Boston Globe: The United Nations Can Save Burma

Ivo Daalder and Paul Stares argue for Security Council action on Burma.

The United States and Britain should join with the French government and introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council demanding that the Burmese government immediately allow the entry of international relief supplies and personnel into the country and allow the UN to take charge of the relief mission. To make the case, Washington should show detailed imagery of the suffering and the extent of devastation in Burma (as it did so effectively in the cases of Bosnia and Darfur to shock a disbelieving United Nations).

The resolution should hold open the possibility of additional measures – including air drops of relief supplies – if the government did not comply at once. And the Security Council could commit to return to the matter in 24 hours, assess Burma’s response, and consider additional actions.

I completely agree with the sentiment expressed, but the authors do not address the tricky question of what happens to the relief after its been airdropped. As a number of UN aid officials have warned, simply dropping in supplies without setting up proper distribution mechanisms can be as dangerous as not dropping in supplies at all.

Their broader point, though, makes sense. Taking this to the Security Council could help pressure to the junta so that they do cooperate with relief efforts. They key here is China. Should Beijing lend its support to a Security Council measure demanding the junta cooperate with UN relief agencies, we may just see the junta budge.