“We are a social development organization that works with civil society, government and businesses to bring about a society of active citizens supported by effective and democratic governance.”
Loka Ahlinn was formed by nine core members from educational backgrounds in 2006. It aimed to address the question of how to develop an education platform in Myanmar. Projects started in community management and training, including establishment of two training centres, in Yangon and Magway.
The organisation expanded operations in the wake of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which devastated delta regions, communities and livelihoods. Projects were formed to aid recovery processes and livelihood development, during which time Loka Ahlinn grew to around 100 staff.
Loka Ahlinn was able to shift and refine its aim further to reflect changes in government policy from 2010 on wards. The current transition towards a more open and democratic society allowed us to establish projects to promote and protect human rights and to enable communities to have a voice in local decision making.
This included rule of law work in six districts of Myanmar and social development projects to strengthen civil society organizations around the country. Our work is grouped into tow thematic programme areas that aim to build a society of active citizens that can exercise their rights, and to improve the effectiveness of and participation in local governance.
Our logo design reflects the aims and ambitions of Loka Ahlinn and for Myanmar society as a whole. The eight fingers of the hands represent the ‘88 student movement and everything the movement represents. Turned on their side, the hands become shaped like a peacock, symbolizing the popular people’s movement in Myanmar. The central heart stands for tenderness and love, and is a symbol of peace. The colors represent light, flying high and progressing forward.
Our work in context
Sixty years of totalitarian military rule have prevented the development of strong social institutions. This threatens the future of the reform process that began in 2010. Even though new spaces have opened, the military has retained a dominant place in the state under the 2008 constitution, and social institutions are still too weak to balance the “post-military” state.
We don’t know yet if this opening is permanent or genuine. The future of the country cannot be predicted. There are three scenarios: a formal return of the military regime, a reformed state that is controlled by a wider group of elites, or a consolidated democracy.
Loka Ahlinn is committed to building the preconditions for the third scenario, which will require the rebuilding of mutual trust between the state and the people.
There are three essential areas of reform that are not yet enacted:
1) Balancing the civil-military relationship
2) De-centralizing control of the state over society and ethnic minority states
3) Strengthening society so that it is able to balance and counter the power of the state.
Our analysis is that the key agents in these deep reforms are civil society, the political parties, the ethnic-minority populations, and public institutions.
We will directly engage with civil society where our experience, capacities and networks lie. During this strategic phase, we will particularly work to link traditional and apolitical social groups with social movements that demand political change and seek to balance to the power of the state. We will also focus our new work with public institutions at the local level where the immediate potential for state responsiveness and accountability are located. We will limit ourselves to strategic engagement with political parties as many others work programmatically with them.