Civic Space in Myanmar

In the Post-Coup and Covid-19 Pandemic Era


This report, undertaken by a Myanmar civil society organization and its local partner networks, examines the impact of the military coup on local civil society organizations (CSOs), with coverage of how the pandemic and the military’s Covid-19 policies further complicated the operational environment. Using mixed fieldwork and interview-based methodology, the report examines civic space issues in the post-coup period, focused primarily on Yangon, Mandalay, Mawlamyine (Mon state), Hpa-an (Kayin state), and Lashio (Northern Shan State).

Despite differences based on geographical diversity, generalized findings include:

  1. CSOs had to suspend and redirect much of their advocacy towards government-in-exile actors (the National Unity Government (NUG) and National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC)).
  2. Most CSOs shifted to low-profile operations and minimal engagement with military actors/the State Administration Council (SAC); many have experienced threats, harassment, and physical security risks, including legal impediments and restricted freedom of expression.
  3. The sector experienced some polarization and tension due to CSOs’ choices to engage or not with military actors.
  4. CSOs faced major threats to sustainability and funding access.
  5. Many CSOs shifted their activities to humanitarian relief, including the pandemic response.

Report authors recommended that CSOs should:

  1. Persist in their advocacy efforts around civic space, human rights, and promoting accountability.
  2. Continue to connect with the international community and focus efforts on humanitarian responses.
  3. Scale up and be empowered on digital security skills.
  4. Continue to adopt alternative advocacy strategies and engage with the NUG and NUCC rather than the SAC.

Furthermore, funding agencies and the international community should:

  1. Provide continuous funding support to local CSOs.
  2. Adopt flexibility in due diligence.
  3. Listen to CSO voices when designing programs and grantmaking.
  4. And provide longer-term, more flexible support to CSOs.

For more information, please refer to the summary and full report.