Myanmar Landscape, temples and forest at sunset

How does COVID 19 affect us and our work as peacebuilders in Myanmar?

On 13 July 2020, MPI organized its first Myanmar MPI alumni online meeting. 

Since the coronavirus pandemic has turned the whole world upside down, MPI has started to virtually reach out to its alumni as a way to reconnect and as a sign of solidarity in these very challenging times. In one of these alumni meetings, in April 2020, the idea was born for MPI to conduct participatory research with its alumni, taking advantage of the vast network of MPI peacebuilders representing different layers and sectors of society around the globe.

By engaging with MPI alumni in different regions of the world through participatory research*, MPI wants to better understand how COVID-19 affects peacebuilders and what challenges we will likely face in its aftermath.

With this intention, MPI was able to gather six out of 42 peacebuilders from Myanmar who had attended MPI’s Annual Peacebuilding Training from 2000 to 2019 for an exploratory meeting and discussion. MPI facilitator and Board member Myla Leguro gave a brief input on how we can look at the implications of COVID-19 on peacebuilding work on different levels and how to define types of research questions in that context. However, it became obvious that COVID-19 is not the issue on which the alumni peacebuilders in Myanmar want to focus. One of the alumni said that more than 160 people have died in the ongoing civil war compared to six who have died due to COVID-19 during the same period. Even though all shared their experiences and observations on the effects of the pandemic on their personal lives, work, and society, they want to primarily focus on what is happening with the peace process and the ongoing conflicts in the country.

The alumni that joined the gathering and had attended MPI Annual Trainings in different years expressed that they were happy to reconnect with MPI and connect with one another. They wish to continue collaboration with MPI and among each other. They want to start an MPI alumni network in Myanmar and work together on the peace process, ongoing conflicts, and peacebuilding.

The first step was the formation of a Facebook group during the meeting. A core group of three alumni was formed who will be the link or intermediary to MPI. In order to expand the network, MPI will communicate with all 42 alumni in Myanmar, inform them about this initiative, and ask them to connect with John Tin Htay.

MPI is happy that the first attempt to connect with the Myanmar alumni for a common learning process and to strengthen the solidarity and collaboration among the alumni and with MPI was successful. MPI is looking forward to continuing this process and hopes for more Myanmar alumni to join the network.

* MPI plans a series of exploratory meetings to reach out to MPI alumni in different regions, engaging them in a learning process, looking at the effects of COVID-19 as a thematic anchor. The start was made in Myanmar, while meetings with alumni in other countries and regions will follow.

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