Myanmar’s recent moves to liberalise its economy and loosen its authoritarian approach to governance have attracted a host of international development partners. Following decades of protracted ethnic conflict, a nationwide peace process has begun, naturally opening space for international peacebuilding interventions. Globally, such programmes have evolved to typically focus on the halting of conflict and allow room for statebuilding. This paper argues that a more sophisticated approach to the KNU conflict is necessary to achieve lasting reconciliation, and to address local security concerns. By analysing the core determinants of the conflict, I will demonstrate that severe tensions over militarisation, governance, development and social services will undermine all other peacebuilding efforts if not addressed sensitively and slowly. Achieving lasting peace and an end to protracted security crises will require the formation of a social contract between the state, rival elites, and marginalised populations. This process can be supported from the base up by international peacebuilding actors.
(This paper has been adapted from an MA dissertation submitted to the War Studies Department at King’s College, London in August 2013)
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