This is a really complicated situation. On the one hand, the principle of neutrality is enshrined in the guidelines of organisations such as UNOCHA and the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The first principle in the codes of conduct outlined in annexe 2 of the Sphere handbook describes the primacy of the humanitarian imperative and that when aid is given based on this, it is not a partisan or political act. In this way, the delivery of aid supersedes the political circumstances of the affected place and by remaining neutral, there is a greater potential to deliver aid than if the organisations giving aid appeared (to the ruling powers in the affected area) to be political in any way. At the same time, Myanmar nationals working with aid agencies are pointing out the problems of this in relation to the military junta. From the article, it’s evident that the junta is central to the overlapping crises in Myanmar and some are questioning how helpful aid agencies are being if they legitimize the junta by not taking a stand against it. Moreover, since the coup, the junta has blocked international and local aid in certain areas, which violates the rights of affected people to receive humanitarian assistance as set out in the Humanitarian Charter.
I think that it is important to remain neutral. I understand that its easy to say that when the injustices don’t affect me, and that I couldn’t properly understand just how bad it is without having the same experiences as those who are affected by the junta, but I also think it’s important for aid organisations to maintain their central role in providing assistance to communities and people affected by crises. If aid organisations were perceived to be political it could prevent them from being on the ground altogether and this would lead to a worst-case scenario where there would be affected people, under the junta, without international aid assistance.
At the same time, I think there is some scope for re-evaluating how funds are allocated. From the article, Hnin Thet Hmu Khin made the appeal for more support to local NGOs and communities in order to increase their capacity. Doing so would be in accordance with commitment 3 of the Core Humanitarian Standard which aims to strengthen local capacities and therefore does not step into the realm of politics.