NGOs, or NG no’s?

By Tiffany Alexander for the BBC

The UNDP faced its first committee session today concerning the issue of the misuse and corruption of aid. Initially there was an impression that there was consensus in the room; this wasn’t surprising. How challenging could it have been for delegates to have already come to the conclusion themselves that the corruption of aid was bad? Throughout debate though, the polarisation of positions in the room has become clear; transparency and accountability of governments, versus the abolishment of NGOs (as a system of such transparency) in aid exchange.

The United Kingdom feels “transparency is key” and acknowledges that “both NGOs and states have a role” whilst Myanmar objected on the basis that the process of aid transfers, from donors to NGOs and then to affected states such as Myanmar, is inefficient and “undermines” the legitimacy of Myanmar’s central government by excluding them from the process.

India’s challenge to Myanmar on this issue was the question of “why”? Why do NGOS have such limited access to Myanmar? Although India did not expand on the motivation behind this inquiry, the assumption is that India was highlighting that Myanmar’s issues with NGOs might be their own doing, and given a chance co-operation between NGOs and the central government could be a credit to the state.

In response Myanmar’s justification of their restrictions on non-state actors is that “you never know who is trying to enter Myanmar under the pretence of aid”. Whether this is the official position of Myanmar, or whether the delegate is simply trying to make an impression, is questionable. Either way the truly disappointing outcome of committee today is that Oxfam left committee minutes before this discussion, only to be followed by an unidentified NGO who entered and exited moments later. Their input, especially if directed toward Myanmar’s concerns, could have been invaluable to the progress of the UNDP.

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