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Note to Correspondents: Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide on the situation in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar

Note to Correspondents: Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide on the situation in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar

New York, 29 November 2016 – The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, expressed alarm at reports of the deteriorating security, human rights and humanitarian situation in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. Following attacks by armed assailants against border security posts in October 2016, the response of the military has reportedly been characterized by excessive use of force and other serious human rights violations against civilian population, particularly the Rohingya Muslim population, including allegations of extrajudicial executions, torture, rape and the destruction of religious property. “These allegations must be verified as a matter of urgency”, stated Adama Dieng. “If they are true, the lives of thousands of people are at risk. The reputation of Myanmar, its new Government and its military forces is also at stake in this matter.”  

The Special Adviser stressed that “the current restrictions on access to northern Rakhine State, which prevent verification of the allegations, are contributing to suspicion and alarm. Denying the allegations without allowing for their verification is counterproductive.” Mr. Dieng urged the Myanmar Government and the military to heed requests by the United Nations – and many others around the world – to authorise access and an immediate and thorough independent investigation into incidents reported in northern Rakhine state since October 2016. “If the allegations are found to be true, the Government must take immediate steps to stop them, prevent further violations and remedy the situation. Those found responsible for human rights violations must be punished. Failure to do so will only increase the risk of very serious international crimes that Myanmar has an obligation to prevent and punish under international law.”

Adama Dieng reminded the new Government of Myanmar of the trust placed in the Government by the international community as Myanmar transitions to democracy, noting that there have been significant steps forward in that regard. However, the Special Adviser underlined that “Myanmar needs to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law and to the human rights of all its populations. It cannot expect that such serious allegations are ignored or go unscrutinised. Wherever and whenever these types of allegations are reported in the world, it is the duty of the international community to remind States of their responsibilities to their populations and their obligations under international law. Myanmar is no exception.”

Adama Dieng also took the opportunity to urge the Government of Bangladesh not to close its borders to refugees fleeing Myanmar. “Closing the border, deporting refugees or failing to provide assistance, exposes these populations to further violence that could, in the worst case, constitute international crimes”, the Special Adviser warned.

Adama Dieng concluded by saying that “the current violence did not come out of thin air. It is taking place against a background of very deeply rooted discrimination against specific sectors of the population and a failure to put in place conditions that would support peaceful coexistence among the different communities in Rakhine State.  The Government needs, for once and for all, to find a sustainable solution to the situation of the Rohingya Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities in Myanmar, a solution that is in full compliance with the international human rights standards that the Government has pledged to respect”.

* *** *

For media queries please contact:

Claudia Diaz, Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect

http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/
Phone: +1 917-367-2061; Email: diazc@un.org

Myanmar: UN expert warns of worsening rights situation after “lockdown” in Rakhine State

Myanmar: UN expert warns of worsening rights situation after “lockdown” in Rakhine State

GENEVA (18 November 2016) – A United Nations expert has called on the Government of Myanmar to take immediate action to tackle the deteriorating human rights situation in northern Rakhine State.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, criticized the authorities for placing the region on “lockdown” for six weeks. She said a Government-led two-day visit to the area in early November by a UN official and nine ambassadors had produced only limited results in terms of addressing the humanitarian crisis.

Ms. Lee expressed particular concern at reports from the area that the security operation had been stepped up since the international delegation conducted its visit.

“The Government has now admitted using helicopter gunships in support of ground troops, and there are unverified claims of reprisals against villagers who had shared their grievances with the delegation,” said Ms. Lee.

“The security forces must not be given carte blanche to step up their operations under the smokescreen of having allowed access to an international delegation. Urgent action is needed to bring resolution to the situation.”

Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes amid a security operation triggered by armed attacks on border posts in October. Residents, including members of the Rohingya minority and other Muslim communities, are reported to have suffered serious human rights violations including torture, rape and sexual assault, summary executions, and the destruction of mosques and homes.

Humanitarian programmes providing health, food, education and nutrition assistance have been suspended and civilians are reported to be caught up in military action including attacks by helicopter gunships.

Ms. Lee said allegations of human rights abuses, including the alleged rape and sexual assault of women and girls, needed to be investigated.

“State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has recently stated that the Government is responding to the situation based on the principle of the rule of law. Yet I am unaware of any efforts on the part of the Government to look into the allegations of human rights violations,” said Ms. Lee.

