04 October 2017

Researching conflict and development in Myanmar

By Susan Price, second-year Master of Development Studies candidate 

This summer I completed a 4-month Research Assistantship with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Yangon, Myanmar. It was a valuable opportunity to gain experience working within a UN Country Office and to better understand the context and reality of engaging in development work and Security Sector Reform in Myanmar.

I was most directly involved with UNODC’s sub-programmes on Alternative Development and Sustainable Livelihoods, Criminal Justice and Police Reform, and Anti-Corruption. As both my undergraduate and graduate programs have been interdisciplinary, I was able to pull from my coursework across a range of relevant faculties, including agricultural policymaking and sustainable development, security studies, statebuilding, gender and development, applied diplomacy, and qualitative research design and implementation.

I spent part of August in UNODC’s field office in South Shan State, where the Alternative Development Programme is implemented. The Programme engages opium-farming communities in post-conflict areas to facilitate sustainable livelihood alternatives, such as coffee and tea cultivation, and address the environmental impact of opium poppy cultivation through Community Forestry. I assisted with drafting reports, visited a UNODC beneficiary coffee plantation, and facilitated focus groups with women beneficiary farmers, gathering information on the gendered impact of UNODC’s interventions and how future programme implementation can better address the needs of women and foster greater gender equality in their communities.

As a student of conflict and development with interests in agriculture and gender equality, I found this sub-field of UNODC’s work particularly compelling and intend to write my thesis on a related topic. I look forward to being able to apply my experiences from the summer to my coursework and hopefully returning to Myanmar in the future.