Refugees International calls for 'flexibility' on aid to Myanmar

Will Western donors lift their ban on direct aid to Myanmar anytime soon?

Refugees International, in a report released Wednesday (Jan. 11), said U.S. law and similar restrictions imposed by Western donors in Myanmar “exacerbated the impact of the government’s disastrous economic policies and deepened the suffering of the poorest Burmese.” It said Western donors should lift some aid restrictions or make existing policies more flexible in the country.

“Restrictions imposed by western donors, prohibits assistance from reaching any member of the government. This means that, in practice, [U.N. Development Program] and US implementing-partner NGOs can work freely with communities, but cannot provide any assistance or even training to teachers or health workers, thereby hindering systemic impact,” the organization said.

The country has been under a military regime for decades. Recent developments in Myanmar — such as the country once again coming under a civilian government, softening stance on media censorship and some 200 political prisoners freed in amnesties — have renewed the West’s interests in re-engaging with the country.

In December, for example, the United States relaxed some restrictions it imposed on aid to Myanmar, including supporting the expansion of U.N. assistance to the country. It also said it will no longer prevent the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank from conducting assessment programs in Myanmar.

The European Union, meanwhile, announced its plans of opening a local aid office in the country following U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague’s visit early January.

But while these may be seen as good news, both countries said more needs to be done before they lift sanctions in the country.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.