December 18, 2006

Read the report here

The Burma Campaign UK today publishes a hard-hitting new report accusing DFID of failing to support democracy in Burma, and failing to provide aid to some of the most vulnerable people in the country. It also calls for a doubling of the aid budget for Burma, which it describes as “woefully under-funded.”

The report – Failing the People of Burma? A Call for a Review of DFID Policy on Burma – criticises DFID’s approach in three key areas:

DFID does not provide any support for projects promoting democracy in Burma.

DFID does not provide any cross border aid to Internally Displaced People or other vulnerable people who cannot be reached by aid from inside the country.

DFID provides too little aid. The £8m a year budget is not proportionate to the needs of the country.

“It is astonishing that in Burma of all countries DFID does not fund any projects focused on the promotion of democracy,” said Yvette Mahon, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “Of course we need more aid to tackle disease and poverty in Burma, but it makes no sense to focus solely on the symptoms and ignore the cause of poverty in Burma, which is the regime.”

As the dictatorship in Burma is at the root of humanitarian problems and underdevelopment, it is impossible to tackle these problems without also addressing their causes, yet DFID is failing to adequately commit to this. DFID does not provide any resources to projects promoting democracy, despite spending millions of pounds on projects promoting democracy in other countries where oppression and human rights abuses are not so severe.

In many border areas of Burma where poverty is most severe, aid can only reach people by means of aid workers crossing into Burma from neighbouring countries. DFID refuses to fund such aid. Following public and parliamentary pressure in early 2006, DFID held a review of its policy on Internally Displaced People (IDP) funding. The review was due to be complete in October 2006, but has still not been published by December 2006. While DFID dithers, thousands of people are hiding in Burma’s jungles with no food, shelter or medical support.

Given that health, education, and other key indicators are as severe as in many of the poorest African countries, DFID’s budget for Burma – £8m per year – is woefully under-funded. Neighbouring Vietnam receives £50m a year. If Burmese people were to get as much aid per head as people in Africa, DFID’s Burma budget would have to increase from £8m in 2007 to £80m. The Burma Campaign UK is calling for an immediate doubling of DFID aid to Burma, and a review of funding levels for future years.

“DFID needs to undertake a fundamental rethink of its strategy for Burma,” said Yvette Mahon. “There are glaring omissions in the current programme with regard to supporting a transition to democracy and reaching some of the poorest people. Aid must be at least doubled and significant support given to pro-democracy projects and cross-border aid.”

For more information, contact Mark Farmaner, Media Manager, on 020 7324 4713

Read the report here

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