The role of Myanmar’s youth

On 1 February 2021, following the results of its most recent election, the military seized control of Myanmar and declared a year-long state of emergency. The coup resulted in protests across the country.  

In an article for Project Syndicate, Achim Steiner considers the role of Myanmar’s youth in these protests, and the impact it might have on their future. Another perspective is given by Irwin Low for the New Humanitarian, who looks at its wider humanitarian implications. 

In his article, Steiner outlines the competing pressures facing the population of Myanmar. He states that, in addition to the coronavirus pandemic, Myanmar’s economy is facing a crisis. The World Bank has forecast its economy is likely to shrink by 10% in 2021, after a 1.7% growth in 2020 and 6.8% growth in 2019. The author goes on to say that employment opportunities for young people are also decreasing, as investors pull out of the country. Finally, internet services have been severely restricted 

Faced with this situation, the author argues that young people feel that “their future is at stake” with the military’s return to power. He states that tens of thousands of young people have protested across the country and “they will not be silenced”.  

Turning to the international landscape, Low outlines three potential humanitarian implications of the coup:  

  • A refugee crisisLow says that the unfolding crisis in Myanmar is beginning to cross over into the neighbouring countries of Thailand and India as civilians try to find safety. He states that nearly 3,000 civilians fled to Thailand in late March, but “most of the refugees were forced back”.  
  • Renewed volatility in unresolved conflictsThe author states that the coup has resulted in two of the country’s largest ethnic armed groups launching renewed offensives against the military. In addition, the politicians ousted by the coup may form their own army.  
  • A lack of consensus on the international response to the coupLow discusses how somemainly Western, countries have enforced new sanctions, but protestors in Myanmar have called for military intervention. He believes that armed intervention is “extremely unlikely and ill-advised”.  

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Global gender equality

In its annual report on global gender equality, the World Economic Forum (WEF) looks at four key areaseconomic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowermentand evaluates what progress has been made to close gender gaps in each over time. The report collects information from 156 countries across the world and has used the same methodology since 2006. This allows researchers to make comparisons of progress over time.  

Considering the gender gap in each area, the 2021 report found that: 

  • The gap in political empowerment was only 22% closed and it will take 145.5 years to attain gender parity in politics at the current trajectory.  
  • The gap in economic participation and opportunity was 58% closed. The WEF says that it will take 267.6 years to close the gap, due to “two opposing trends” of an increase of women among skilled professionals but a “persistent lack of women” in leadership positions.  
  • The gap in educational attainment, at 95%, is almost closed. It is expected to close completely in 14.2 years. 
  • The gap in health and survival, at 96%, is also almost closed. The time to close this gap is “undefined”.  

Overall, the WEF concludes that the average distance completed to parity across all areas is 68%. At the current rate of progress, it predicts that it will take 135.6 years to reach gender parity worldwide. The WEF notes that progress has declined since the previous report in 2020 by 0.6%, and states that this is “mainly driven by a decline in the performance of large countries”. 

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