Overview of Australia’s aid program to Burma

How we are helping

2014/15 Bilateral Outcome
$73 million

2015/16 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$42.1 million

2015/16 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$62.8 million

The Australian Government will provide an estimated $62.8 million in total ODA to Burma in 2015-16. This will include an estimated $42.1 million in bilateral funding to Burma managed by DFAT.

Burma is currently undergoing an unprecedented, complex and challenging set of reforms: a transition to democracy; economic reform; and peace negotiations to end decades of conflict with the country’s ethnic armed groups. If these reforms continue, Burma has the potential to be a key player in our region. It is the largest country in mainland South-East Asia and has significant natural resources, a young population and a government engaged in reform. It is strategically positioned between two of the world’s fastest growing economies (China and India).

In support of regional stability and prosperity, Australia is committed to Burma’s reforms. In addition to expanding our aid program, Australia has increased government-to-government ties with Burma and has removed targeted travel and financial sanctions. Trade and investment links are growing. Australia is working towards an economic partnership with Burma in the long-term.

Burma faces significant development challenges. Over a quarter of Burma’s population are living in poverty, more than a third of children are chronically malnourished, and only 54 per cent of children complete five years of primary school. Decades of conflict and instability have resulted in over 640,000 people displaced within Burma, and the border regions with Burma’s neighbours have the highest numbers of refugees in our region. Government capacity is low, systems are weak, and Burma is one of the hardest places in the world to do business.

Our aid program is focused on supporting and entrenching Burma's reforms and is organised around three mutually-reinforcing objectives as outlined in the Aid Investment Plan.

Objective 1: Enhancing human development

Enhancing human development through education contributes directly to economic growth, stability and poverty reduction. Education transforms lives, builds a skilled and competitive workforce and enables men and women to invest wisely in their future.

Australian aid improves access to quality education in Burma, through support to schools, teacher training and scholarships. We work with government and non-government providers to improve education systems, including in conflict-affected areas. We promote partnerships between Australian and Burmese higher education institutions with a focus on using Australian knowledge and skills to support Burma’s reform efforts.

Investments for enhancing human development

Objective 2: Promoting peace and stability

Peace and stability are necessary to achieve inclusive and equitable growth in Burma. Australia will support peace negotiations, political dialogue, democratic reform processes, and development activities that provide new opportunities for people affected by conflict.

Promoting human rights will be fundamental to building an inclusive state that values ethnic and religious diversity and protects the rights of all groups. We are supporting Burma to become a party to international human rights treaties and implement international human rights norms.

Australia will continue to provide humanitarian assistance, including in Rakhine State and on the Thai-Burma border. This will include supporting people to return to Burma when appropriate, and addressing the root causes of displacement such as statelessness, violence, exploitation and poverty.

Investments for promoting peace and stability

Objective 3: Promoting inclusive economic growth and government management

Burma's economy has been stunted by decades of authoritarianism, international sanctions and civil war. Per capita GDP (PPP) is the second lowest in South-East Asia.

Australia will promote economic growth in Burma by supporting a policy environment that provides incentives for responsible foreign direct investment, trade and economic reform. We will increase investments in aid for trade, support legal and regulatory reform and broker engagement between government and the private sector, to promote private sector-led growth, entrepreneurship and responsible business. Australia will also provide targeted support to improve the management of natural resources.

Investments for promoting inclusive economic growth and government management

Our results

  • In 2014-15, over 140,000 additional girls and boys were enrolled in school, and Australian assistance to the Comprehensive Education Sector Review and National Education Sector Plan strengthened policy, planning and budgeting to further increase education access and quality.
  • In 2014-15, 326,813 students were provided with essential school supplies and textbooks, including in conflict-affected areas.
  • In 2014, Australia provided life-saving assistance to 235,313 vulnerable women, men, girls and boys in conflicted-affected communities, including in Rakine State and on the Thai-Burma border.
  • In 2014-15, 980 rice farmers were assisted to improve crop management practices and trial new crop varieties, resulting in a 40 per cent increase to productivity.
  • In 2014-15, we assisted the Burmese Government to promote economic growth by developing investment policy and initiating a Burma business forum to promote private sector views to government.

Our changing program

Our changing aid program in Burma reflects Burma’s rapid reform process, our growing engagement with the Burmese Government and the 2015-16 Budget. We are aligning our assistance with the government’s own reform priorities and will work more through government systems where appropriate. Over time, we will look to transition to a full economic partnership model as reforms progress and our relationship matures. Our aid program is consolidating, targeting areas where Australia can add value and where we have a good track record of results.

Education will remain the flagship of Australia’s aid program in Burma. Education reform is a priority for the Burmese Government and is an area where Australia has established a good reputation and has delivered results. Australia will work increasingly within Burmese Government systems. We will reduce funding to non-government education systems.

The program will have a greater focus on delivering inclusive economic growth, particularly through greater private sector engagement and improved management of natural resources. This reflects the Burmese Government's own priority of facilitating growth through responsible investment and increased trade.

Reflecting the rapid increase in donor funding to Burma’s health sector, we will provide no further contributions to the Three Millennium Development Goal Fund. We will also reduce funding to the DFAT-Australian Council for International Agricultural Research Multidisciplinary Research Fund for Food Security.


Students at the Karen Young Women Leadership School reading the Burmese news (credit: Angela Wylie/The Age, International Women's Development Agency).
Ploughing fields, Shan, Burma (credit: DFAT).
A senior midwife attends to her malaria and primary health patients by motorbike (credit: 3DFund.org).