HelpAge International has supported Myanmar since 2004 and has been an implementing partner of the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT) donor consortium since January 2010. Building on its field experience, HelpAge began a policy oriented project funded by LIFT in 2014, called Strengthening the Ministry of Social Welfare To Fulfil Its Role in Expanding Social Protection. The project aims to help build the capacity of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement (MSWRR) to clarify its mandate on social protection as a whole and make informed decisions in relation to specific programmes, particularly its new universal National Social Pension.
In December 2014, Myanmar’s government approved the National Social Protection Strategic Plan, which laid out eight flagship schemes including four cash transfers. In 2017 MSWRR received a substantial budget allocation to initiate two of these social protection schemes: the National Social Pension for everyone aged 90 years and older, and mother-child grants implemented by state/region. As of October 2018, the National Social Pension age of eligibility has been lowered to 85. Coverage is universal, based mainly on two main types of documentation: the National Registration Card or local household registry. These programmes fall under the mandate of MSWRR’s Department of Social Welfare (DSW), although delivery at field level is largely through the local authority structure under the General Administration Department. Social protection now represents a significant expansion of the Ministry’s mission and also the government’s services to the people.
While the new National League of Democracy (NLD) government which was elected in 2015 has made progress in expanding services that reach the people, it has struggled to resolve long-standing challenges related to national peace, reconciliation and state building. The government identifies 135 ethnic groups in the country including eight major groups, of which the Bamar are the dominant one, accounting for about two-thirds of the population. Among the defining features of Myanmar’s history and political direction since independence have been internal conflict and disunity. As noted below, Myanmar has been more deeply affected by subnational conflict than any other country in Southeast Asia. After seven decades of intermittent violence involving many different armed groups, many thousands of civilians and armed combatants have been killed.
Subnational conflicts directly affect a substantial proportion of the country. An estimated 118 of the country’s 330 townships, containing almost one-quarter of Myanmar’s population, currently exhibit the characteristics of active or latent conflict. The impact of these conflicts on the wider population is significant and has held back the country’s development. Some conflict-affected areas of Myanmar are governed by ethnic armed organisations, which in some cases operate state-like agencies in parallel with the national government. In addition to conflict with ethnic armed organisations, there is the risk of inter-communal or inter-religious violence, which over the past several years has re-emerged as a serious threat to peace and unity. Nearly 90% of the population is Buddhist.
Ending Myanmar’s subnational conflicts will require continuing efforts. The current government has prioritized peace and reconciliation including through events such as the Panglong Peace Conferences. National initiatives and services can contribute to or undermine peace in subnational conflict areas. Selectively targeted assistance can directly trigger outbreaks of violence; create disputes within and between civilian communities; or stir up resentments over unequal access to opportunities. In contrast, an assumption of this assignment is that universal benefits, provided across the country irrespective of group identity, may help all groups feel respected and included and make a contribution to greater cohesion.
For this assignment, HelpAge will commission a desk study on international experience which draws out lessons in how public social protection programmes (e.g. cash transfers) have promoted reconciliation and social cohesion. National social protection programmes – particularly a universal programme similar to the National Social Pension provided to everyone on the basis of citizenship, rather than on such criteria as poverty, location, ethnicity or religion – have been used by some governments to help bring the country together after a history of conflict and division. A 2012 BMZ study assessed that there have been various conceptual discussions of such issues but there is limited empirical evidence to demonstrate connections between social protection and social cohesion or state building.
B. Purpose of the assignment
The purpose of this desk-based study is to document and analyse the dynamics of how government-provided social protection programmes in a variety of contexts, with various design features, have contributed to national reconciliation and social cohesion. The study will not necessarily aim to inform the design of social protection but to explain how to understand and communicate the potentially positive impacts of social protection in relation to peace and conflict. The study should respond to Myanmar’s situation and keep in mind Myanmar’s National Social Pension in particular.
