Analysis & Opinions - World Politics Review

How to Help Myanmar Before It’s Too Late

| Oct. 01, 2021

The military coup that deposed Myanmar's civilian government in February has created an escalating humanitarian crisis and left the country teetering on the brink of civil war. As the junta continues to target the population with violence, including torture and sexual assault, the opposition movement has also begun to question the effectiveness of its largely peaceful protests, especially in the absence of international support for the pro-democracy struggle.

In a WPR article earlier this week, Prachi Vidwans noted that this is precisely the kind of situation where the United Nations can do the most good if it were to act early, but where it is the least likely to do so. Indeed, as I told Vidwans in an interview for the article, "the U.N. does really poorly in supporting nonviolent resistance movements before they become violent or engaging in preventive diplomacy when violence is about to break out."

It is reasonable to conclude, as Vidwans did in her article, that "the truth is that there is not much more that the international community could realistically be doing to help."

But rather than be the cause of despair, the gaps in U.N. architecture can instead be seen as an opportunity for innovation. First, the U.N. has more tools and more entrepreneurial power at its disposal than is often acknowledged, because it is not a single organization reducible to Security Council politics. And second, the international community is bigger, with more options at its disposal, than the U.N. itself, and it can exercise those options in ways that are consistent with the U.N. Charter.... 

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Carpenter, Charli.“How to Help Myanmar Before It’s Too Late.” World Politics Review, October 1, 2021.