Overview of Australia’s aid program to Myanmar

How we are helping

2017-18 Total Australian ODA Estimated Outcome
$84.2 million

2018-19 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$42.1 million

2018-19 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$76.9 million

Over a third of Myanmar'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. Government capacity is low, systems are weak, and Myanmar is one of the hardest places in the world to do business. Myanmar was listed at 145 out of 188 countries in the 2017 UN Human Development Index, making it one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. The Myanmar Government is addressing these challenges by undertaking complex economic and political reforms and pursuing a nationwide peace process after five decades of military rule.

In August 2017, violence in Rakhine State led to more than 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh, creating the region’s current largest humanitarian crisis. Many more people are internally displaced in Rakhine, Kachin, and northern Shan states after years of conflict and outbreaks of violence. The situation underlines the need for ongoing engagement on human rights issues as well as development and humanitarian assistance. Our efforts in Myanmar will continue to promote and protect the international rules based order and human rights norms in line with Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper priorities and support stability, prosperity and global cooperation.

The Australian Government will provide an estimated $76.9 million in total ODA to Myanmar in 2018-19. This will include an estimated $42.1 million in bilateral funding. Australian aid is guided by the Myanmar Aid Investment Plan 2015-2020, which focuses on supporting and embedding Myanmar’s political, economic and social reforms. Our aid program helps create an environment conducive to inclusive economic growth and increased trade by strengthening government capacity, promoting peace and stability, and supporting the development of an educated and competitive workforce.

These activities complement and reinforce other elements of the bilateral relationship, including our growing trade and investment ties, support for human rights, and people-to-people links. For example, improvements to the business regulatory environment assist Australian and international business engagement in Myanmar, and our Australia Awards scholarships and New Colombo Plan scholars foster people-to-people links.

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.

Education is the flagship of Australian aid to Myanmar, accounting for around 40 per cent of bilateral development assistance. Australia’s investments help to improve school learning environments, enhance teaching and learning practices, support disadvantaged girls and boys to stay in school, and strengthen government’s education policy development and oversight.

We also provide scholarships through the Australia Awards program to help strengthen Myanmar’s civilian government capacity and contribute to Myanmar’s democratic transition.

Investments for enhancing human development

Objective 2: Promoting peace and stability

Australia’s efforts to promote peace and stability in Myanmar encompass development assistance for peace and democratic governance, humanitarian assistance, and diplomatic engagement on human rights, humanitarian access, peacebuilding and democratic reform.

Myanmar continues to face formidable challenges as it transitions to democracy after five decades of military rule. Australia is supporting Myanmar’s civilian government to shore up its democratic transition by giving aid to strengthen democratic institutions such as Parliament, embed the rule of law, and promote peace and reconciliation.

Australian aid supports parties to the peace process to achieve national peace and reconciliation for the benefit of all people in Myanmar. Our assistance supports partners to strengthen community engagement in the peace process, enhance the representation of women, implement ceasefire monitoring arrangements, improve cooperation between conflict actors, and encourage transparency in negotiations.

Promoting human rights is fundamental to building an inclusive state that values ethnic and religious diversity and protects the rights of all groups. We are supporting Myanmar to better implement international human rights norms.

Australia continues to provide humanitarian assistance to enable those affected by conflict and displacement to lead safe and dignified lives. In Rakhine, Kachin, northern Shan, and southeast Myanmar, Australia supports international and local humanitarian partners to deliver essential supplies and services, with a focus on protecting vulnerable women and children. On the Thai border, we also support preparations for voluntary returns to Myanmar when appropriate.

Investments for promoting peace and stability

Objective 3: Promoting inclusive economic growth and government management

Myanmar is a lower-middle income, least developed country that continues to navigate the transition from a closed to an open market economy. The Myanmar economy is undergoing complex reforms, including improving the transparency of the government budget, establishing a more independent central bank, improving the tax system, and enacting foreign investment laws.

Myanmar’s economy has maintained an average growth rate of 7 per cent over the past five years. Despite recent growth, Myanmar is developing from a very low base. Myanmar still has the second lowest GDP per capita in Southeast Asia, and most development indicators continue to lag behind regional neighbours.

Australian aid is helping to create a legislative and policy environment that incentivises inclusive investment, trade and economic reform. We also promote women’s economic empowerment and support partners to facilitate increased engagement between government, the private sector and civil society. In rural development, Australia is committed to increasing incomes and access to finance for rural households.

Investments for promoting inclusive economic growth and government management

Our results

Some key achievements attributable to Australian aid in 2017-18 include:

  • improving the school learning environment for more than 10 million Myanmar students by providing grants to over 47,000 government and monastic schools
  • providing stipends to 46,605 disadvantaged students (53.6 per cent girls) to enable them to continue their education
  • delivering humanitarian assistance to 397,772 people (at least 44 per cent estimated to be women) in Rakhine, Kachin, northern Shan and on the Thai border
  • increasing access to finance for 124,000 people, of whom 90 per cent are rural women
Last Updated: 19 October 2018