GW event: From incitement to violence to conflict mitigation

When: Monday, December 16, 2013
9:30 AM – 11:00 AM

Where: Lindner Family Commons, Room 602
1957 E Street NW

This panel discussion will cover topics including:
How do we know when atrocities are imminent for a country facing conflict?
Does media have the potential to provide early warning of mass violence?
Are there media interventions that can work to prevent violence?


Alison Campbell, Internews Humanitarian Communications Partnership Manager and former Country Director for Burma
Ida Jooste, Internews Country Director for Kenya
Will Ferroggiaro, Internews Project Director – Conflict and Media
Mark Walsh, Internews Country Director for Kyrgyzstan

Matthew Levinger, Visiting Professor of International Affairs, GW


Sponsored by the International Development Studies Program and Internews


Washington, D.C. event: Our Walls bear Witness – The Plight of Burma's Rohingya

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Burma, have long considered among the world’s most persecuted peoples.Denied citizenship and rendered stateless by the Burmese government, the 800,000 Rohingya lack basic rights, including the right to work, marry, and travel freely, and routinely suffer severe abuse.

Following violent attacks in 2012 that destroyed numerous Rohingya communities, more than 100,000 are now confined to displacement camps and segregated areas, where they continue to be subjected to violence including crimes against humanity.

When: November 4th, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Rubinstein Auditorium
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
Washington, DC

Greg Constantine, Photographer

Holly Atkinson, MD, Director of the Human Rights Program
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Past President, Physicians for Human Rights

Maung Tun Khin, President, Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK)

The speakers will discuss the photographs and the stories of individuals whose lives have been affected by violence against the Rohingya and Muslims elsewhere in Burma.

Images of the Rohingya displaced in Burma and in exile taken by prize-winning photographer Greg Constantine will be projected each evening from November 4th to 8th on the Museum’s exterior walls on 15th Street SW (Raoul Wallenberg Place). This exhibition is free and open to the public.

Register and learn more here.

From the field: Reflections of a Yangon intern

Guest post by Julia Collins

The pounding rain muffles the sounds coming from the neighboring construction site. It is the rainy season in Southeast Asia and development season in Myanmar. With Myanmar’s recent debut on the global scene, it is the place to be for members of the development community.

World Economic Forum on East Asia 2013
Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Myanmar, 6/7/13. Photo: Sikarin Thanachaiary
In a recent edition of the Bangkok Post, Myanmar was mentioned more than three times in the business section alone. The articles reported on Japanese investment, Thai cement factories, and Norwegian sustainable tourism in Myanmar. Aid workers, foreign investors, economists, human rights activists, education specialists, you name it, everyone has caught Myanmar-fever.

The international spotlight is firmly fixed on this resource-rich, relatively untouched Southeast Asian country.

I intern at an independent policy research organization dedicated to the economic and social transformation of Myanmar. Led by Burmese economists, the think-tank recommends policies related to economic reform, poverty-reduction, and good governance. Professor Christina Fink, was instrumental in helping me find my internship. Her assistance along with the generosity of the Freeman Foundation Fellowship, enabled interning to become a reality, and for that I am deeply grateful.

I arrived in early June and am one of seven interns — four are also master’s candidates studying at Columbia’s SIPA, one is a law student from Yale and one a Burmese-American from Michigan State. We are fortunate to work alongside incredibly hardworking and intelligent Burmese research assistants, former political exiles, professors as well as a few foreign economists and lawyers. We often have internal trainings ranging from tax reform in Myanmar to media laws and hate speech to Myanmar’s role in the WTO to inform our research and endow us with a more comprehensive understanding of Myanmar’s reform process.
Continue reading “From the field: Reflections of a Yangon intern”

Upcoming event on Burma

Burma: Political Reforms and the Impacts on Humanitarian Efforts

When: Friday, January 13 | 12 noon
Where: FHI 360, 8th Floor Board Room
1875 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC

Lynn Yoshikawa, Advocate, Refugees International

Lynn Yoshikawa has just returned from a Refugees International trip to Burma to talk to aid workers and displaced people about the ongoing conflicts and human rights abuses, which have forced millions from their homes. As the US and Burma continue to develop their relationship, Refugees International advises that strong US and UN engagement will be key to transforming Burma’s damaged political system into one that ensures the rights of all its citizens.

More info.

Two women, one vision: A better Burma

Guest post by Christina Fink

On December 2nd, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her house in Burma (renamed Myanmar by the military government in 1989). It was truly a historic meeting. Aung San Suu Kyi had spent most of the past 22 years under house arrest, but was freed in November 2010. President Thein Sein, a former military general who was inaugurated in March 2011, has surprised Burmese citizens and the world by introducing tentative political and economic reforms and reaching out to Aung San Suu Kyi and the United States.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, December 2, 2011. Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Clinton’s visit was meant to encourage the government to commit to further reforms, as well as to demonstrate support for Aung San Suu Kyi and the democratic movement. Hillary Clinton and Aung San Suu Kyi gave a joint press conference on Aung San Suu Kyi’s porch, which ended with a heartfelt embrace. Clearly these two women feel great affection for each other, and for Burmese inside and outside the country, it was an ecstatic moment.

In the press conference and other recent statements, Aung San Suu Kyi emphasized the need for the rule of law and the cessation of civil war in Burma. If there were rule of law, meaning independent courts as well as protections for freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, there would be no more political prisoners.

Currently there are several hundred prisoners of conscience, including a number of women. In 2009, Hla Hla Win was sentenced to 27 years in prison for her undercover reporting on the second anniversary of the monks’ 2007 protests and other sensitive stories for an exile media outlet. In 2008, Nilar Thein was sentenced to 65 years in prison because of her leading role in non-violent political protests in 2007 and earlier. Her husband is also a political prisoner, and their young daughter must now be raised by her husband’s parents.

In the ethnic states, decades of civil war have resulted in widespread destruction and displacement, while countless girls and women have been raped. As Burmese women’s groups and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Burma have documented, Burma Army soldiers commit rape with impunity. While for decades, the Burmese military leadership has sought to force the country’s non-Burman populations into submission, Aung San Suu Kyi has called for a genuine union of Burma in which the rights of ethnic minorities would be respected. If she, the United States government, and others can persuade Burma’s military leadership that a federal system of government is viable, then genuine peace can be restored and the healing process can begin.

If all goes according to plan, Aung San Suu Kyi will run for parliament in an upcoming by-election for a number of vacant seats. She is encouraging other women to run as well. They are likely to push for more attention on health, education, poverty alleviation, and humanitarian assistance.

Should the reform process continue, Burma could at last move toward recognizing and valuing the contributions of all its citizens. That would really be something to celebrate.

Christina Fink is a professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. An anthropologist who has focused on Burma for many years, she is the author of Living Silence in Burma: Surviving Under Military Rule (2009).