LIFT (Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund) has launched a REAL DEV programme that invites partner agencies to work with the Government on land reclamation and reallocation in Magway, to develop a replicable approach and framework for reallocating State land reclaimed from concessionary holders to the rural poor, landless, and others; according to its website and Facebook page; on 14 December 2018.

Land in Our Hands (LIOH) and Myanmar Alliance for Transparency & Accountability (MATA) jointly send the open letter to LIFT regarding its recently launched call for proposal “REAL DEV Programme”; in 24 December 2018. LIFT responded to the open letter on (28 January 2019) with its safeguarding measures and additional steps based on the concerns raised by LIOH and MATA.

Based on the response of LIFT, the concerns have been come out and raised in addition to previous letter. The following is the letter sent to LIFT on 6 February 2019.

6 February 2019

Dear Katy Webley,

Thank you for your clear and detailed response. We appreciate that LIFT has taken our concerns into account, and has taken steps to change the programme to reflect this. Despite the changes, we still have several concerns and questions. Please see our concerns and questions below; 

There is no clear indication that LIFT intends to change their strategy for implementing the programme. The programme will still use the VFV law, and through doing this will strengthen the capacity of department to implement the VFV law through building their technical capacity.  The alterations to the programme made after our discussion, instead of improving it will only strengthen and legitimise the VFV implementation process via the introduction of conflict sensitivity, transparency, and accountability protocols and procedures. We are concerned that although LIFT does not endorse all aspects of the VFV law, your actions in the programme continue to legitimise it. 

Point 1: Stop-go mechanism

  • How will the open, transparent, and participatory process lead to secure land tenure? The tenure is being granted under the VFV law which offers very little tenure security?
  • The establishment of a dispute mechanism is a good step, but it is important to work on the details. Who will be in charge of the process should a dispute arise (GAD, MoALI, DALMS, LARC)? How will a rightful claim to the land be assessed? Under the current land legislation, it is very difficult to prove land ownership, especially in cases where land was confiscated prior to 2012, and where it has been granted as a concession under the VFV law as VFV land.

Point 2: Conflict Sensitivity

  • We very much appreciate that LIFT has taken our concerns seriously around conflict sensitivity, and is taking swift actions to remedy this.
  • We are somewhat concerned about the independent monitoring mechanism, critical friends, and conflict sensitive advisory group. It is important that LIFT contact civil society working in conflict areas who have experience in and knowledge on the conflict context when looking for advice, rather than relying only on larger more centrally established expert peace groups. This will lead to more reliable and context relevant information to support conflict sensitive programme planning and implementation.

Could you share the results of LIFT’s meeting with MoALI on January 14th 2019? Did you raise the concerns of civil society about the VFV law that we shared with you with Ministers, and if so what was their response?

In response to specific questions:

Question 2.

In your response, you state that LIFT has ensured that this implementation will not impact on larger states and regions because you are encouraging MoALI to view this as a unique case, rather than a replicable process. In your response you highlight that the land is State land, returned after the concession recipients broke their agreement with the government. Our concern is that LIFT does not take into account the history of the land concessions, looking at how the land became State land in the first place, who the landowners were before and whether they received compensation, and how the the companies it was granted to were selected.

In response to Question 2 about programme governance and implementation.

Question 2.

In the implementation Committee, what processes will be in place around decision making, especially to ensure that the final decision making powers are not vested in one stakeholder? Considering Myanmar’s political history, we are concerned that the chosen Chairperson will hold disproportionate sway in the Committee, and will be able to make all final decisions without much resistance.

We welcome LIFT’s motivations to improve the attitudes, behaviours, approaches, and to build the competency of those charged with land allocation and registration. This is key to pushing equitable reform in the country, and LIFT is strongly positioned to have a positive impact here. Taking this into consideration we encourage LIFT to establish a clear policy on Myanmar’s land reforms that contributing to peace, sustainability, and equitable reform. This could be achieved through facilitating open and robust dialogue between stakeholders involved in land use and governance, especially the GAD, MoALI, LARC, civil society, smallholder farmers and Ethnic Governance representatives. We also encourage LIFT to recognise the Ethnic Land Governance administrative structures already in place across the country and their associated policies when approaching future programming. By promoting dialogue between those who work with and rely on land across the country, and all of the systems currently in place to govern this, LIFT will much better positioned to promote actual secure land tenure, and programmes that support peace in Myanmar.

With best regards,

Secretariat Team | Land in Our Hands (LIOH)

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