How do external actors effectively support and facilitate local leadership to work towards progressive reforms or social change? Despite a widespread commitment to making sure that reform processes in developing countries are locally-owned and locally-led, this is often hard to do in practice. This paper uses a case study of the International Finance Corporation-led and bilateral donor-supported passage of the Myanmar Investment Law (MIL) to illustrate the pitfalls and possibilities of how external actors can support domestic reforms and the tensions of local leadership in these processes.
The MIL case study is particularly revealing as – by general consensus – throughout its passage, it came to represent the full range of positions from externally imposed to locally-contested and went from being a problematic failure to qualified success. We conclude with a series of lessons learned and implications for external actors seeking to support and facilitate progressive developmental leadership and change.
The Myanmar Investment Law was approved in October 2016 and effectively came into force in 2017. The paper draws on interviews carried out by the authors in Myanmar in 2017 with key stakeholders from the IFC, law firms, civil society organisations, INGOs, the government of Myanmar, and international bilateral donors and multilateral actors.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade works in partnership with IFC to implement and deliver private sector development programs in Myanmar. These programs, and the IFC, are a valued part of Australia’s aid to Myanmar