Friday, 18 July 2008

Japan Monitoring Aid Distribution to Burma

The Irrawaddy News

Japanese aid to Burma for the reconstruction phase in the cyclone affected areas of the Irrawaddy Delta will be determined based on an assessment of how effectively emergency aid has been delivered, a top Japanese official at the United Nations said on Thursday.

Japanese officials are waiting for next week's relief assessment report to be delivered in Singapore by the tri-partite group made up of the UN, Asean and Burma before deciding on its next aid installment.

When asked if Japan would continue financial aid to Burma during the reconstruction phase, Ambassador Takahiro Shinyo, the deputy permanent representative of Japan to the United Nations, told journalists, "It depends."

The UN has issued a revised fundraising appeal for an additional $300 million, to be used on emergency relief and the reconstruction phase which could last for a year or more. Cyclone Nargis swept through Burma on May 2-3.

"After the humanitarian phase is over, somebody must declare that we are entering into the reconstruction phase,” he said. “Then the relevance of the aid would be discussed—whether or not to help in reconstruction," Takahiro said.

Asked for clarification, Takahiro told The Irrawaddy that it does not mean imposing any conditions on Burma in lieu of any financial aid it would provide.

"This [imposing conditions for aid] is not our culture," he said, but he indicated that financial assistance to Burma beyond the post-humanitarian phase would depend on conditions in the Irrawaddy delta, how the money would be implement and also the progress made towards the political reform process.

The Japanese ambassador said there must be an aid monitoring process even during humanitarian relief work phase.

"We are very much keen to see if the aid is distributed rightly or not, and that it has been distributed to the people,” he said. “So the checking mechanism is very necessary."

Japan is also dispatching its own missions to Burma to see that its aid is properly distributed and reaches those for whom it is intended.

"When we extend financial assistance to international organizations, we are always asking for monitoring and assessment because we would like to assure our Parliament [that the money is being used properly]," he said.

"There have been some cases when the implementation of Japanese aid has been questioned in the Parliament so we are very keen on this," he said.

Takahiro said relief work cannot continue indefinitely. Based on previous international experience, he said it normally last from six months to one year.

"If it is longer than one year, it is no longer an emergency phase. So we can confine the time element and of course the project," he said.

Japan, previously one of the Burma’s largest donors, has not made any new funding commitments in the last few years, Takahiro said.

He said Japan has dispatched a mission to Burma to investigate how to salvage sunken ships as a result of the cyclone. There are a large number of sunken ships in the Bay of Burma, whose removal, he said, is essential to the reconstruction phase.

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