The next swing of the pendulum? Cross-border aid and shifting aid paradigms in post-coup Myanmar

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The 1 February 2021 military coup in Myanmar confronted the international community, including donors and aid workers, with a significant challenge: how to ensure that relief and life-saving support are delivered to those in greatest need at a time when international attention – and already limited resources – are likely to come under severe stress in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. From the early 2010s onwards, Myanmar had shed its status of international pariah (under western sanctions) to take on the ‘mantel’ of the ‘donors’ darling.’ This reflected an important rapid change from isolation to engagement in the way that many western (and some non-western) actors approached relations with the country. From the late 2000s onwards, international assistance moved from non-governmental organisations in the borderlands – also based in neighbouring countries – to the national government, and from humanitarian aid to development. In the aftermath of the coup the encounter between the international donor community and the people of Myanmar is likely to be re-defined by a triple shift in the aid paradigm putting earlier trends in reverse gear: from engagement to isolation, from development to humanitarian aid and from the state and government to non-state and informal institutions in the borderlands. With the military regime engaged in a de facto aid blockade, cross-border aid is likely to be the most realistic way to deliver humanitarian and emergency aid and relief to local communities, particularly in Myanmar’s border regions. The distribution and delivery of aid will be best served by close cooperation with local migrant-based community-building organisations and civil society groups, and cross-border charities and NGOs based in and around refugee camps, drawing on their networks and experience in delivering aid during previous rounds of refuge and displacement.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFlorence
PublisherEuropean University Institute
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2022

Publication series

NameEuropean University Institute Robert Schuman Centre Policy Papers
ISSN (Print)1830-1541


  • Myanmar
  • Burma
  • Junta
  • Coup
  • Resistance
  • International community
  • Aid
  • Development assistance
  • Aid paradigm
  • Humanitarian aid
  • Cross-border aid


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