“It would appear, on the contrary, that the Government has mostly responded with a blanket denial. This begs the question as to whether relevant evidence is being preserved to enable perpetrators to be held to account for their wrongdoings. Pointing fingers without definitive answers should be avoided. However, it is crucial to recognize the issue at hand – as objectively as possible – and immediately embark on a transparent, non-partial, independent investigation.”

“It is not acceptable that for six weeks there was a complete lockdown, with no access to the affected areas,” she added.

Ms. Lee echoed a statement by the Chair of the Rakhine Advisory Commission, Kofi Annan, for all communities to renounce violence and for security services to act in full compliance with the rule of law.

She expressed hope that even before the Commission publishes a report next year, the Government would start taking interim measures in line with past recommendations to prevent further restrictions and violations of human rights suffered by the Rohingya population as well as other religious and ethnic minorities.

A group of UN human rights experts* has already urged the Government to address the growing reports of violations emerging from Rakhine, calling on the authorities to allow access for humanitarian groups; to conduct thorough and impartial investigations of killings; and to implement concerted efforts to fight and prevent acts of incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence against minorities.

Ms. Lee stressed that the need for urgent action was undiminished.

“In my address to the General Assembly last month, I reiterated the need for humanitarian access to resume as soon as possible so that the needs of those affected and displaced are met, particularly the most vulnerable,” she said.

“Also of vital importance is for impartial and independent investigations to be undertaken to address the allegations of serious human rights violations, with their perpetrators held to account.”

This statement has been endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsak-Ndiaye.

ENDS

*Read the previous statement from the group of UN experts: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20742&LangID=E

The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. For more information, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Azwa Petra
(+41 22 928 9103 / apetra@ohchr.org)

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International community must not lose sight of Myanmar challenges, UN expert warns

International community must not lose sight of Myanmar challenges, UN expert warns

NEW YORK / GENEVA (28 October 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has issued a strong call to the international community not to forget about the remaining human rights challenges in the country.

“Significant steps forward have been made and the government deserves to be congratulated,” said Ms. Lee, presenting a report to the UN General Assembly. “But the success story is not yet complete.”

She highlighted concerns including the continued detention of some political prisoners, a constitution which guarantees the military a quarter of the seats in parliament, worsening unrest in some areas, and ongoing discrimination against Muslim communities.

“The international community has a responsibility to continue to encourage the changes needed to ensure that everyone in Myanmar can access their fundamental human rights – regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status or location,” said Ms. Lee.

Civilians, including children, were continuing to suffer amid escalating conflict in Shan, Kachin and Kayin states, she said, with humanitarian access to conflict areas currently worse than at any point in the past few years.

In Rakhine state, she said discrimination against Rohingya and other Muslim communities was affecting some of their most fundamental rights. She urged the removal of all discriminatory orders, policies and practices.  

Ms. Lee expressed alarm at other developments in Rakhine state, including the killing of nine police officers in the attacks on 9 October.  The resulting security operations led to numerous allegations of serious human rights violations, including torture and ill-treatment during interrogation, summary executions, arbitrary arrest and the destruction of mosques and houses in Muslim villages.

Some 3,000 members of the Rakhine community and up to 12,000 Muslims had fled their homes, she said.

“I am also extremely concerned that humanitarian programmes providing health, food, education and nutrition assistance have been suspended and access by humanitarian and other groups has not been granted,” the Special Rapporteur added.

The Special Rapporteur welcomed the release of 200 prisoners by the new government, but expressed concern about more than 200 others still in detention.  

“A number of individuals have been arrested since the new government came to power under outdated laws which I and my predecessors have repeatedly highlighted as in need of reform, but which remain on the books,” Ms. Lee said.  

She also highlighted the 2008 Myanmar constitution, which reserves 25% of seats in Parliament and three key ministerial posts for the military.

“Until there is constitutional reform, there is still much to be done for Myanmar to evolve from having a military government to a civilian one,” she said.

