U.S. Democracy Assistance in Burma: USAID and State Could Strengthen Oversight of Partners’ Due Diligence Procedures

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State (State) have funded 34 democracy projects in Burma since 2012, including efforts to strengthen the country’s civil society and democratic institutions. These projects are primarily coordinated by the interagency Assistance Working Group (AWG) at the U.S. embassy in Burma, which approves all U.S. agencies’ activities in Burma. However, State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (State/DRL) is not directly included in AWG proceedings because it does not have an embassy presence, and embassy policy limits participation in the AWG to those located at the embassy. As a result, the AWG has made decisions about State/DRL’s projects without direct input from State/DRL and without State/DRL always receiving feedback. State officials said that they had recently begun an effort to identify more inclusive methods for coordinating with State/DRL and obtaining its input, which, if implemented properly, could improve coordination.

USAID and State take several steps to help ensure that their projects and the Burma Democracy Strategy address the specified purposes for Burma assistance funding. When designing projects, USAID and State both consider purposes for which assistance shall be made available. For example, GAO found that several current projects include objectives addressing purposes in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016. Also, the Burma Democracy Strategy—an interagency strategy for promoting democracy in Burma—includes language supporting civil society, former prisoners, monks, students, and democratic parliamentarians, as required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014.

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