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Burma Centrum Nederland was created in 1993 as a result of the perceived need of a group of Dutch NGO's to establish a center that would specifically focus on Burma/Myanmar. For several years BCN invested in building strong networks with a wide variety of ethnic and non-ethnic civil society groups and political actors in Burma/Myanmar. From the late 1990s BCN has been realizing a civil society program that includes facilitating initiatives that foster independent thinking, strengthening of democratic structures and confidence building to provide participants with the tools to independently deal with their issues. Capacity strengthening activities are vital ingredients in this process of empowerment.

From 2008 onwards, BCN moved towards more actively engaging political actors and citizens in the political process, in response to requests from key organizations in its civil society program. In 2010, BCN chose to support the democratic political actors and parties that decided to participate in the elections, through trainings and capacity strengthening, and from 2011 continued its program to support democratic forces in the changing political landscape of Burma/Myanmar. After the election in 2010, a nominal civilian government took power in Burma/Myanmar. Under president U Thein Sein, a reform agenda was initiated in 2011, and reforms are slowly taking shape in the country, primarily through the central government and the opposition based in Yangon. BCN considers it of vital importance to include the ethnic communities in the transformation process and make sure all hostilities are ended and genuine negotiations can bear sustainable political results. Though several cease fire agreements have been made and meetings with a wide variety of ethnic groups are held;and the Myanmar Peace Center has been established (with international support), it is still vital to ensure that all citizens of Burma/Myanmar are granted equal opportunities to participate in the nascent democratic structures. Especially in the light of continuous fighting in Kachin State and in Northern Shan State , as well as with regard to the communal crisis in Rakhine State, it is obvious that there is still a long way to go before all Burmese citizens can enjoy the fruits of democracy and prosperity.

The Burmese government has adopted new laws that regulate Foreign Direct Investment, as well as several other new laws that are of importance to the development of the country, such as a media law, a land law and a NGO law. Though these laws are improvements with regard to the laws they are replacing, they do have some serious flaws, and especially the land law and the FDI regulations can (and already do) lead to conflict which might endanger the still fragile process of reform. For some years BCN was among only a few other organization offering capacity strengthening and support programs for democratic forces, the organization is well established among civil society and ethnic groups in Myanmar. Now, as the country has opened and is increasingly seen as "the last frontier" in the development branch, more and more international organizations are setting up shop in Yangon, building on the foundations BCN and other organizations have laid.
From 2102 to 2015, BCN has put an effort in reaching out to people in the regions and states, who are living in remoter areas. With it’s program om democracy, decentralization and development, BCN has assisted communities in defining their issues and problems, understanding the causes of their circumstances and discussing and debating proposals for change. End of 2014, BCN supported the founding of the Myanmar People Alliance, and cooperated closely together with this civil society based alliance focusing on landrights, natural resource extraction and management and governance.
After he landslide victory of the NLD in the November 8, 2015 elections, it is expected that the political conditions in Myanmar will change again. However, the underlying system that causes many of the people’s problems is still firmly rooted in the pre democratic era. BCN believes that active participation of the Myanmar people on all levels of decision making is needed to create a genuine democratic society and sustainable peace in the country. BCN will continue to support this process in close cooperation with Myanmar partners.
website: g.s.b. schagen 2017; text&pictures: Burma Centrum Nederland ©2017