“Peace will be a pre-requisite for the long-term progress of Myanmar,” she added, welcoming recent talks between the government and armed groups at the Panglong Conference.  “Unfortunately on the ground peace still feels remote and communities still fear attacks, abductions and abuses,” she added.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report to the UN General Assembly:http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/71/361

ENDS

Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council. Learn more, go to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Azwa Petra (+ 44 22 928 9103 /apetra@ohchr.org)

You can access this press release at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20788&LangID=E

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Speech by UNRC, Ms. Renata Dessallien, 71th UN Day Commemoration, Nay Pyi Taw, 24 October, 2016

H.E. The State Councilor of the UoM, DASSK

H.E. Minister of Home Affairs, Lt. Gen. Kyaw Swe

H.E. Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Sein Win

H.E. Minister of the Office of the State Council, U Kyaw Tint Swe

H.E. Minster of Information, Dr. Pe Myint

H.E. Minister of Planning and Finance, U Kyaw Win

H.E. Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, Dr. Win Myat Aye

Hon. Members of Parliament

Excellencies Ambassadors and members of the Diplomatic Corps, UN Colleagues

I wish to extend my warmest thanks to the State Councilor and her Office for honoring the United Nations with this UN 71st anniversary reception. We are deeply grateful, Kyei Zu Tin Ba De

As you know, the UN was born from one of those rare moments in history when humanity took a leap of faith, jumping over everyday hurdles of narrow and competing self-interest and inertia, taking us to a new level of possibilities with new scope for the collective imagination. The sufferings of WWII were so devastating that a surge of collective yearning for peace gave birth to the United Nations.

There are at least as many views about the UN as there are Member States – more I’m sure. Some choose to focus on our shortcomings, of which there are many. But they often forget that we were designed with many of these shortcomings so as not to interfere with the sovereignty of our Member States. We are strong when our Member States come together to pull in the same direction, and we are weak when our Member States cannot agree with one another, and pull in different directions. The only instruments the UN Secretary General was endowed with to foster Member States’ cohesive pursuit of the greater public good were the power of persuasion and the power of the UN’s vision.

While it is true that the UN is a reflection of its 193 Member States, it is also more. The UN is not just a safe and neutral platform on which States can debate and solve problem together. It is also a compelling and powerful vision, buttressed by norms and standards and common goals to which our Member States and humanity as a whole subscribe. It is a great experiment in global cooperation toward a better future for all.

The heart of the UN’s Vision is so simple it sounds almost trite: world peace. The pursuit of peace in all its multiple dimensions is our daily work. This vision is inextricably tied to our Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its covenants. And it is supported by a huge array of work to bridge understandings across countries and peoples, to provide special support to less developed and disadvantaged countries and peoples through economic, social and cultural partnerships, through holding the mirror up to Member States on UN norms and standards to which they have subscribed, through support toward more inclusive, more efficient and more responsive governance, through humanitarian services in the face of life threatening needs, and much more.

Being both of our Member States but also of our Vision and Values opens creative tensions in the UN. It forces us into lateral thinking, into problem solving from another part of the mind from which those problems were created (as Einstein put it), and often into striving for the seemingly unattainable (as Sergio de Mello put it). With our hearts and minds fixed on our Vision and our feet firmly planted in realities on the ground, we strive to be principled pragmatists. It is often from these creative tensions that the UN offers its very best to the world. But it also makes us one of those entities that frequently gets caught in the cross fire between unloving critics and uncritical lovers.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. I’d like to say a few words about a much underrated ingredient for peace: understanding – understanding between countries and between peoples. We cannot collectively forge lasting peace without mutual understanding. To understand requires interest in, concern for, oneness with each other. And with greater understanding come greater tolerance of, respect for, and, even better, appreciation of differences and diverse views.

Myanmar is a country in need of greater understanding, understanding from without and understanding within. Unless we have greater understanding of Myanmar – the evolving nature of the state, its peoples, their hopes and fears, their institutions formal and informal, the delicate equilibriums in the country, unless we better understand these, the impact of our support will always be less than optimal.

Myanmar was closed for many decades and there is a lot of catching up to do in terms of mutual understandings. A big part of everything the UN does in Myanmar at this time relates to better understandings – both our understanding of the country and its context, as well as doing what we can to fostering greater understandings between groups in the country. Decades of engagement with Myanmar have made us sensitive to the phenomenal changes that are taking place tight now, and the complex and dynamic combinations of these changes calls for specially considered responses to the very unique needs of this country at this time.

I’d like to dedicate this 71st UN anniversary to the value and necessity of deeper understandings – understandings between Myanmar and the world; between the UN and Myanmar; between the various beautiful peoples of Myanmar.

