USAID’s donation of personal protective equipment to Myanmar. Photo by: Robin Johnson / USAID / CC BY-NC

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced on Feb. 11 it would redirect $42.4 million in assistance to Myanmar after carrying out a review to determine whether any U.S. funding would likely benefit the military junta.

It was not immediately clear how USAID would determine which aspects of its work might benefit the government, especially since the agency does not provide direct budget support to Myanmar. So Devex sought clarification.

The $42.4 million that is being redirected “includes funds that were intended to provide technical assistance, training, and capacity building to government ministries, departments, and commissions,” according to Pooja Jhunjhunwala, acting spokesperson at USAID.

“USAID will cease activity components that risk benefitting or supporting the government, while redirecting program implementation to support civil society and advocacy organizations working on governance, human rights, and trafficking in persons,” Jhunjhunwala wrote to Devex.

The shift away from technical assistance, training, and capacity building applies “except in some cases such as health and humanitarian assistance where limited coordination with or work through the government is necessary and unavoidable for life-saving activities,” she added.

How it works: USAID’s assistance to Myanmar is directed through implementing partners, including United Nations organizations, private sector contractors and grantees, and local and international nongovernmental organizations.

Asked how existing contracts and grants would accommodate the redirection of funding, Jhunjhunwala wrote, “USAID builds adaptive management approaches into its award instruments such that they can be adjusted as circumstances may dictate.”

Why it matters: The U.S. government is trying to apply pressure to Myanmar’s military while avoiding actions that could harm people in need. Since USAID typically works in close cooperation with its counterpart governments, that is a difficult balance to achieve.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.