Interpretive Complexity and Crisis: the History of International Aid to Myanmar

  • Citation: Décobert, Anne, and Tamas Wells. “Interpretive Complexity AND Crisis: The History of International Aid to Myanmar.” The European Journal of Development Research 32, no. 2 (2019): 294–315.
    • Topics:
    • Global Development
    • Keywords:
    • international aid
    • Myanmar
    • development
    • community transition
    • aid dilemmas
    • oversimplification of aid

In the last two decades, Myanmar has gone through profound political changes. Over this time, humanitarian and development interventions by Western donor agencies have been guided by shifting and simplified narratives of the political context. During periods of military authoritarianism, quasi-democratic government and the recent period of rule by the National League for Democracy, donors have also faced moments of ‘interpretive crisis’, where predominant assumptions about political figures or program strategies no longer align with outcomes. Over time, and through their unstable and shifting interpretations, Western donor agencies have often failed to work coherently and accountably with Myanmar state or non-state actors. Decisions about how, and to whom, aid is channelled have amounted to decisions about who are legitimate socio-political actors and agents of change. Aid has therefore influenced power balances in Myanmar and has had significant unintended consequences on development and political dynamics on the ground.

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