Governing disaster risk in Myanmar: Institutions and policy pathways during 1885–2015

Thurein Tun, Jonatan Lassa

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Unlike many disaster-prone countries in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, there is a lack of study on Myanmar's long-term evolution of disaster policy, governance and institutions. A substantial increase in the Myanmar disaster management policy literature can be observed after Cyclone Nargis 2008. Most researchers treated Myanmar's pre-Nargis period as a monolithic period when disaster policy measures were either a full set of reactive responses or nothing. Furthermore, there is a lack of an appreciative approach to understanding Myanmar's disaster risk management policy, for example, from a historical overview. Using a descriptive research and content analysis, this paper explores the evolution of institutions and policies related to disaster and emergency planning in Myanmar since 1885. This paper employs secondary data collection methods, including historical archives, policies, reports and other documents, to establish a historical trajectory of the evolution of Myanmar disaster and emergency management-related policies in Myanmar from 1885 to 2015. The researchers found that the policy narrative has incrementally shifted from a state-centric and top-down approach (pre-Hyogo period) to a whole-of-government approach (Hyogo period) to a polycentric model where “whole of society” can be involved. However, the research shows that path-dependency theory remains the best predictor for long-term policy pathways: (1) pure endogenous disaster policy-making is often trapped in endless trial and error; (2) Large-scale disasters such as Cyclone Nargis can facilitate disaster policy change provided that there is productive engagement to allow exogenous policy transfers including more opportunity to adopt international disaster governance frameworks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103992
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023


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