The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague is visiting Myanmar Jan. 5-6 to assess avenues of future support for the country’s new civilian government. Photo by: onourownpath.com / CC BY-SA

In the latest sign of growing donors’ interest given recent political developments in Myanmar, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague is visiting the country Jan. 5-6 to assess avenues of future support for the country’s new civilian government.

Recent political reforms by the civilian government have started to slowly attract the attention of the international development community, which largely isolated Myanmar for years in opposition to its former military rule.  Donors such as the United States and Japan, for instance, have made cautious promises of renewed engagement and potential aid.

Hague, for his part, is not expected to make specific aid pledges or announce changes to the U.K. aid policy, which rules out direct assistance to Myanmar’s central government. But his visit and acknowledgement of “encouraging recent steps” by the civilian government could be a step in that direction.

The Department for International Development has noted in its aid plan for Myanmar that “in the event of a major improvement in government accountability and respect for human rights our choice of aid instruments would widen.”

At the very least, Hague’s visit is highly symbolic: It is the first of a U.K. foreign secretary in more than 50 years. Ahead of his visit, he also outlined additional reforms the United Kingdom wants to see in Myanmar: “release of all remaining political prisoners, free and fair by-elections, humanitarian access to people in conflict areas, and credible steps towards national reconciliation.” 

The United Kingdom is one of biggest providers of aid to Myanmar. For 2011-2015, it pledged $185 million pounds ($288 million) to be coursed through the United Nations and local NGOs. The bulk of the money is allocated for reproductive, maternal and newborn health initiatives.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.