Are donors moving too fast in Myanmar?

A busy street market in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by: El Scrapeo / CC BY-NC-SA

As more donors suspend and lift sanctions against Myanmar, a group of human rights and pro-democracy nongovernmental organizations are urging caution.

The group wrote an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday (April 24). In the letter, the group said that while it supports the U.S. position “to gradually relax sanctions in a way that is tied to progress,” it is concerned the government is moving “in a way that will undermine” efforts toward “democratization, durable peace, and improved respect for human rights.”

The group has provided a list of “outstanding issues” that need measurable progress in Myanmar, including unhindered access for international and domestic NGOs to conflict areas. It proposes the United States link gradual easing of restrictions to progress on these issues.

The signatories to the letter are: AFL-CIO, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Institute for Asian Democracy, Open Society Foundations, Orion Strategies, Physicians for Human Rights, U.S. Campaign for Burma and United to End Genocide.

Meanwhile, Canada announced April 24 it will be suspending most of its sanctions against Myanmar. These include prohibitions on trade, technical data and financial transactions. As with other donors, however, the arms embargo and the ban on any form of assistance related to military activities remain in place.

German development minister Dirk Niebel said April 23 his country will be providing an additional €10 million ($13.2 million) in development aid to Myanmar. This is on top of the €6.2 million Germany committed in February.

Niebel also said Germany will be resuming bilateral cooperation with Myanmar, focusing on sustainable development of the Asian country’s economy. Further, Niebel said he will work to ensure “there is effective international donor coordination, so that Myanmar will not be drowned in an uncoordinated surge of donors but will receive division of labour-based, targeted support for its reform process.”

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    Aimee Rae Ocampo

    In her role as editor for business insight, Aimee creates and manages multimedia content and cutting-edge analysis for executives in international development. As the manager of Development Insider, Devex's flagship publication for executive members, she is constantly on the lookout for the latest news, trends and policies that influence the business of development.