Marjanneke Vijge selected for Niels Stensen fellowship

Published on
December 21, 2015
Last month Marjanneke Vijge, PhD candidate with the Environmental Policy group, was selected for a Niels Stensen Fellowship to conduct research on transparency in the extractive industry sector in Myanmar. The fellowship enables young academics from any kind of discipline to spend a year, fully funded, as a post-doctoral researcher at a university or research institute abroad. The fellowship is meant for those who, through their research, aim to make a contribution to society.

The key question Marjanneke will address in her research is whether enhanced transparency leads to more sustainable and democratic governance of the extractive industry sector. More specifically, she will analyse the possible impacts of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in Myanmar. Last year, Myanmar became candidate to this initiative, which means that the country will be required to disclose information to the public about payments, production and contracts etween oil, gas and mining industries and the government. The transparency initiative is seen as a crucial part of Myanmar’s democratic reform process. Currently, there are very limited mechanisms for Burmese citizens to hold industries or government agencies to account for the many adverse social and environmental impacts of the extractive industry sector. Many civil society groups view this initiative as an important way to address this issue, and have to this end joined together in an umbrella organization of 450 groups.

There are, however, also concerns with regard to the impact of the transparency initiative. Some civil society groups fear that the initiative will merely be a way for Myanmar to improve its international (business) reputation and increase the already large and ever-growing amount of foreign direct investment in the country’s extractive industry sector. 

In studying whether the transparency initiative will stimulate or prevent a sustainable and democratic governance of the extractive industry sector in Myanmar, Marjanneke will specifically focus on the coordination between government agencies; accountability between citizens, companies and government agencies; civil society empowerment; and the performance of regulating social and environmental impacts of extractive industries. In her research, Marjanneke will collaborate with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a think tank based in London, and the UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative, a UN agency that aims to mainstream environmental issues into development policies.