Myanmar is a multi-ethnic, multilinguistic and multicultural state where democratic development is still in progress. Despite the country’s rich natural resources, Myanmar is one of the least developed countries in Southeast Asia.

A long way towards democratisation

Conflicts between government troops and ethnic armies have continued in Myanmar’s border regions for over half a century. Some of the conflict zones are under the control of the government military whereas others are governed by non-governmental ethnic armies. Myanmar transitioned to civilian governance in 2011 and due to this political reform, the country began to open up economically and politically. The reform also led to partial democratisation, but true change does not happen easily: the peace process is currently in a dead end, social inequality is vast and widespread, and conflicts between ethnic and religious groups continue to displace people both internally as well as across borders.

Since 2020, over 860,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the country due to ethnic persecution. The military still wields considerable power in the country, and stable social peace has not been achieved.

Between 2009 and 2014, FRC supported refugees from Myanmar in Thai refugee camps, providing literacy and language education and supporting livelihoods. The majority of the refugees in the camps came from Myanmar’s Kayin and Kayah states.

FRC began operating in Kayah in 2015 and is now expanding activities to Kachin. The shift of operations onto Myanmar was carried out in order to support populations living in long-term conflict zones, internally displaced persons and to support the region’s peaceful development.

Skills and support for a more stable life

In addition to political stability, the peaceful development of society requires support for the well-being of its people: sustainable societies cannot be built without an adequate standard of living and access to education. Nearly half of the population in Myanmar is under the age of 27. A large proportion of young people belonging to ethnic minorities are either unemployed or unskilled, low-paid workers. The level of education is low, and the quality of vocational education is not sufficient to meet the needs of employers.

High unemployment and low levels of education can threaten social stability and jeopardise the transition towards democracy. With the right support, young people can play a key role in the peaceful development of their country.

Gender-based violence against women is particularly prevalent in conflict-affected areas. Livelihood opportunities are often limited, which increases women’s economic dependence and exposes them to violence.
Space for civil society has been narrow during decades especially in conflict-affected areas. Therefore,  capacity building of civil society actors and community based organisations is particularly important to enable them function effectively for the promotion of the rights of the people of concern.

Finnish Refugee Council in Myanmar

Through its work in Myanmar, FRC strengthens the society by providing support to individuals and to local organisations and social agencies. FRC’s work in Myanmar focuses on tree main components:

1. Vocational short courses
FRC organises short courses for young people in Kayah and Kachin in order to provide them with employability-improving practical skills, such as masonry and motorcycle repairs. The courses also focus on transferable skills for the workplace, career guidance and internship opportunities. FRC particularly supports the livelihoods of the most disadvantaged women by organising craft skills training, such as sewing courses.

2. Strengthening civil society
FRC strengthens the capacity of local organisations by providing training, mentoring and funding for activities. The capacity building of the organisations is evaluated and developed together with the organisations. Supporting civil society organisations is particularly important as they can act in a neutral way between the front lines in conflict situations.

3. Eradicating gender-based violence
FRC supports the prevention of violence against women and support for its victims through its partner organisation KNWO in Kayah and Kachin. Those living in remote border regions can be reached by training midwives working in areas governed by ethnic armies, in addition to state health professionals. FRC’s partner organisation KNWO maintains shelters in the town of Loikaw for victims of sexual violence. The shelters also operate a 24/7 Help Line, which provides support for those who have experienced violence. Police officers and members of ethnic armies are also educated on the prevention of sexual violence against women and on best practices in cases of rape. 

Project Summaries

Vocational Education to Support IDPs and Host Communities (VESI) in Kachin and Northern Shan State

FRC is member of a consortium led by ADRA Myanmar (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) formed to implement the project which aims at facilitating the access of youth from target Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps and host communities to non-farm livelihood opportunities by their participation to market-oriented and competence based vocational education short-courses. These courses will be provided in cooperation with Government Technological High Schools in Myitkyina, Bhamo (Kachin) and Lashio (Northern Shan State). Among the expected results, at least 1,650 youth will attend the planned short courses, 7 new curricula will be designed, 36 teachers trained and over 100 private companies engaged.

Budget: overall USD 2,200,000 (USD 724,998 under FRC)
Duration: 3 years
Start date: 1.07.2019
Type/Sector: Development Aid/Livelihoods
Donor: Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT): as of October 2020, the current donors of LIFT are the UK, the EU, Australia, Switzerland, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Ireland.

Prevention and Response to Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Kachin State, Myanmar

The project aims at enhancing the GBV protection system meant to prevent and respond to GBV threats by providing support to victims, strengthening the capacity of key actors to improve the existing referral system and further raise awareness on GBV among Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and host communities.

A network of community facilitators, whose capacity will be enhanced, will act as GBV focal persons at IDP camp level. The staff from key service providers, i.e. health personnel from state and non state actors and police officers, will be trained to support GBV survivors. Access to legal assistance, formal and informal, will be provided to GBV survivals and Safe House and 24/7 Help-line support will ensure enhanced protection to GBV victims.

