New York 17 June 2014
I am pleased to have this opportunity to brief you on my trip last week to Myanmar to take stock of the humanitarian challenges there. This trip coincided with the second anniversary of the terrible inter-communal violence in Rakhine State and the third anniversary of the conflict in Kachin State.
In both Rakhine and Kachin, humanitarian access is an issue, but for very different reasons. In Kachin, half of the 100,000 or so people displaced by war are living in camps beyond Government control, and where international access is limited to irregular cross-line humanitarian missions.
In Rakhine, I witnessed a level of human suffering in IDP camps that I have personally never seen before, with men, women, and children living in appalling conditions with severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, both in camps and isolated villages. Many people have wholly inadequate access to basic services including health, education, water and sanitation.
Two years into the crisis in Rakhine, hundreds of thousands of people continue to rely on humanitarian aid because they cannot rebuild their lives and livelihoods. Farmers can’t go to their fields, fishermen can’t go to the sea, and traders can’t go to the markets.
Humanitarian workers in Rakhine are carrying out their work under extremely difficult circumstances and I was humbled by their commitment to stay and deliver. However, unless the Myanmar authorities ensure that the perpetrators of the attacks on UN and NGO premises in late March are brought to justice, the safety and security of our staff will continue to be at risk.
The context in Kachin is very different. I was only able to visit an IDP camp in the Government-controlled area, but I met local NGO staff who are central to humanitarian work in areas held by the Kachin Independence Army. Access by international humanitarian organizations is improving through cross-line missions but aid agencies need regular, predictable, and sustained access to all IDPs.
In the capital Nay Pyi Taw, I met with the Vice President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement, and the Deputy Minister of Border Affairs and I reiterated the UN’s commitment to support the Government’s efforts to meet humanitarian needs and reminded them of their responsibility to bring the perpetrators of the March attacks to justice.
With regular earthquakes, floods, and cyclones, Myanmar is one of Asia’s most disaster-prone countries and I thanked the authorities for their strong engagement in working with humanitarian organizations in improving disaster preparedness and response.
The priority for both the Government and the international community must be to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in the country, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender or class.
With those very brief introductory remarks, I’m ready to take your questions now.