Burma Campaign UK today welcomed what will amount to a doubling of UK aid to Burma. News of the increase was reported by The Independent today. Burma Campaign UK has been lobbying the British government to continue increasing aid to Burma, which was a commitment of the previous Labour government, and which had been supported by the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats while in opposition.
When Burma Campaign UK first began lobbying for increased aid to Burma, the budget was just £8 million a year. In four years time it will rise to over £50 million per year.
Poverty in Burma is caused by the dictatorship, and while humanitarian aid can help alleviate some of the symptoms of the dictatorship, it is vital that the causes are addressed as well. It is, therefore, very welcome that DFID will increase funding for civil society organisations. However, to date most DFID funding in this area has been through organisations officially registered with the dictatorship. These organisations face strict limitations on what they can do, so it is important that DFID also fund informal organisations, and organisations which are based in exile. Although not based in Burma, they run underground networks throughout the country. As they are based in exile, they have more freedom to provide certain types of training and support to underground networks.
Burma Campaign UK would also like to see DFID significantly increase aid for food and shelter for refugees on the Thailand Burma border. More than 150,000 refugees from Burma are in refugee camps in Thailand, most having fled attacks by the Burmese Army. These refugees are currently facing ration cuts and other cuts in support because of the withdrawal of funding by the European Commission, and rising food prices and currency fluctuations. DFID should at least triple its annual support for these refugees, which currently stands at just over £1 million.
DFID should also step up funding for cross-border aid into ethnic areas where the dictatorship blocks registered humanitarian groups from delivering assistance. Cross-border aid, where people from the affected communities cross into neighbouring countries to collect aid and return to their communities with it, is the only way to reach many of the most vulnerable people in the country.
Burma Campaign UK cautioned that DFID must continue to avoid channelling aid through the dictatorship, as the danger of the dictatorship stealing or misusing aid would undermine public support for increasing aid.
“Burma Campaign UK warmly welcomes this much-needed increase in aid,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “DFID’s duel strategy of providing aid but also promoting democracy is the right approach. The dictatorship in Burma not only oppresses the people, it also keeps them in poverty. We must help with aid where we can, but also work to help the people of Burma get rid of the dictatorship which is keeping them poor. The generals reportedly have $5 billion of stolen gas revenue hidden in Singapore bank accounts, enough to provide a basic healthcare package for everyone in Burma.“
For more information contact Mark Farmaner on 020 7324 4710