Approximately 24.000 people living in 30 IDP camps, in Government and Non Government Controlled Areas and in surrounding villages in Myitkyina, Hpakant and Waingmaw townships will benefit, directly or indirectly, by the project.

Budget: EUR 400,000
Duration: 1 year
Start date: originally 1.04.20 – postponed to May 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic
Type/Sector: Humanitarian assistance/Protection
Donor: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland – Humanitarian office

Women and Girls First Programme in Kayah State and COVID-19 Response services in Kachin and Kayah States

This project is divided into two components:

  1. GBV response services and safe space for GBV survivors, as well as community awareness sessions will be provided by building the capacity of FRC local partner in Kayah State, south east Myanmar: Trainings on Psycho-social support, gender and GBV will be arranged for 20 peer facilitators and diverse services (i.e.24/7 Help-line, safehouse and counselling and legal services) will be ensured to approximately 200 women and girls.
  2. Contribution to COVID-19 response in hard-to-reach areas in Kachin and Kayah States by distributing 1,117 Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to 4 health posts, hygiene kits to 8,000 women and emergency supply food to 700 people, 80,000 soaps and 80,000 surgical masks.

Budget: USD 171.907
Duration: 1 year
Start date: 1.01.2020
Type/Sector: Humanitarian Assistance/Health and Protection
Donor: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Enhancing GBV protection in NGCAs in Kachin State

The project aims at enhancing the GBV protection system meant to prevent and respond to GBV risks in IDP camps located in Non-Government Controlled Areas only in Bhamo and Waingmaw Townships by raising awareness on GBV in targeted IDP camps and neighboring villages, providing support to victims, engaging target communities and strengthen their capacity to respond to GBV threats, and improving the existing referral system.

A network of community paralegal facilitators, whose capacity will be enhanced, will act as GBV focal persons at IDP camp level. The staff from key Kachin Independent Organization (KIO) Departments, i.e. Kachin Women Association, IDP and Refugee Relief Committee (IRRC), Administrative Department, camp and religious leaders will be made more familiar with GBV issues. Access to legal assistance, formal and informal, will be provided to GBV survivors and a Safe House and 24/7 Help-line support will be set up in Laiza, Waingmaw Township, to ensure enhanced protection to GBV victims. Approximately 14.720 people living in the 15 selected IDP camps in NGCAs will benefit, directly or indirectly, from the project.

Budget: USD 127,022
Duration: 1 Year
Start date: originally 1.09.2020 postponed to November 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic
Type/Sector: Humanitarian assistance/Protection
Donor: Myanmar Humanitarian Fund

Enhancing Vocational Education for Youth in conflict affected Kayah state

The project aims to increase livelihoods and employment or self-employment opportunities of the disadvantaged youth in Myanmar ethnic and conflict affected areas, in Kayah State.

It is located in Kayah State; Loikaw, Demawso, Hpruso, Bawlakhae, Hpasawng, Mese and Shadaw Townships and surrounding villages.

The project focuses in developing quality of the trainings, increasing accessibility to vocational education and creating links local market and businesses. It is implemented directly in cooperation with Government Technical High School GTHS to enhance the sustainability. The project target 500 youths, additionally it train teachers and develop curriculums and training materials.

Budget: 480 080 Euros
Duration: 4 years
Start date: 1st January 2018
Type/Sector: Development cooperation / Vocational education
Donor: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland – Unit for Civil Society

Strengthening Civil Society Organizations in Myanmar conflict affected border areas

The project aims to enhance Civil Society in Myanmar ethnic and conflict affected border areas, in Kayah state.

It is located in Kayah State; Loikaw, Demawso, Hpruso, Bawlakhae, Hpasawng, Mese and Shadaw Townships and surrounding villages.

Project supports capacity development of partnering Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) through mentoring and training as well as through small grants. Grant supported project provide skill training to create livelihoods opportunities for vulnerable women and safe house for victims and survivors of gender-based violence. CSO’s capacity building strengthen them to represent their communities effectively and manage the initiatives, including project management and exploration of funding.

Budget: 464 920 Euros
Duration: 4 years
Start date: 1st January 2018
Type/Sector: Development cooperation / Civil Society capacity building
Donor: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland – Unit for Civil Society

Video greetings from vocational course participants

25-year-old Maw Fray Myar graduated from our Basic Computer Training last year. In addition to IT skills, she learned marketing and entrepreneurial skills, and found confidence in herself as a public speaker. Since graduating from the course, Maw Frey Myar has been employed as a junior clerk by a local bank.

Watch all the video greetings from our Youtube channel.


Country Director Sridevi Srinivasan
sridevi.srinivasan (at)
+95 9 42 115 1420
Myanmar office:
Finnish Refugee Council FRC
#11, 4th Floor Royal White Elephant Business Center
Kan Road
Hlaing Township, Yangon
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, With support from Finland's development cooperation
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