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U.N. looks at international donor conference

(Mizzima) – An international donor conference will probably be held sometime this year, after the Burmese government presents a “detailed national development and poverty reduction strategy,” says Ashok Nigam, the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Burma.

Ajay Chhibber, the United Nations assistant secretary-general  Photo: www.weforum.orgA separate pledging conference focusing on aid to conflict zones in the country’s ethnic-dominated areas will be convened in Burma in March by Norway and some other international donors.

The proposed donor conference would focus on reducing poverty levels from 26 per cent to a government target of 16 per cent by 2015, Ajay Chhibber, regional director of the U.N. development programme, told The Financial Times. The conference was one of the outcomes of the recent health and education development conference hosted by the U.N. and the Burmese government in Naypyitaw, which was attended by international development experts.

“In discussions with the government, we agreed on the need for more aid, more effective aid and better aid co-ordination and agreed to start work on a process that will lead to a roundtable that will bring donors together,” Chhibber was quoted a saying in an article on Wednesday.

Burma ranks in the lowest quarter of global poverty and would need billions of dollars in aid for countrywide development. The West has said it will lift some sanctions if the April 1 by-elections are fair, all political prisoners are released and the country’s civil war finally ends.

Meanwhile, Japan and Singapore are preparing to send large business delegations to Burma in the coming days. But in spite of widespread interest, some officials are voicing cautions and patience.

The EU’s development commissioner Andris Piebalgs said this week that European companies would take time to invest in Burma, because it still lacks a rule of law framework and a modern financial exchange system.

Piebalgs, however, said, “The momentum of change in Myanmar is impressive and the EU recognizes the need to do all it can to support the country at this time.”

The U.S. and the E.U. have already started to dismantle some sanctions, in light of positive moves toward democracy. According to EU sources, EU foreign ministers will “look at a possible new substantial reduction or even ending of sanctions” on April 23.

For Burma to continue with its democratization efforts, it will need external assistance. “More dialogue will help better policies to emerge, more money for development cooperation will promote economic and social development and help reduce poverty,” Piebalgs said, as the EU announced a new aid package worth €150 million to assist the country in 2012-2013.

For the time being, “we are limited to what we can do because of the sanctions,” said another EU diplomat. “If sanctions are removed, we will be able to work more on development and cooperation aid.”

On the sidelines of the recent Naypyitaw conference, one Burmese official said there was “unprecedented interest” from international business groups eager to learn about Burma’s development plans.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 February 2012 22:07 )  

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