Letters to the Editor — November, 2010
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Letters to the Editor — November, 2010


By THE IRRAWADDY Monday, November 1, 2010


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Monday, November 04, 2010
Danish Ambassador Responds to “Burma Betrayed?”

With reference to your editorial “Burma Betrayed?” published online Oct. 19th, the Danish Embassy in Bangkok would like to offer some clarifications regarding a number of apparent misunderstandings concerning the Danish support to the Burmese people in general and to The Irrawaddy in specific:

First and foremost, there should be no doubt that Denmark has politically as well financially supported the people(s) of Burma in the face of both military repression and natural disaster for more than two decades—and will continue to do so.

Denmark remains strongly committed to promoting a process towards democracy and national reconciliation in Burma. In solidarity with the Burmese people, Denmark has repeatedly stated its deep concerns about the perpetual severe human rights violations taking place in Burma. Regarding the elections scheduled for November 7th, we have continually called for free, fair and inclusive elections as well as the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We are deeply concerned that the government has not taken the necessary steps to this end and will continue to engage closely with other international partners, including Burma’s neighbours, to promote a democratic and peaceful solution to the benefit of all the people of Burma.   

Danish assistance to Burma has seen a steady increase over the past years both in terms of financial resources allocated, the number of projects supported and the number of beneficiaries reached. We are in 2010 disbursing more than US $10 million for a range of more than 25 projects run by almost as many partners. The Danish assistance is targeted at Burmese people inside as well as outside Burma, including refugees and migrants. And the assistance is varied in scope encompassing both social sectors such as health and education, livelihood support to people and communities struggling to maintain a life in dignity and decency as well as support to activists, academics, journalists and others who—from both inside and outside Burma—strive to promote democracy, human rights and national reconciliation.

Add to the above the humanitarian assistance provided in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, where Denmark provided assistance for a total worth of approximately US $14 million, placing Denmark, a small country of just over 5 million people, amongst the most prominent humanitarian donors at the time.

Turning specifically to Danish support to The Irrawaddy, it serves to mention that total Danish governmental support to The Irrawaddy over the past 6-7 years has come to a total of some US $650,000.  

While recognizing your right to disagree with the Danish decision not to enter into a new agreement with The Irrawaddy for 2011, allow me to outline the reasons behind: First, the clear focus of Danish support to The Irrawaddy over the past three years has been on assisting The Irrawaddy working towards increased—not full, but increased—financial self-sustainability rather than continuing to rely almost completely on donor funding. Second, during this time The Irrawaddy has not in our view effectively delivered on agreed targets nor convincingly demonstrated a clear commitment towards that end. It is these two observations—combined with a need to prioritize between an increasing number of project proposals and potential partners—that have led the Embassy to the conclusion that in 2011 we are not able to contribute to the process of helping The Irrawaddy increase its financial sustainability, a process to which we have dedicated considerable resources over the years.

The Embassy’s concerns have been discussed with The Irrawaddy on several occasions, and in a meeting on September 22nd The Irrawaddy was informed of our conclusion concerning funding for 2011. The Embassy subsequently informed other donors as part of the natural and ongoing information exchange and coordination that takes place between donors supporting the same organization in order to enhance transparency, aid effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

In your editorial, you also mention another organization, which has received funding from the Government of Denmark, namely the Danish Burma Committee.

While I, as a matter of principle, do not wish to make detailed comments on matters that are unrelated to Danish support to The Irrawaddy, I would like to underline that any project partner of the Danish Government commits itself to upholding certain principles and following certain guidelines for the management, supervision and auditing of its activities and expenditures, including those of its project partners.



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