Few countries in the world face challenges as daunting as those faced by Myanmar. Suppressed by years of military rule, Myanmar ranks in the bottom quartile of all countries in the world in human development, doing business, governance, national stability, global competitiveness, and democratization. The world’s longest civil war has dragged on in Myanmar for 60 years, and it was only six years ago that the country took its first steps away from military dictatorship.
Yet many in Myanmar and outside are optimistic about its prospects. The armed forces continue to hold many of the reins of power, but not all. Elections scheduled for November of this year hold the promise of being conducted competently and openly (with foreign and civil society observation), and the opposition party is favored; the government is making progress on a nationwide ceasefire with ethnic minorities; the economy is growing at over six percent per year; and a great deal of international investment and assistance is flowing into the country.
Sasakawa USA hosted a conference in March 2015 about prospects for U.S.-Japan cooperation in assisting Myanmar’s economic and political development. Representatives from Myanmar itself, both government officials and private leaders; the U.S. and Japanese governments; and non-profit organizations and universities provided a multi-faceted view of events and prospects in Myanmar. The papers in this volume were written by conference participants and provide historical background on Myanmar’s development, information on its relationship with both the United States and Japan, descriptions of Myanmar’s needs and government plans to meet those needs, and accounts of current assistance activities by both the United States and Japan.
It is clear that Japanese and American objectives for Myanmar reinforce the ambitions of Myanmar itself, and that the activities of these two outside countries are complementary. It is our hope at Sasakawa USA that the discussions at the conference inspired its participants by conveying the importance of their mission and of working together to help Myanmar achieve the prosperous and free future its people deserve.