Over the last decade, Myanmar’s transition to democracy has faced multiple milestones and challenges. The country observed its first free elections in 2015. As Myanmar just comes out of its second democratic election this fall, the turbulence unleashed by COVID-19 will undoubtedly introduce new risks in the transition. It will also provide an opportunity for the small—but active—community of scholars from universities, think tanks, and other institutions, inside and outside Myanmar, to provide evidence and advice on how to face these risks. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi back on December 2nd, 2019, stated at the opening ceremony of the “Medical Skill, Simulation and Research Center” that “Research plays a vital role in the existence and development or progress of universities. Progress and development in research greatly support a country’s development. Among world universities, the level of our universities rises. However, compared to other universities in ASEAN countries, it had dropped. I asked why? The answer was the rapid development and progress of ASEAN universities. These universities were progressing mainly due to research. This was where we’ll have to reinforce.”

Boosting investment in knowledge production and the use of locally-grounded social science research in Myanmar remains a critical element for a sustainable democratic transition. Leaders and scholars in social science research can assist local policy processes by asking the relevant policy questions, and by undertaking rigorous research and analyses to provide the evidence needed for public policy decision making. Building a functional knowledge ecosystem is a major challenge for social science researchers themselves and for policymakers, not only in Myanmar but across the developing world.

The Global Development Network’s (GDN) innovative Doing Research (DR) program investigates the challenges of doing quality social-science research in developing countries, by exposing shortcomings to be addressed through better-informed national research policy – read the DR factsheet. The program has joined forces with the Knowledge for Democracy – Myanmar (K4DM) Initiative to support policy relevant research in Myanmar.

The webinar features a presentation by GDN and Myanmar’s Centre for Economic and Social Development of the 2020 ‘Doing Research in Myanmar’ report.