Cablegate: Echo Coming to Burma

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. (U) Summary: The EU plans to open a Rangoon branch of
the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) by the end
of this year to monitor and supplement the considerable
humanitarian assistance it currently provides for Burma
programs from Bangkok and Brussels. According to one
Bangkok-based EC diplomat, if all goes well, and EU member
states approve, ECHO will be the forerunner to a full EC
delegation office in Rangoon. In the meantime, the UK is
looking at providing additional assistance if and when the
GOB's human rights policies improve. End Summary

2. (U) During course of the United Nations Population Fund's
October 11-13 program in Upper Burma for the diplomatic
community (reftel), the Charge d'affaires of the European
Commission delegation in Bangkok (Cauwenbergh) told poloff
that ECHO will set up shop in Rangoon by the end of 2004.

3. (U) The Commission and the GOB have both given a green
light to the proposal, which has long been in the planning
stage. ECHO will channel its assistance to Burma largely
through INGOs and other international organizations, as does
the Commission. Cauwenbergh added that the ECHO branch will
be opened and initially managed by a contract employee
without diplomatic status, but is envisioned as a forerunner
to a fully accredited European delegation facility. The
eventual up-grade to a full delegation office has not yet
been approved by EU member states, cautioned the Charge.

4. (U) He said the European Commission currently provides
some euros 25 million annually (USD 31-32 million) for Burma
programs. (Note: Some of these funds go to organizations
working with Burmese refugees in Thailand. End note.) ECHO
will likely have a separate assistance portfolio of "several
million euros." Whether the latter funds will come from the
existing budget, or supplement it, was not clear.
Nevertheless, he expressed hope that on-the-ground monitoring
would lead to more effective utilization of the EU's overall
assistance funds.

5. (SBU) Comment: The UK is the only EU member state to
have a Rangoon-based foreign assistance professional working
in its local Embassy (from the Department for International
Development--DFID). The DFID official (Rurik Marsden) is
assessing economic assistance needs and capacities in civil
society for absorbing and using foreign assistance. He is
currently putting the finishing touches on a country plan for
Burma--concentrating on health care, HIV/AIDs, basic
education, improving livelihoods in rural areas, and
democratization---to have ready "in case of political
changes" and related improvements in human rights. In
addition, the UK has pledged sterling 10 million over three
years to the United Nations' "Fund for HIV/AIDS in Myanmar"
(FHAM), which is also supported by Norway and Sweden. An
officer in another EU member state embassy recently mused
about how much of the EU's foreign assistance funds are
siphoned off by the generals, and expressed hope that the
presence and attention of ECHO staff will lead to closer
monitoring of the considerable amounts of money flowing here
from Brussels. End comment.

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