Cablegate: Un Tries Again to Map Burma's Problems

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: A new UN resident representative for Burma
is attempting to complete a humanitarian needs assessment and
strategy report that his predecessor failed to extract from
the UN bureaucracy. The report is intended to come alongside
an ambitious data collection project, which should help focus
limited international aid in the most vulnerable areas.
While we welcome the UN's renewed effort, and hope to be
pleasantly surprised, we are skeptical that these important
reports will be produced on schedule and as planned. End

Once More, With Feeling!

2. (SBU) The new UN country team (UNCT) in Burma is trying
again to issue a humanitarian needs assessment paper. This
paper, which is supposed to lay out an honest appraisal of
the country's vulnerabilities and offer some proposed
stakeholder responses, has been delayed for months reportedly
due to UN internal bureaucratic wrangling.

3. (SBU) An early draft of the second attempt at this report
is quite similar to the last effort outlined in reftel and at
the February Informal Consultative Group meeting on Burma.
According to UNDP in Rangoon, when this draft is complete it
will be used as a starting point for consultations with the
GOB, NGOs, and donors. After a background section, the
report will look at the UN's current country operations,
highlighting successes and also obstacles to efficiently
providing assistance. Next, for each of four broad areas of
concern (poverty, social services, crime, and regional
disparities), the report will outline the key systemic
barriers to progress and suggest several, general, project
proposals. Finally, the report will address ways that the UN
apparatus in Burma could work smarter; by bolstering internal
and external coordination, expanding partnerships, and
improving accountability and monitoring.

4. (SBU) We've learned from UN sources here that to help
focus international efforts based on the humanitarian
strategy paper the UNCT is also launching an ambitious, and
long overdue, effort to accurately map socio-economic
vulnerability throughout the country. The consultants hired
for this project will first review, with the assistance of
NGOs and embassies, all existing data for standard indicators
now used by UNDP to assess a country's humanitarian
condition. After the review, the UN will seek to fill data
holes and upgrade any existing information that has not been
verified. The UNDP tells us this entire project should be
complete by the end of February. However, considering the
lack of reliable data, and the UN's determination to do this
work without soliciting GOB assistance, this may be wishful

Needed: More Spine

5. (SBU) We are skeptical that the new UNCT's plans and
timetables will be as easily achieved as expected. Accurate
data collection will be difficult and time consuming without
using government health, education, and agricultural
officials around the country. However, if asked to help,
these officials will be reluctant at best to help collect
information that would contradict the GOB's claims of a
poverty-free, healthy, and well-fed and educated nation.
Second, the UN here, apart from UNHCR, has a reputation for
knuckling to GOB pressure and being reluctant to publish
anything too brutally honest. This reputation will have to
be surmounted if any resulting report is to be credibly
received and become the basis for any expanded international
humanitarian efforts.

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