Finland's development cooperation in Myanmar

After over 50 years of military rule, Myanmar (previously known as Burma) strives for democracy, political stability and improved living conditions. Finland supports Myanmar’s peace process, including transition to the rule of law and democracy,  women’s and girls’ rights, sustainable forest management, and improvement of the education system.

Country Strategy for Development Cooperation with Myanmar 2016-2019

Myanmar infograafi

Of the 51.5 million people living in Myanmar, roughly half are under 27 years of age.  Myanmar officially recognizes 135 different ethnic groups. The country belongs to the least developed country category and is at a fragile stage in its development. The peace process is slowly advancing and the human rights situation is subject to close monitoring. Over a third of the population live in poverty and over 70 percent of the poor live in rural areas.

Finland has planned to support Myanmar by a total of EUR 34 million in 2016–2019. In addition, support will be channelled via Finnish civil society organisations (CSOs) and higher education institutions (HEIs).

Commercial cooperation

Myanmar is one of the fastest growing economies globally today. Natural resources, the location of the country between China and India, and good availability of labour play a significant role in the economic development of the country. The Government is trying to improve the business environment and the country continues to open up to foreign investment and companies. 

Commercial cooperation between Finland and Myanmar is still modest, but opportunities for developing the economic relations look promising.

Team Finland collaboration in Myanmar is effective.  Business Finland's office in Myanmar has in a key role in promoting the trade between the two countries. Myanmar also seeks to utilise private sector funding instruments offered by Finland.

Information technology, forestry, water management, mining, energy and education are examples of areas which could benefit from the knowhow of Finnish businesses.  Finnish development cooperation in Myanmar creates new partnerships and opportunities also for commercial cooperation.

Civil society organisations

Myanmar is a relatively new partner country for Finnish CSOs. Finland supports Myanmar by approximately EUR 1.5–2 million annually via the about 10 Finnish CSOs operating in the country. They support for instance democracy development, improvement of the situation of people with disabilities, women's economic empowerment and development of education.  The CSOs’ activities also support the achievement of the results of Finland's Country Strategy.


Finland started development cooperation with Myanmar in 2012.  Initially, Finland focused on the peace process, which is still regarded to be the basis for all development.

  • Women's and girls' access to sexual and reproductive health services as well as to services for victims of gender-based violence has improved in conflict areas, such as Rakhine. Through a programme supported by Finland, over 110,000 women and girls have gained access to these services.
  • Finland has supported the inclusion of different ethnic groups, civil society and women in the peace process and in the national policy dialogue.
  • Finland supported the 2014 population census. In addition to the data on age and gender, the census produced data on for example education, health, living conditions, birth rate and migration.  All information in the data is important when development plans are made and resources are allocated.
  • Finland has supported the digitalisation of maps illustrating Myanmar's mineral reserves and helped in providing training for the authorities. These measures contribute to the development of the mining sector and help to attract new investments to the sector.
  • With Finland's support, developmental needs in environmental governance have been examined and a foundation has been laid for better environmental protection.
  • Finland's support has helped farmers to abandon opium cultivation and transfer to coffee and community forestry. Now farmers can earn a living by lawful means and strengthen environmentally sustainable development. Coffee cultivated in fields supported by the project will be sold in European markets starting in spring 2019.
  • In total, approximately 25,000 children (12,000 girls and 13,000 boys) from 60 different village communities in ethnic minority areas have received pre-primary education through Finland's support.

Risk management

Myanmar is at a fragile stage in its development.  Armed conflicts occur from time to time in the border areas, and human rights violations continue to happen. Social development and a lasting peace require strengthened governance and consolidation of mutual trust between the citizens and different groups of people.  Corruption remains a significant challenge in Myanmar.

Myanmar is vulnerable to natural disasters which, like armed conflicts, can rapidly deteriorate the humanitarian situation.

Finland pays particular attention to risk management and coordinates its cooperation closely with other donor countries.  A significant part of Finland's support to the development of Myanmar is channelled through the UN and other multilateral organizations, which employ a broad array of tools to monitor and manage risks.  Projects and programmes are subject to constant monitoring, also through regular field trips and external assessments and evaluations.

Finland’s support

Good forest governance

  • Opium poppy cultivation to be replaced by cultivation of coffee and community forestry. The project is implemented by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Finland’s support for the project in 2019–2022 amounts to EUR 4 million.
  • Survey of Myanmar’s forest resources and development of information systems  by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO: EUR 8 million in 2017–2021.
  • Survey of forest resources in cooperation between the Natural Resources Institute of Finland (LUKE) and Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry and Yezin Agricultural University: EUR 1 million in 2017–2020.

Peace, democracy and rule of law

Finland supports Myanmar's fragile peace process through four complementary projects:

  • Supporting the peace process in Myanmar. Support has been provided since 2012 through the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) and the Euro-Burma Office (EBO). In the fourth phase of the project in 2019–2021, Finland’s support will be EUR 4 million.
  • A project that strengthens Myanmar's peace process. In January 2019, a Crisis Management Initiative project was launched to support the operation of the ceasefire monitoring mechanism in Myanmar and to promote confidence and communications between the parties to the conflict. Finland’s support for the project in 2019–2021 amounts to EUR 1.75 million.
  • The multi-donor Joint Peace Fund is also used to support the peace process. In 2019–2021, Finland’s support was EUR 5.2 million.
  • Support for democracy development and constitution building through the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). Finland's support in 2019–2021 totals EUR 1.2 million.
  • Improvement of women's and girls' position and access to sexual and reproductive health services as well as to services for victims of gender-based violence in conflict areas. The support is channelled through UNFPA: EUR 3.65 million in 2016–2019.

Quality education

  • Development of teacher education in cooperation with UNESCO: EUR 3.25 million in 2017–2019.
  • Targeted support for the most vulnerable children, improving teaching conditions and support to strengthening the professional skills of teachers. Finland's support is channelled through the World Bank:  EUR 7.12 million in 2017–2020.

Other cooperation

  • Approximately EUR 1.5–2 million a year is channelled to Myanmar via Finnish CSOs. These organisations work together with local partners, implementing both development cooperation and humanitarian projects.
  • The HEI-ICI programme (Higher Education Institutions Institutional Cooperation Instrument) is used as a channel of support to collaborative projects between higher education institutes in Finland and Myanmar.
  • In addition, Finnish support is channelled also via international organisations and international finance institutions, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, to which Finland donates funds.
  • Finland has granted humanitarian assistance to Myanmar or for refugees who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh almost every year.
  • Finland has provided a total of EUR 2.5 million in debt relief to Myanmar.