The Center for Social Development Studies connects grassroots communities, academics & researchers, civil society actors, and innovators to guide policy, facilitate learning, and co-create sustainable solutions that matter.
Activities and events
The political transition in present-day Myanmar has brought forward tremendous economic, social, and environmental change and an associated expansion in challenges and opportunities: accelerating capital investment, intensifying resource use and extraction, and heightened conflict partly due to non-inclusive development model.
Traditionally, local communities throughout Myanmar have extensively relied on plants for medicinal and health purposes. In today’s world, this traditional herbal approach to medicine still occupies a central role within many rural communities, given the clear lack of transport and health infrastructure in the region, as well as the remoteness of the villages.
Faced with a large and ever-expanding population, China’s employment issue has been a growing concern for the country and its people. With a plethora of ethnic minorities, Yunnan province has been strongly impacted in terms of employment due to the growing population, economy, and new policies. In addition, disparities between men and women have prominently widened amidst overall unemployment concerns. My research focuses on Liuku Town, Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province, and aims to uncover and analyze employment differences between men and women in a resettlement area village called Xiao Shaba that has been built for the planned Liuku hydropower project.
In Myanmar, my whiteness, my gender, and my language flag me as an outsider and in the Shan state they are my anti-passport, preventing me from traveling to the brown-zoned countryside. I set out this past summer wanting to investigate how this contestation of natural resource use along the Salween river effects local communities, but quickly hit barrier after barrier. My hands tied by my identity and my location locked by my foreigner status, I couldn’t figure out how to actually do the research.
The Thanlwin River Basin is one of the four major watershed areas in Myanmar covering the Shan, Kayah, Kayin and Mon states. In Kayah State, the Thanlwin River flows from North to South and is characterized by a variety of ethnic groups living amongst an extremely bio-diverse environment. Local ethnic people are crucially dependent on this watershed area for their survival, through its importance in terms of food, water, security, fuel and income more generally. In addition, the economy of this area relies to a very large extent on agriculture, forest extraction, and mining, which are all land-intensive activities.
In late February 2013, the Burmese government announced six dam projects that were to be built on the Salween River in Shan, Kayah (Karenni) ,and Karen states. The investment and know-how would come from Chinese and Thai corporations in cooperation with three Burmese corporations. However, the proposed dams are located in active civil war zones, which will make their development and construction even more complicated.
Growing up, my dream had always been to become a teacher in Myanmar. Passing tenth grade would be my gateway to attend an Education College which would enable me to study for a government service teacher position. I believed this job would ensure lifetime employment and stable living conditions for myself, while also allowing me to improve future generations’ prospects by sharing with them the knowledge and skills that I acquired. However, my aspiration to become a government service teacher faded away as I passed tenth grade in early 2015.
Chinese politics and civil society can seem both complex and difficult to understand for outsiders. However, my curiosity to better understand what is happening in the world’s rising superpower led me to choose women’s civil society in China as the focus for my fellowship research on water governance on the Salween River (known as the Nu or Nujiang in China).
Wan Hsala is a secluded village along the Wan Hsala Stream housing a little over 30 households with a total population of approximately 100. As one of the small villages along the Salween River in the Eastern Shan state, the majority of its villagers are part of the Shan ethnic minority, while a few are ethnic Lisu and Bamar. Today, these villagers are facing actual and potential negative impacts from a hydropower construction project started about a decade ago. The local villager's limited knowledge of their rights and their lack of participation in the project have caused them to be taken advantage of. It is crucial that a solid framework of national and international standards reinforced with a strict enforcement vehicle is in place before any further project decisions are made.
As one of the longest trans-boundary rivers and the only major one that still flows freely without dams in Southeast Asia, the Thanlwin river supports the livelihoods of approximately 10 million people. The river hosts rich fisheries and supports fertile farmland vital to the food security of many ethnic minority communities living along the river banks and beyond. Yet, like most rivers in the world, it is facing multiple pressures from both natural and human causes along its length, which could affect the ecosystem and the livelihoods of thousands of local people who depend upon them
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