New Year Message from the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ai, Knut Ostby

Dear friends and colleagues,

I’m writing to wish you Happy Thingyan and auspicious entrance to Myanmar Era 1381.

We have had a challenging year, but we managed to keep the focus on our objectives:

  • Maintain the momentum for the country’s peace, economic and democratic transitions for the benefit of all people;
  • Save lives by gaining greater humanitarian access;
  • Support sustainable solutions for Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States; and,
  • Engage in human rights advocacy.

In some ways, the past year was transformational. The Secretary-General appointed the Special Envoy on Myanmar; the Human Rights Council passed a resolution to establish an Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar; and, we have substantially expanded our presence in Naypyidaw where more than 100 staff reside now, including the WFP and UNDP senior managers.

We produced the new Humanitarian Response Plan calling for US$202 million to assist approximately 941,000 vulnerable, crisis-affected people. With the support of the Country Task Force for Reporting and Monitoring, the Tatmadaw released more than 100 children and young people. We signed a series of agreements with Japan on implementation of more than US$50 million in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States. We finalized the Rakhine Strategic Cooperation Framework. UNHCR, UNDP and the Government signed an MoU on creating conditions conducive for the return of refugees who fled to Bangladesh. UNHCR and UNDP jointly carried out over 120 focus group discussions with over 1,400 community members in some 60 locations under the MoU.

We also supported high-level visits of Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Conflict Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict Pramila Patten, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore, former IOM’s Director General, Mr. William Lacy Swing, Deputy, Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller and other UN officials. These visits required political, logistical, programmatic and media support from many of us. They contributed to achieving results, such as the signing of the Joint Communique between the United Nations and the Government of Myanmar to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence.

Over the past 12 months, the UN issued 86 statements on the human rights situation in Rakhine State. The UN Country Team contributed to or prepared and released more than 20 of those statements.

Here are a few other examples of the results we achieved over the past 12 months:

  • UNFPA delivered contraceptives and family planning services to nearly half a million women and couples.
  • Because birth registration is the first right of the child and a stepping stone to access services such as health, education and protection, 130,000 children under the age of 10 received their birth certificates with support from UNICEF.
  • UNOPS did US$ 98 million of public procurement for the Government of Myanmar for essential medicines to treat tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS, and for goods and equipment that helped flood victims restore their livelihoods and strengthen their resilience.
  • UN-Habitat and UN Environment supported Government of Myanmar in development of Myanmar Climate Change Policy, Strategy and Master plans in 6 sectoral areas which have been approved by the Union Cabinet.
  • ILO signed its first tripartite Decent Work Country Program and Parliament adopted a comprehensive Occupational Safety and Health Law.
  • IOM works closely with key stakeholders to promote safe and rewarding migration, protect vulnerable migrants and prevent unsafe migration, while strengthening community resilience by supporting migrant health and disaster risk reduction efforts.
  • MIMU provided technical training for 300 persons and its web products were downloaded more than 70,000 times.
  • OCHA coordinated humanitarian response planning, resource mobilization and needs-based humanitarian assistance and protection for nearly one million people including over 240,000 internally displaced persons including women, children, and persons with disabilities living in camps or camp-like situations after fleeing violence in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states.
  • Shan State high quality coffee is now sold in premium stores in France through a UNODC’s support to farmers switching from opium to coffee cultivation.
  • With UNDP’s assistance, over 17,000 people in Rakhine affected by floods and conflict have seen their access to livelihoods, markets and services improved via inter-community cooperation for rehabilitation of local infrastructure.
  • UNESCO’s activities in safeguarding cultural heritage enabled completion of the assessment and stabilization of 389 monuments damaged by the earthquake in Bagan.
  • UN Women worked across 38 townships in 5 States in partnership with State and local governments, DSW, women’s committees, and CSOs to ensure that women from marginalized and conflict affected populations have increased livelihood security, protection services and are empowered to engage in building sustainable peace and resilience and benefit equally from humanitarian action.
  • UNHCR and its partners provided protection and shelter support to 156 IDP camps, distributed core relief items to 18,301 families and supported 3,994 displaced persons with specific needs. UNHCR also worked with the Governments of Myanmar and Thailand to facilitate the return of 565 refugees to Myanmar in February 2019.
  • WFP assisted almost 1 million people from the most food-insecure communities across Myanmar through emergency relief food assistance, school feeding, asset creation activities and nutrition interventions.

 

All of these are significant results achieved under difficult circumstances. But there is much more work to be done under each of the pillars of our work – peace, development, human rights and humanitarian assistance, particularly under the nexus approach.

This year, we will continue to consult with the Government the UN Development Framework Agreement (UNDAF) that will be central to UN’s support to Myanmar. We will also look for entry points for the provision of support to the milestone 2020 election. We will move forward the preparation of the Kachin and Shan States strategic cooperation frameworks. There is, of course, much more that we will deliver across our diverse portfolios.

I am optimistic that with your talent and commitment, the UN will remain a forceful actor for change in Myanmar in the New Year. The Sustainable Development Goals – and eventually the UNDAF – will continue to guide us. The ongoing reform of the UN Development System will allow us further to strengthen our coherence, efficiency and effectiveness — firmly positioning the UN as a trusted partner in building a sustainable future for all in Myanmar.

Thank you and Happy New Year,

Knut