ACFID welcomes joint parliamentary pathway on Australia’s Myanmar response

24 Jun, 2021

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) – the peak-body for aid and development NGOs in Australia – has warmly welcomed the recommendations contained in the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s report on Australia’s response to the coup in Myanmar.

ACFID has strongly endorsed the recommendation that Australia’s development assistance program to Myanmar supports basic humanitarian needs and civil society and is directed through NGOs and multilateral partners, and not through government entities. This recommendation includes the need for the Australian Government to develop a medium to longer-term plan for ongoing humanitarian assistance.

ACFID’s Acting CEO, Tim Watkin, has urged the Government to act on this important recommendation:

“We are facing the prospect of a massive humanitarian crisis in our region. Australia needs to have a funded, multi-year plan to protect and assist the thousands displaced by the coup and the conflict, both within Myanmar and in the border regions. The role of local civil society is going to be critical in this plan and maintaining Australian assistance to the people of Myanmar.

“We have been in regular dialogue with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and we recognise this is a sensitive and complex situation. But we must urgently step-up our diplomatic and humanitarian action.

“Australia’s NGOs and civil society partners stand ready to assist.”

ACFID has welcomed the recommendations that the Australian Government consider additional sanctions against individuals and entities associated with the 1 February coup and explore pathways to permanent residency for Myanmar nationals in Australia.

Prior to the Committee’s report, ACFID released analysis showing Australia is out of step with international efforts to end the violent coup in Myanmar and should impose sanctions.

“Australia should not slip into legitimising the junta through inaction on sanctions. The Committee’s inclusion of ‘entities’ in their recommendations on sanctions is critical as they provide a revenue base for the junta.

“As the Committee has recommended, the Australian Government should turn to formally engaging with the legitimately elected representatives of Myanmar”.

Commenting on Recommendation 3, ACFID expressed concern that funding to ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) could be at odds with the Committee’s recommendation to ensure development funds are not received by Government entities in Myanmar.

“There remains significant concern from the Burmese diaspora in Australia that assistance provided through ASEAN risks government entities in Myanmar ultimately receiving that assistance.

“We look forward to a timely and decisive response from the Australian Government to this important report.”