With deeper understanding, we will be able to forge deeper and more meaningful, impactful partnerships in and with Myanmar. This is a country with great gifts to offer the world. The generosity and compassion of the Myanmar spirit is already a source of tremendous inspiration beyond the borders of this country. The diversity of Myanmar is reflective of a mini United Nations, and the obstacles that you have and will overcome to achieve unity in diversity will be extremely instructive for the UN and for the entire world.

Thank you once again most sincerely for hosting tonight’s reception for the UN

Thank you for your strong belief in and support for the UN’s Vision and Values

Thank you for giving us U Thant, who taught us about Asian and Myanmar wisdom

Thank you for your patience as we strive to better understand and support Myanmar

And thank you for the honour to serve the people of this great country at such a crucial juncture in her history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key Note Speech by UNRC, Ms. Renata Dessallien, 71st UN Day Commemoration, Yangon University, 20 October, 2016

Key Note Speech by UNRC, Ms. Renata Dessallien,

71st UN Day Commemoration

Yangon University, 20 October, 2016

 

Esteemed Rector of Yangon University, Dr. Pho Kaung

U Kyaw Zeya, Permanent Secretary, MOFA

HE Ambassador Robert Chua, Dean of the Diplomatic Community in Myanmar

Ladies and gentlemen, students, colleagues and friends

Mingalabar and a very warm welcome to you all!

 

Let me begin with expressing my sincere appreciation to the august Rector and staff of the University of Yangon for hosting this event. We are honored to commemorate the partnership between the United Nations and Myanmar in this esteemed institution, so imbued with history. If walls could talk we would be here for days and months in wrapped attention listening to them!

 

Today we are commemorating the creation of the United Nations, born 71 years ago, in the wake of two horrendous world wars. After these wars a profound yearning arose across the world, a powerful feeling of “never again”. Never again to world war.

 

This lofty yearning for peace continues to be at the heart of the United Nations’ work.  It takes many forms including preventive diplomacy to avoid the escalation of tensions, the brokering of negotiated settlements to end conflicts, the deployment of blue-helmeted peacekeeping troops to protect civilians and support the implementation of peace agreements, and peacebuilding programmes that help societies rebuild after the fighting ends.

 

Over time, the work of the United Nations gradually expanded to help UN Member States address a wide range of challenges including extreme poverty and neglect; social injustice; deaths from treatable diseases; gender-based violence; violence against children; the destruction of the environment and extinction of species, to name a few.

 

In November of last year, 193 of the UN’s Member States endorsed a framework that brings all these strands of work together under a clear set of global objectives: the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.  The SDGs are 17 specific goals to eradicate poverty, eliminate hunger, provide education, ensure gender equality, work with clean energy, address climate change, establish peace and justice and more.   The target date is 2030.  It will not be easy to achieve these goals, and there is much to be done in the years ahead.  But what could be more important than leaving a better world for our children?  Strive we must. And the SDGs provide us both with the vision and with a sense of collective urgency to do the right thing for the next generation.

 

Myanmar has a longstanding partnership with the UN which began on 19 April 1948 when Myanmar became the 58th UN Member State, a few short months after the country’s independence. During its sixty-eight years of membership, Myanmar has made many significant, and sometimes extraordinary contributions to the UN. Myanmar offered the UN its third Secretary-General, U Thant, who steered the world though an historically important period, from 1961-1971, leading and facilitating the resolution of multiple international crises. The UN benefited not only from the leadership of a skillful mediator and diplomat, but also from a man of great wisdom, vision and a profound understanding of human nature. U Thant’s huge portrait hangs on the wall at UN HQ and his astute and humane stewardship of the UN is deeply treasured.

 

Ever since, Myanmar’s cooperation with the United Nations has been at the core of Myanmar foreign policy. Over the years, this partnership has evolved, along with the country’s needs and circumstances. Today, the partnership has many dimensions, with Myanmar contributing to, and benefiting from, cooperation with the United Nations and its Member States.

 

The UN’s work is guided by the universal principals of equality and impartiality, and our support is provided regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.  We place special attention on the most vulnerable, be they victims of natural disaster, armed conflict or otherwise living in difficult socio-economic or other circumstances.

