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Strategic Review of Mercy Corps’ Experience with Dispute Resolution and Mediation Programs in Myanmar

Mercy Corps
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A Report commissioned by Mercy Corps Myanmar and co-authored by Chris Moore, Aye Aye Kyu and Zayar Lin.

1. Executive Summary

Mercy Corps (MC) has been implementing programs to strengthen the negotiation and dispute resolution skills of civil society leaders, religious leaders, and government officials in Myanmar for over five years. 1 These programs apply a collaborative approach to negotiation and problem solving – referred to by MC as the interest-based negotiation (IBN) framework – to strengthen the capacities of participating leaders to communicate constructively across lines of division and effectively resolve disputes. The approach, dating back to MC’s 2004 merge with the Cambridge-based Conflict Management Group and adapted to Myanmar’s context, builds on MC’s global experience using IBN as a tool to support dispute resolution, collaborative problem solving, and joint project implementation.

Purpose of the strategic review:

  1. Capture program impact, successes, and setbacks.

  2. Review Mercy Corps’ current dispute resolution programming approaches against global best practice.

  3. Generate practical recommendations for strengthening implementation and impact in the anticipated second phase of the intercommunal violence program as well as in other ongoing and future programs.

After several years of implementation and adaptation, the MC team is taking a step back to review its dispute resolution program against global best practice with an eye to strengthen implementation and impact in upcoming programs. The team hopes that this strategic review will also expose new theoretical perspectives and approaches that may be integrated into the existing approach, enhancing sustainability and impact.

The strategic review assesses the relevance of the IBN approach and reviews results chains and achievements against intended outcomes; it also does likewise the different approaches and tools used in different projects. This strategic review, based on its learnings, serves as a key decision point in formulating recommendations for future programs and potentially reorienting our approach.

Objectives of the strategic review: The strategic review aims to:

(1) Review, based on the below strategic review questions and against global best practices, MC’s past and current dispute resolution program approaches, capturing program impacts, successes, and setbacks. This includes reviewing the participant selection strategies, curriculum, strategies for supporting ongoing networking and learning, and methods of monitoring and evaluating the impact of dispute resolution programming.

(2) Generate recommendations for improving the mediation and dispute resolution components of future programs. Recommendations should draw on the review and best practices in mediation and dispute resolution programming and provide concrete and practical guidance for strengthening implementation and impact. Recommendations should focus on Myanmar, but they could also inform MC’s IBN work globally.

(3) Expose the MC team to new ideas around dispute resolution training and best practices. The consultant should be prepared to talk through best practices and common pitfalls of dispute resolution programming with the team. To the extent possible, team members should be involved in the review process in order to maximize learning.

Participants involved in the review: The evaluation and strategic review team solicited the voices of people involved in all of MC’s IBN/IBM initiatives and asked them to directly share their insights about program approaches, monitoring, and achievement; they also discussed future MC programming. This was done in efforts to evaluate and assess the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, and sustainability of the program. Key participants in the evaluation and strategic review were township administrators, W/VTAs, and religious, community, and civil society leaders who had participated in MC’s programs. Other participants in the evaluation included disputants in cases handled by W/VTAs, trained in CBDR IBN/IBM, and a control group of W/VTAs similar to those who participated in the program but were not participants or trained in dispute resolution procedures and skills.

Methodology: This section of the report consolidates the findings from the evaluations of all of MC’s IBN/IBM programs in Myanmar and incorporates input from MC staff and national consultants, Aye Aye Kyu and Zayar Lin and international consultant, Chris Moore, who participated in a two-day learnings workshop. It addresses some of the key strategic questions related to MC’s introduction and implementation IBN/IBM procedures to address and resolve some of the most important issues faced by the country and to promote development and peace.

Additional data was collected to support the strategic review, which included focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informant interviews (KIIs). Evaluation questions that guided FGDs and KIIs can be found in Annex A and B. Data was also collected from MC’s staff members who implemented past programs during a two-day lessons-learned workshop conducted prior to consolidating information from program participants and preparing this evaluation and strategic review. Data collection activities were carried out in six cities: Mandalay, Loikaw, Taunggyi, Hpa-an,
Belin, and Mawlamyine. A total of 76 trained leaders (41 from RBDRP project and 35 from past MC projects), ten disputants (two per MyJustice project area), and 19 control participants participated in this evaluation.