Learning to Better Engage Stakeholders in Myanmar

 

Worldwide, hydropower can generate electricity for 1.4 billion people. Dams built to tap hydropower can also control floods, supply irrigation and domestic water, generate much-needed taxes and royalties for emerging economies, and boost private-sector investment. However, a hydro project’s success, to a large extent, relies on the relationship between the company and affected communities.  Without building meaningful and equitable relationships, hydropower projects could be rejected or resisted by stakeholders, leading to reputational risks, loss of financing, and project cancellations.

IFC, with support from the Australian government, and the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), conducted a training workshop on stakeholder engagement for officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) and the Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) in Nay Pyi Taw in early October.  Using IFC's Performance Standards approach, participants learned how to identify stakeholders, about ethnic minorities in Myanmar, engagement tools, levels of engagement, and equity sharing.

Officials and experts, who addressed the participants, agreed there is significant work involved to ensure stakeholders are consulted and engaged. This includes understanding who is affected, holding consultations that provide equal opportunities for men and women to voice their views, and putting a stakeholder engagement plan in place early enough.

“Hydropower is an important part of our national energy strategy. Communities need to be better engaged so we can learn how to develop hydropower that everyone can benefit from,” said Yi Cho Cho from Myanmar’s Environmental Conservation Department, (MONREC). “We now focus on capacity building, which will be followed by developing guidelines and procedures.”
 
“Good stakeholder engagement is an essential part of sustainable hydropower. It gains community support and reduces local environmental impacts,” said Morten Johnsen, NVE’s resident Environmental Adviser to Myanmar’s Ministry of Electricity and Energy. “This workshop is a good starting point to define and apply improved stakeholder-engagement processes for hydropower projects.”
 
IFC and Norway are coordinating to help the government with its learning process on hydropower sustainability.
 
“We are still learning about how to tackle stakeholder engagement within our ministry,” said U Sein Win Tun from MOEE. “Previously, we were aware that we needed to engage stakeholders, but it is the level of detail that we are learning about now. This includes how to coordinate better among our ministries."
 
This is the third IFC-conducted training workshop on sustainability in the hydropower sector for government officials. The workshop reviewed IFC’s Performance Standards (PS) and how stakeholder engagement is addressed.  Participants learned of the practicality of engagement and how to apply it to their respective work.
 
“There is no magic number for how many consultations should be conducted with communities affected by hydropower development,” said Abhishek Singh, Social Specialist for IFC. “The process should be structured so that it occurs regularly and is well documented. Stakeholder engagement should focus on building consensus and ensuring equitable involvement of stakeholders to build trust and meet expectations, throughout the life of a project.”