 

In Myanmar, the UN’s support to the people and government to achieve the SDGs is carried out through the work of 17 specialized UN agencies, with over 2,000 staff, and more than 60 offices spread across all of the nation’s States and Regions.  I am proud to say that the majority of our staff are Myanmar nationals.

 

The UN’s work here focuses on Myanmar’s own national priorities and needs. Our assistance therefore takes different forms. The UN provide humanitarian assistance.  This includes the provision of food, shelter and basic services to families affected by flooding or other natural disasters or displaced by fighting. In 2015, the UN-coordinated humanitarian activities worth almost $90 million from diverse donors.

 

The UN provides development assistance.  The value of this support has been about $300 million annually in recent years. But much more important than the financial resources, is the UN’s substantial assistance in the form of technical expertise from around the world on a broad range of development issues covering education and health, social-economic development, good governance, elections and many other areas.

 

The UN provides support for Human Rights. This work has many dimensions including support to end forced labour and use of child soldiers, combatting human trafficking and child labour, promoting labour standards, and ensuring that children are protected, including have access to basic documentation such as birth certificates.

 

The UN supports peacebuilding and Myanmar’s peace process.  The UN Special Advisor to the Secretary-General has accompanied the peace talks between the Government and Ethnic Armed Organizations for many years.  At the same time, the UN agencies on the ground have worked on peace related issues such as mine risk education, promoting dialogue in conflict-affected areas, support to IDPs and refugees and their return, and more recently supporting implementation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, through the ceasefire Joint Monitoring Commission (JMC).

 

The UN is also proud to support Myanmar in introducing international standards and norms, providing advice to the drafting of national policies and laws. Since joining the UN, Myanmar has signed more than 60 UN treaties and conventions, and in doing so, made an important contribution to strengthening international norms and principles.  Recently, in the State Counsellor’s visit to the UN General Assembly, the Government of Myanmar ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, demonstrating Myanmar’s firm commitment to global peace and security, and to the UN as the custodian of these international standards and norms.

 

Myanmar’s partnership with the UN has been aided by our long-standing presence in the country, including during the long years of isolation when we remained engaged working with the people of Myanmar under difficult conditions.  By our presence in country, and through our national staff, we are able to better understand Myanmar, and we are also able to help the bigger global UN and its Member States to understand Myanmar, her people, their hopes and dreams, so that all of us are better informed and able to assist this great country.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, since the country’s reform process began in earnest, the speed of Myanmar’s transformation has never ceased to amaze. Major socio-economic, and political reforms are happening simultaneously, creating a dizzying pace and scope of change that is sometimes difficult to comprehend. Amidst such change it is important to note the many important milestones that have been reached along the way.  These include the holding of the 2015 elections and subsequent peaceful transfer of power to a new government, the signing of the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement by eight Ethnic Armed Organizations and convening of the recent Panglong for the 21st Century Conference that included NCA signatories and non-signatory organizations. Equally important the nation has seen an important increase in democratic space, and this has fostered press freedom, use of social media and robust public debate on a wide range of issues.

 

I would put to you that the central challenge for Myanmar, supported by the United Nations, is to find ways to steer all the processes of national transition in a direction that ensures Myanmar meets the Sustainable Development Goals for all its people.

 

At the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals is the promise to leave no one behind, and the founding principles of respect for human rights, inclusion, sustainability and equity.

 

The SDGs remind us that we live in an integrated and indivisible world, where the dimensions of development are large in scope and scale, and impact not only us humans, but also the beautiful planet we inhabit. To translate these multi-dimensional priorities into concrete actions, the SDGs must be tailored to local contexts and must be approached in an integrated way.

 

Experience tells us that rapid economic growth, for example, can provide great benefits. New and expanding businesses, growing salaries, technological innovations can all improve society.  At the same time, we must be aware that rapid growth can also create heightened inequalities in society.   Myanmar must strive to ensure that growth is not contained within Yangon and a handful of urban centres, but rather distributed and balanced to bring benefit to all of its peoples.  Marked economic inequality is frequently a source of criminality and social unrest, and can also have negative impacts on long-term economic growth – and is to be avoided.

 

At the same time we must also balance economic growth with the need to protect the environment.  This requires careful planning and regulation of industries and activities that can contaminate soil, water or air.  To not do so can have potentially harmful effects on people, and on children who will inherit the long-term consequences of the decisions and policies we make today.