C. Specific steps for the consultant
This assignment is a desk study and no travel is anticipated. The consultant is expected to carry out the following steps and produce the Outputs under Section D:
· Clarify the nature of the assignment and the Myanmar social protection situation by distance with HelpAge. Review relevant documents.
· Review the political and social context of Myanmar, including the nature of its conflicts and political history, to guide and target the review of international experience. Document the current situation and the contextual background.
· As social cohesion is multi-dimensional, propose a basic theory of change for understanding its related components and how to address them.
· Conduct a basic review of international literature (academic studies, media material, unpublished reports, journal articles etc.) related to social protection and the topic of the study. This review should examine the extent to which empirical evidence is available as well as conceptual reflections. The consultant is expected to be already familiar with much of the literature related to this issue, and a comprehensive literature review from scratch is not anticipated.
· Analyse the common themes emerging from the literature, including lessons and common patterns. Consider potential risks as well as gains associated with international experience on the relationship between social protection and reconciliation/conflict.
· Analyse different types of social protection programmes and design features, and their impacts (positive or negative) on cohesion. What characteristics of social protection programmes contribute to building cohesion (universality, transfer level, target groups, delivery approach)?
· Produce the analysis of lessons from international experience and draft Output 1.
· Propose the communications messages based on the analysis (Output 2).
· Based on feedback from HelpAge and/or the Department of Social Welfare, revise and finalize Outputs 1 and 2.
The Consultant will produce the following Outputs in English:
Output 1: Report on international experience analyzing in accessible language the dynamics of how social protection has aided national reconciliation and helped to ease social conflict and tension and unify a multi-ethnic population. This report should be about 15-20 pages plus annexes if needed. The analysis should be framed in response to the challenges faced by Myanmar. The following general outline is only indicative and should be revised on approval of HelpAge:
· Executive summary
· Introduction and purpose
· Background: the situation and challenges of Myanmar
· Overview of national experience on the relationship between social protection and peace/conflict
· Important design features for social protection where social cohesion is critical
· Key lessons from international experience
· Relevance of international experience to Myanmar’s situation
· Conclusions and recommendations
Output 2: Proposed key messages for Myanmar. Drawing on the conclusions and recommendations of Output 1, this brief summary (a few pages) should highlight lessons highly relevant for Myanmar from international experience. The main audience for this brief will be government. The brief should contain a limited number of clear, short messages followed by brief elaboration of each message and suggestions for communicating those messages. The purpose of the messages is to reinforce support for universal social protection by explaining how it not only furthers goals related to social protection but may also contribute to other national goals related to peace, unity and reconciliation (assuming there is such evidence). It should also identify the preconditions and key programme features that allow those benefits to be realized.
Note: The consultant should write both Outputs in clear English so that they can be easily understood, avoiding long sentences, jargon, abbreviations and technical terms to the extent possible. The terminology of the study (e.g. in relation to peace and conflict) should aim to be consistent with common international usage. However, the tone of the paper should be fairly conversational, aimed at policy makers and decision makers whose first language may not be English, and not overly academic.
E. Time and duration
The study is expected to start in mid-May 2019 and be completed, including reviews and revisions based on feedback, by August 2019.
F. Qualifications of applicants
· A specialist with extensive academic and practical experience in a field related to the topic of the research such as social protection or peace and conflict issues
· Demonstrable familiarity with international literature related to social protection, in particular the intersection with national political development, political economy or conflict
· Demonstrable understanding of the dynamics of national conflict, peace and reconciliation across multiple countries
· Some familiarity with the Myanmar context; a deep understanding is an advantage
· Experience producing similar studies and analysis
· Strong analytical, research and summarizing skills
· Excellent written English skills with a clear writing style and demonstrable ability to communicate complex ideas in straightforward, accessible language
 Some contextual material from a recent internal report by Alyssa L. Davis commissioned by HelpAge.
 BMZ 2012, “Social Protection and its Contribution to Social Cohesion and State-Building.”