EU to open aid office in Myanmar

A view of Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, where the European Union expects to open an office to manage its aid programs for the Asian country. Photo by: MorBCN / CC BY-NC-SA

In another sign of a thawing relationship between Myanmar and key donors, the European Union announced Thursday (Jan. 5) plans to open a local office that will manage aid programs in the country.

The announcement coincides with the conclusion of U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague’s landmark visit to Myanmar — the first of its kind in more than 50 years. As expected, Hague did not announce changes to the U.K.’s ban on direct aid to the Myanmar government but did promise additional aid for a U.K. livelihood program in the country and humanitarian assistance for refugees displaced by fighting in northern Myanmar.

These announcements demonstrate that Western donors are warming up, albeit cautiously, to the formerly isolated Myanmar. The change in donors’ attitude toward the Asian country is largely prompted by recent pro-democracy reforms implemented by Myanmar’s first civilian government in years.

The EU office will be based in the city of Yangon but will report to the EU ambassador to Thailand. Its main mandate is to oversee EU-funded aid programs but will also promote political dialogue, according to Michael Mann, spokesperson for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton. It is set to open “as soon as it is administratively possible,” Mann said.

The European Union has allocated €65 million ($83.05 million) for Myanmar through 2013. The bulk is for health, education and good governance-related activities implemented by U.N. agencies, nongovernmental organizations and local administrations. The European Union, like most donors, does not provide direct aid to the Myanmar government.

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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.