 

So you can easily see how economic issues connect to environmental issues, and how they also connect to rule of law and peace issues as well.  Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals is no simple matter, and every nation including Myanmar grapples with complex decisions and difficult trade-offs as part of the process.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, On the occasional of the UN’s 71st anniversary, I would like make clear that it is our hope that Myanmar’s leaders and people will look on the United Nations as its true and trusted partner in this journey.  There can be no doubt that it is up to the people of this great nation to chart their own course, but the United Nations can be of humble service in providing global knowledge, insight, and resources, to help.  We stand ready to continue to assist and are grateful for the opportunity to be part of this remarkable moment of opening up, of hope in the country.

 

With this commemorative event of the UN’s 71st anniversary, and armed with the SDGs, let us all reaffirm our commitment to a better and brighter future for all.

 

On behalf of the UN System here in Myanmar, I extend our sincere gratitude to the Government and people of Myanmar, for their support to the United Nations. I also wish to express our deep appreciation to Yangon University for organizing this event, symbolizing the strong and fruitful partnership that we share. And special thanks to all of you students for your interest in international relations and the role of the UN therein.

 

Thank you – Kyay zu tin bar deh.

UN HUMANITARIAN CHIEF CALLS FOR STRENGTHENED HUMANITARIAN ACTION TO SUPPORT THE PEOPLE OF MYANMAR

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Yangon, 14 October 2016

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, concluded his three-day mission to Myanmar today. His trip took place shortly after the outbreak of violence in the northern part of Rakhine State and at a time of escalating armed clashes in Kachin. He expressed deep concern regarding recent developments and called for all sides to find peaceful ways to resolve differences rather than choosing the path of violence. He also called on all parties to uphold their responsibilities to protect people affected by violence and conflict and to ensure humanitarian access to people in need.

In meetings with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other Government officials, the Emergency Relief Coordinator welcomed Myanmar’s recent transition to democracy and the progress that has been made by the Government, local communities, and national organizations in preparing for and responding to natural disasters. He acknowledged the tremendous work that lies ahead to continue to make progress on a number of critical fronts, including addressing humanitarian issues in the country. Mr. O’Brien stated that “humanitarian need is our only measure and impartial aid our only goal.” He stressed that the United Nations is a key partner to the Government and that it stands ready to provide the required support to enable the Government to meet the needs of its people.

In Kachin and Shan States, almost 100,000 people remain displaced due to armed conflict and are unable to return home because of continued fighting and the deadly threat posed by landmines. Mr. O’Brien welcomed the Government’s support in facilitating his travel to conflict-affected areas on both sides of the conflict line. He expressed concern that humanitarian aid to some areas had recently been blocked and urged local authorities to drop their demand for displaced people in some areas to cross an active conflict line in order to receive humanitarian assistance. He stressed that many of those currently receiving humanitarian assistance are women and children, elderly, sick or disabled people. “It was very important for me to visit people on both sides of the conflict line, to see first-hand the impact of the conflict on vulnerable communities. I spoke with people who fled violence more than five years ago and who are simply waiting for the guns to go silent before they can go home,” said Mr. O’Brien.

Mr. O’Brien also travelled to Sittwe in Rakhine State where he visited displaced Muslims in camps as well as a recently resettled Rakhine community, all of whom were affected by inter-communal violence in 2012. He saw the level of poverty that the people of Rakhine endure and witnessed the dire living conditions and hardships endured by Muslim communities who are still denied freedom of movement. He also met with some distressed Rakhine women who had only just arrived in Sittwe after fleeing the recent violence in northern Rakhine.

“The recent violence in Rakhine State is deeply troubling and the immediate priority must be to prevent further violence and to ensure the protection of all civilians. The situation is affecting all communities in Rakhine and has further disrupted the provision of health, education, and other essential services for some of the most vulnerable, particularly the Muslim communities who are not allowed to move freely.”

“When I was in Rakhine State, I talked to people about their suffering and their inadequate access to essential services including health and education. All people in Rakhine State, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or citizenship status, must have safe access to their nearest hospital or medical centre, to regular schools and to livelihoods.”

Around 120,000 people, most of whom are Muslims who call themselves Rohingya, are still living in displacement camps, four years after the outbreak of inter-communal violence in Rakhine State.

