distributing health kits, while also providing $25,000 in legal aid services to migrant workers who were unable to earn a living due to the virus.
- Open Society supports civil society groups to strengthen non-partisan electoral awareness and engagement, ensure that quality information is available, and promote voter registration and turnout.
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