Seeing in Systems, Working in Networks: CLA for Adaptive Peacebuilding in Myanmar
This case describes a CLA approach in a highly conflict-affected region of northern Myanmar between 2013-16. A CLA approach was desirable in this area because it has highly fluid security, political, and humanitarian dynamics, and because access is restricted to international actors, and requires that all interventions are based on local knowledge and agency. The challenge that this case addressed was how local communities can sustainably drive their own peacebuilding and development outcomes with minimal international support, and in the midst of unpredictable and changing local dynamics. Using a methodology developed specifically for locally led change in complex environments – Systemic Action Research (SAR) – a consortium of local organisations designed and implemented activities that directly benefited more than 17,000 people and achieved several notable firsts, including the first ever provision of mine risk education to internally displaced people in this area, the introduction of anti-drug messaging in school curricula, legislative changes away from punitive and towards rehabilitation strategies for drug users, and the initiation of a track 2 dialog forum to support Myanmar’s peace process. Continuous learning, pause and reflect, and adaptive management processes as part of SAR formed the backbone of this initiative, which generated considerable insights for Adapt Peacebuilding, and lessons learned to share with the global peace and development communities. Lessons learned concerned factors that enable CLA approaches, as well as inhibitors, principally related to trust and uncertainty, which strain relations with donors and partners, and can constrain impact.