Bangladesh, Burma and the Rohingya crisis Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1.We can only assume that the Burmese government was reacting to the criticism contained in our first report on the Rohingya crisis and voiced by many other members of both Houses during questions and debates on the matter. (Paragraph 8)

2.We recommend that DFID seek to agree with the authorities of any country in receipt of multiple millions of pounds worth of UK aid—whether any of that aid is channelled via government agencies or not—that there is a presumption of access to scrutinise the relevant projects on the ground for UK personnel engaged in audit or accountability, including the relevant parliamentary select committee. Indeed, the principle of diplomatic reciprocity indicates that the UK parliamentarians should have access to any country with whom the UK has diplomatic relations. (Paragraph 10)


3.We believe there may be a fundamental problem with the peace process that the UK is supporting. The problem is that one side is unlikely to be sincerely engaged and probably has a completely different agenda. We think it highly likely that the process is just window-dressing for the Burmese Army. (Paragraph 45)

4.We recommend that DFID commission and conduct an independent review of the peace process, evaluating its prospects for progress. There should be robust benchmarks set which, if not met, mean that the programme is suspended. (Paragraph 46)

5.In response to this report we would like the UK Government to set out how its support for UK/Burma trade takes into account concerns about the Burmese military’s involvement in the economy and human rights abuses. This should include information covering UK spending other than ODA or which is through funds and programmes outside of DFID’s control, for example the Prosperity Fund. (Paragraph 67)

6.All aid organisations need to keep under review their terms of engagement with state institutions in countries where there are substantial human rights concerns. We recommend that DFID, together with the WFD and the UK Parliament and other UK organisations supporting the ‘Pyidaungsu Hluttaw’—coordinate in securing an objective review of such programmes. This review needs to determine if any substantive progress has been made in equipping and/or inspiring the Burmese legislature to do more to hold the government to account, engage the public or other flexing of parliamentary muscle. If little or nothing tangible has been achieved, we recommend suspending these programmes. (Paragraph 74)

7.The UK is providing advice to government departments which although not classified as ‘direct aid to government’ it is British taxpayers’ money being used to engage with the Burmese government which DFID itself admits is significantly influenced by the military. However, as the Minister says to disengage is to lose any influence over the government. We ask DFID to re-evaluate its balance of spending between economic development, human development and on meeting urgent humanitarian needs. (Paragraph 80)

The Rohingya refugees

8.We stand by our two previous reports and the conclusions and recommendations we set out there. Alongside many other members of both Houses, we are increasingly horrified as more and more evidence and testimony emerges about the violent expulsion of the Rohingya by Burmese military forces. Yet, this is almost eclipsed by the threat to the Rohingya’s fraught and fragile foothold in Bangladesh as the monsoon season comes ever closer. At the same time, we would urge that the grave concerns we have identified over the longer term future of the Rohingya are not ignored in seeking solutions to this more imminent further chapter in the crisis. (Paragraph 101)

9.We very much welcome the £70 million of new aid allocated by the UK to bolster the on-going work in Cox’s Bazar to prepare for the monsoon season. These resources will make a substantial difference and we trust that further donors will be inspired to follow suit. (Paragraph 102)

10.We can only interpret the UNSC press statement of 9 May, issued following the visit by UN Security Council representatives to Bangladesh and Burma, as meaning that China, at least, threatens to veto any proposal for collective action in response to the Rohingya crisis. (Paragraph 103)

11.In addition, to our previous work, there are two points to repeat and one to make at this juncture:


12.We acknowledge the principle of seed-funding, showcasing and consequent self-sufficiency but are grateful for the Minister’s under-taking further to consider the funding of UCEP’s programme for disadvantaged youth skills training. We look forward to a report of his conclusions as part of DFID’s reply to this report. (Paragraph 113)

13.We will return to the evolution of instruments and facilities used to deploy UK aid in a future inquiry into DFID’s Economic Development Strategy. (Paragraph 115)

14.We were grateful to the Minister for undertaking to investigate reports of Bangladeshi military violence and consequent unrest in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. We look forward to a response on this point when the Government replies to this report. (Paragraph 123)

15.Whatever BRAC is doing, or not doing, in the background to reach and surpass its objectives while seeming to steer clear of political interference and the other challenges we have identified above, DFID should take note and put in place a process to capture, and consider, the lessons that can be learned. (Paragraph 138)

16.Overall, we conclude that DFID’s work in Bangladesh is to be highly commended. The country is on a welcome overall trajectory and the UK as a longstanding ally, critical friend and partner has made a clear contribution to this direction of travel. DFID appears to have programmes and partners in place with the potential to demonstrate where and how the fault-lines and weaknesses within that positive picture might be mitigated. This is particularly important in view of the Sustainable Development Goals’ emphasis on ‘leaving no-one behind’ which points to a focus on extreme poverty, women and girls and disabled people in Bangladesh. (Paragraph 139)

17.A crucial test will be how Bangladesh responds to, and copes with, a number of forthcoming challenges; and what further assistance DFID and the UK Government can deliver and help orchestrate from the rest of the international community. We see these as:

18.A fourth challenge is the Rohingya crisis; but it is most clearly not a challenge for Bangladesh alone. Bangladesh is to be thanked and commended for opening its borders to these refugees fleeing violent persecution in Burma. Bangladesh needs to face up to the requirement for a long-term solution and, the international community should provide the required resources. (Paragraph 141)

19.The objective assessment is for just under $1 billion per year to meet the needs of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The international community, with the UK in the lead, should call on the World Bank to come up with one or more funding instruments for use by the international community to provide resources to countries providing a global ‘public good’ by hosting refugees, migrants or displaced persons. (Paragraph 142)

Published: 22 May 2018