In Myanmar, US seeks credible 2015 elections

U.S. Agency for International Development Rajiv Shah meets Myanmarese Vice President Nyan Tun in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Photo by: Richard Nyberg / USAID / CC BY-NC

Despite ongoing violence in Myanmar, here’s one thing that the Southeast Asian country can look forward to: an $11 million U.S. Agency for International Development program.

The pledge aims to support ”free, fair, honest and credible elections” for Myanmar in 2015. It took place March 8, days after the European Union promised to ramp up its assistance to Myanmar with more than $195 million in aid, including that for promoting stable local elections.  

The $11 million Elections and Political Process Assistance Program will run for three years and forms part of the U.S.-Burma Partnership for Democracy, Peace and Prosperity announced by U.S. President Barack Obama on his visit to Myanmar in November 2012.

The program aims to assist the Myanmar government in bettering its electoral administration, voter education, parliamentary assistance and political party development. It will be implemented by a consortium involving the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute in partnership with local civil society groups, a spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Rangoon told Devex. USAID and the consortium signed March 1 an agreement for the implementation of the program.

“USAID is working with the implementing partners to start operations as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said.

The program’s announcement coincided with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s recent and first-ever visit to Myanmar, where he met with senior government officials. During his visit, Shah pledged U.S. commitment to support the peace process in Myanmar and unhindered humanitarian access to vulnerable populations.

This pledge also comes in light of continuous armed conflict between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Army in Kachin state, where critics claim the government violated international war laws and blocked humanitarian assistance to communities vulnerable to the ongoing violence. Critics have raised concern about the current outpouring of government assistance from Western countries and have called for added accountability in the part of the Myanmar government.

More pledges of aid are likely coming Myanmar’s way as the government proceeds with political and economic reforms, which began in 2011.

“Our aid and our partnership and support are in fact conditioned on the government here continuing to make some of the right steps in terms of their direction toward reform,” said Shah in an interview with Reuters.

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About the author

  • Johanna Morden

    Johanna Morden is a community development worker by training and a global development journalist by profession. As a former Devex staff writer based in Manila, she covered the Asian Development Bank as well as Asia-Pacific's aid community at large. Johanna has written for a variety of international publications, covering social issues, disasters, government, ICT, business, and the law.