On May 2 and 3, 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated large swathes of Burma, leaving more than 134,000 people dead or missing. Offers of assistance from the international community poured in immediately, but Burmese military leaders largely barred foreign aid workers from reaching the hardest hit areas for three weeks, at which point workers were allowed to slowly move in. Meanwhile, Burmese generals moved forward with a national referendum to approve a new constitution which consolidated their power and extended the house arrest of pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Concerns arose about the rising threat of disease and famine, as well as the junta’s long-term plans.
Panelists convened to assess the situation in Burma, including: Sir John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; The Hon. Henrietta Fore, Administrator, US Agency for International Development and Director of US Foreign Assistance (via teleconference); Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the UN, and; a local volunteer relief worker in Burma (via teleconference). This event was held by the Asia Society and the Open Society Institute.
George C. Biddle (Moderator), Senior Vice President, International Rescue Committee (IRC)