Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Myanmar threat to international security: US," Taipei Times/AFP, September 17, 2006.

The US on Friday fought off Chinese objections to get the UN Security Council (UNSC) to examine mounting concerns over events in Myanmar.

Ten countries - -- including the US, Britain and France -- voted for a US-proposed motion to put military-ruled Myanmar on the agenda. China, Russia, Qatar and the Congo voted against the motion while Tanzania abstained.

The US has been pressing for several months for Myanmar to be discussed. It has said that drug trafficking, mounting numbers of refugees, human rights and the growth of AIDS cases in the Asian country are a threat to international security.

But the decision infuriated China, whose ambassador, Wang Guangya (???), made a veiled attack on what he called unwarranted interference.

"This means that ... any country that faces similar issues should all be inscribed on the agenda of this council," Wang told the UNSC. "This is preposterous."

Wang said that neither Myanmar's neighbors nor most countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) consider "the situation in Myanmar as being any threat to regional peace and security."

"Without seeking the consent of the country in question and without a request put forward by any country in the region, some countries as far away as across the oceans harbor the belief that the situation in Myanmar is indeed a threat to international peace and security, this itself represents at least a far cry from the reality."

Putting Myanmar on the UNSC agenda launches a process that will allow for regular formal reports to be made on events in the country.

Washington has led efforts to force Yangon to ease human rights concerns, notably release democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for most of the past 17 years.

Myanmar in May extended her detention for another year, defying an international outcry demanding freedom for the 61-year-old Nobel peace laureate.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won the 1990 elections but was never allowed to rule. Its offices have been shut down by the junta, which has also locked up many other party members.

The US administration has called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

It has also called on the military regime to take steps to end "ethnic violence" against the Karen minority and "to address HIV/AIDS and drugs and human trafficking."

Sebastien Berger, "World Bank backs down on loan conditions," Telegraph, September 18, 2006.

Paul Wolfowitz, the president of the World Bank, suffered a stinging rebuke today when the organisation's members took control of his flagship policy.

Mr Wolfowitz, a former US deputy defence secretary, wants to link the bank's grants and loans to the success of anti-corruption efforts in recipient countries.

Critics, including Britain, France and Germany, believe that fighting corruption is only one aspect of good governance policy, and fear that focusing too strongly on the issue risks punishing the poor rather than the corrupt. It is also seen as a way of quietly cutting back on spending.

At a meeting of the Bank's development committee in Singapore, where it is holding its annual meetings, ministers from donor countries approved a policy paper but insisted their representatives should be in charge rather than the Bank's management.

They said: "Given the importance of this issue we stressed the importance of board oversight of the strategy as it is further developed and then implemented."

The dispute comes after Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, said he would withhold £50m of funding if the Bank did not show it was making progress on reducing the conditions attached to loans.

Mr Benn said he was "very pleased" with the result of the meeting.

"That's the outcome that I wanted," he said. "One of the reasons people raised concerns about the implementation of the policy on corruption and governance was to ensure that we balance absolutely being tough on corruption with ensuring that we don't forget poor people."

He told the committee: "We know that good governance is fundamental to eliminating poverty. We know that corruption is the product of bad governance, whether it's venal grand corruption – stealing from the public purse money that could be spent on getting more children into school – or petty corruption, in part fuelled by low salaries.

"Governance and corruption are not, however, synonymous. Corruption is one symptom, one outcome of bad governance."

A contrite Mr Wolfowitz went as far as describing a Department for International Development paper as "exactly right", and quoted Mr Benn's description of corruption as a "symptom", saying that "good governance institutions are the way to prevent it".

"I look forward to (the board's) continued oversight and involvement as we implement this strategy," Mr Wolfowitz said.

"The purpose is not to disengage from areas where there are problems, but rather to engage more deeply to help countries solve their problems and improve governance."

He pointed out that his anti-corruption drive had not stopped lending to developing countries rising 9pc this year, to $9.5bn (£5bn).

Corruption was "of fundamental importance", he said.

"It is about making certain that money goes to schools and textbooks for children, medicines for mothers and creating job opportunities for the poor - not to line the pockets of the rich and powerful."

[Mr Good steps in, using "international security" as a pretext. More lazy analysis from the Bush admin. -jlt]
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