“Freedom of movement is clearly what is needed most. Without this, people are going to remain dependent on humanitarian aid. But for this to happen, more work needs to be done to build trust between the communities. We must work with the Government on practical ways of achieving this, in line with Aung San Suu Kyi’s stated commitment of bringing peace to the whole country. That is her priority and it’s the priority of all those I spoke with during my visit. It is our priority too.”

The Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan for 2016 is 55 per cent funded (US$104 million), leaving a gap of $86 million. More funding is urgently required to scale-up the humanitarian response across the country, particularly in education and health.

For further information, please contact: 
OCHA Myanmar:     Pierre Peron, +95 9250198997, peronp@un.og
OCHA Bangkok:     Helen Mould, +66 63 270 9122, mould@un.org 
OCHA New York:   Russell Geekie, +1 212 963-8340, rgeekie@un.org

Note to Correspondents: Statement on fighting in ethnic areas in Myanmar by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General

11 October 2016

The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, is deeply concerned at the escalation of tensions and resumed fighting between government forces and ethnic armed organizations in several sectors, including in northern Shan, Kachin and Karen States. Coming in the wake of recent positive moves for dialogue by the government as well as the constructive engagement shown by the ethnic armed organizations at the recently convened “Twenty First Century Panglong Conference” this is both unsettling and disappointing.

The recent clashes have not only caused grievous deaths and injuries including to infants and children, but also displaced tens of thousands of people across the three states.  This is unconscionable and seriously risks placing the entire peace process in jeopardy.  There is no military solution to the conflicts in Myanmar. Negotiating across the fault lines of majority and minorities represents Myanmar’s biggest challenge requiring patience, magnanimity and understanding.  Any escalation in tension will only undermine the hard won trust between the parties and make peace an even harder undertaking. The high expectations of the peoples of Myanmar as well as the confidence of the international community in the national reconciliation process will only be fulfilled if all parties work together to consolidate the nationwide ceasefire and persist in a sustained political dialogue.

The Special Adviser calls on all sides to meet and negotiate ways to deescalate the conflicts without delay. Pending agreements and solutions, he urges all parties to cease hostile actions, protect civilians, allow unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to affected communities and avoid disproportionate responses to perceived aggressive postures. In his direct communication with the stakeholders, the Special Adviser has encouraged them to move forward constructively to overcome current hurdles and move purposively to realize the legitimate expectations of a stable, peaceful and secure future for all Myanmar’s peoples.

The United Nations is committed to working with all stakeholders to consolidate the peace process, address urgent humanitarian and other problems and bring peace and tranquillity to the areas currently experiencing tension and conflict.

Note to Correspondents: Statement by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar

Yangon,12 October 2016

The UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar strongly condemns the violent attacks and killings in Maungdaw district. She has expressed to the authorities her condolences for the death of the border guard police personnel and is deeply saddened by all loss of life. She is also very concerned about the unfolding situation and has conveyed this to the Government. The UN continues to follow the situation, urging that rule of law be fully respected, civilians be protected and all efforts made to deescalate tensions. The UN hopes this situation can be resolved quickly so that the people in Rakhine State can move toward the peaceful, prosperous and harmonious future they all deserve.

Note to Correspondents: Statement on Rakhine by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar

New York, 11 October 2016

The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, expresses his deep concern at the violent attacks by unidentified individuals and groups against border guards and security forces on 9 October and the resultant fighting which has resulted in the deaths of security personnel as well as civilians in the three affected areas of Northern Rakhine. He has been informed by the concerned authorities in Naypyitaw that firm instructions have been issued from the highest levels to take action strictly in accordance with the law to maintain peace and avoid escalation.

The Special Adviser calls on the civilian population of the area to exercise maximum restraint and not be provoked into any kind of response by targeting other communities or religious groups. He recognizes the prompt action and sober response of the security forces but urges them to exercise caution in the future to avoid any injuries or loss of innocent civilian lives, collateral damage to properties or any perception of harassment of the local population.

Over the last year, the authorities have shown good organization and discipline in averting any major outbreak of violence between the communities in Rakhine. At this delicate juncture, the local communities at all levels must refuse to be provoked by these incidents and their leaders must work actively to prevent incitement of animosity or mutual hatred between Buddhist and Muslim communities.