Letters to the Editor — November, 2010
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Monday, May 27, 2024

Letters to the Editor — November, 2010

By THE IRRAWADDY Tuesday, November 30, 2010

(Page 3 of 19)

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. I can confirm that there are ongoing investigations as to whether the Danish Burma Committee has lived up to its obligations in this regard. As a consequence, further funding to the Danish Burma Committee cannot be considered until the matter is resolved. It is unfortunate that this situation also affects other project partners of the Danish Burma Committee. It is a matter that the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs actively is looking to resolve.

It is obvious that you are dissatisfied with the Danish Embassy’s decision to not include The Irrawaddy in our project portfolio for 2011; a decision that could of course be subject to renewed consideration should The Irrawaddy in the future show needed progress on and demonstrate commitment towards pursuing agreed targets.

I would have preferred to continue the close dialogue between The Irrawaddy and the Embassy rather than enter into a public debate on the nature and details of contractual agreements between our two organizations, but I sincerely hope that I with this letter have brought some clarity to the apparent misunderstandings in your accounts regarding the Danish support to Burma in general and The Irrawaddy in specific.

Michael Sternberg,

Related Link: “Burma Betrayed?” [Oct.

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