Working Towards an Inclusive and Pluralistic Myanmar


As COVID-19 arrived in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, confronting the pandemic presented challenges that were not found in many other places. The highly diverse region has been at the epicentre of violent clashes that have displaced thousands of people into crowded camps. Isolated by conflict and under an internet shutdown put in place by the central government, access to the region has been limited to organizations already in the field. In this complex scenario, the Centre for Social Integrity, a 2019 Global Pluralism Award recipient, was uniquely positioned to support local communities by providing information that saves lives, as well as promoting preventive measures to combat the spread of the virus.

Since 2016, the Centre has engaged leaders in diverse communities, who share a vision of a pluralistic and inclusive Myanmar. The Centre’s Transformational Leadership program has gathered youth from some of the most conflict-affected regions of the state and provided them with training on conflict sensitivity, social cohesion and peace building with the hope of mitigating future conflicts. Through this flagship program, the Centre has cultivated local partners, allowing it to have a deeper understanding of the diverse actors present in the region. This network was key as the Centre took an active role in the fight against the pandemic in the state.

As one of the few civil society organizations with access to the area, the Centre’s launch of the COVID-19 Response Project was essential for local communities. In the first months of the pandemic, the Centre reached 85,399 people, distributed 124,420 masks, and installed 218 handwashing stations.

Despite the work of the Centre, the situation in Rakhine state turned direr as a consequence of the military coup of February 2021. New restrictions on the free flow of information have been put into place nationwide. A state of emergency has resulted in the detention of political leaders and civil society activists.

Since the coup, the Centre has shifted some of their programming to humanitarian assistance while remaining committed to the initiatives that have always been at the core of their vision. Discussions with local leaders continue to be held, to inform the design of humanitarian programs in light of the changing circumstances. Community Learning Centres, operated by local staff and volunteers, still offer a place for intercommunal dialogue, and recreational and capacity building activities.  The Centre for Social Integrity’s dedication to a more pluralistic Myanmar, where every community has a voice, continues to guide their work and it remains unchanged since the day they were recognized by the Global Pluralism Award.