#Ge·no·zid·blogger e.V.
24 Oct 2018

Guest Post by Vasilina

#Myanmar and the United Nations

The aim of this post is to show the importance of the United Nations (UN) in inter- and intrastate conflicts on the example of Myanmar. The article will focus on the work of the UN and its agencies as well as their impact on the conflict in Myanmar.

3952415622_90f8ee31ff_bFoto: Julian Rotela Rosow/www.flickr.com/Creative Commons

#Myanmar crisis

The conflict in Myanmar also called ‘Myanmar crisis’ or ‘Rohingya crisis’ is a conflict which was boiling for years but broke out into a genocide in August 2017 between Buddhist nationalists backed by the government and the Rohingya. The Rohingya is a Muslim minority, who is extremely persecuted, discriminated and abused. The crisis is considered a genocide as the violence is manly based on appearance, language and religion. UN investigators were denied access to Myanmar but were able to interview around 875 witnesses who fled to Bangladesh. They found out that the military also known as Tatmadaw carried out murders, enforced disappearances, torture, imprisonment, rape, sexual violence and sexual slavery, burning entire villages, assaulting children and so on.

You can read more about the conflict here.

Foto: Erin Harper/www.vimeo.com

#The United Nations

The Rohingya people feel despair and don’t know to whom to turn to – just like other people who are living in countries where the government is violent and oppressing. Who can save these people from their own government?

The UN is an intergovernmental organization with the aim of friendly international cooperation as well as creating and maintaining international peace and security. These key tasks should be achieved through combined problem solving of international problems in economic, social, cultural or humanitarian areas. The UN is also promoting the implementation of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people regardless of their race, sex, language or religion. Furthermore, the UN is considered to be the centre for coordinating actions of different countries in order to have common achievements.

To reach these goals, the UN has created its own structure with main organs, bodies, funds, programs and specialized agencies. Topics tackled by the UN are, among others, for example humanitarian aid, food assistance, social safety, tourism, employment and employees rights, urbanization, green economy, gender equality and protection of reproductive rights, education, children, human and personal development, protection of refugees, hunger removal, women economic and social empowerment, freedom of trade, global vaccinations and health. However, the main functions of the UN are to prevent countries from waging wars, to restore peace and security, to protect people and their rights and advancing human development.

The UN was founded on the 26th of June 1945 in San Francisco, USA. The world and its countries were in a critical state after World War II where more than 60 million people died. The states understood that they couldn’t allow such a disaster to repeat itself anymore and decided to unite in order to make the world a better place, to stop wars and to ensure basic human rights and fundamental freedoms for every human being.

Foto: Scazon/www.flickr.com/Creative Commons

#What is the role of the UN in the Myanmar crisis?

#United Nations Human Rights Council

After the escalation of the conflict in August 2017 the UN became increasingly aware of the crimes committed in Myanmar and started to focus to solve the conflict. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) convoked the 27th Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the Human Rights Situation of the Minority Rohingya Muslim Population and other Minorities in the Rakhine State of Myanmar on 5th December 2017. The countries which participated in this session highlighted some situations happening in Myanmar like the use of force against Rohingya civilians, extrajudicial killings, including children, sexual violence, indiscriminate firing of weapons and the scattering of landmines, damaging of property and belongings, forced disappearances, torture and other brutal and inhuman treatment, assault on places of worship as well as religious and racist hatred. The delegation assessed these crimes as crimes against humanity (Art. 7 Rome Statute) and were alarmed about the non – cooperation of the Burmese government with the UN and other international NGO’s. They called upon the government of Myanmar to take all necessary measures to stop the violations of basic human rights and to grant citizenship to the Rohingya.

As Bangladesh was taking in almost all of the Rohingya refugees but couldn’t cope with the large amount of refugees the UNHCR appealed upon the international community to provide financial aid and support to Bangladesh. A non-binding resolution was adopted by the UNHRC. In March 2018, the UNHRC established a fact-finding mission to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar.

Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar / Foto by UN Geneva/www.flickr.com/Creative Commons

#Protection of Children

During the session the UNHCR called upon Myanmar to ensure the protection of children as there were reports of killing or maiming of children, recruitment and the use of children in armed forces and armed groups, attacks against schools or hospitals, rape or other grave sexual violence, abduction of children as well as denial of humanitarian access for children. Following sustained advocacy work by the UN the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar Armed Forces, released 75 child soldiers on 31st August 2018. This was a step forward in the implementation of the Joint Action Plan signed in 2012 by the Government of Myanmar and in strengthening the protection framework for the children in the country. Since 2012, 924 children and young people have been released.[1] Additionally, the UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) is working with Myanmar’s government to stop and prevent recruitment and abuse of children in Myanmar. The UN is also implementing integration programs to help ex-child soldiers to transition back into a civilian life and to bring peace to Myanmar.

#Food, Education and Public Health

Furthermore, other UN departments and programs are assisting in improving the situation in Myanmar and by doing so dismantling tension, preventing new escalation and helping the vulnerable.

From January to June 2018 the UN World Food Program delivered urgent aid to around 190.000 people in central Rakhine and 142.000 in northern Rakhine by, among others, emergency relief, implementing nutrition programs, by providing school meals and through community asset creation. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, which is present in Myanmar for over 40 years, ameliorated the access, availability and utilization of food in Northern Rakhine through the provision of livestock and agriculture-based input distributions. Moreover, it expanded its educational program on nutritional and agricultural practices as well as livestock awareness which benefitted in the last 12 months around 12.680 households.[2]

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) provided access to learning for more than 32.000 children in Rakhine through the construction and renewal of 44 schools over last 12 months. UNICEF provided for 14.000 children in IDP (Internal Displaced Person) camps and crisis-affected villages in Rakhine access to essential education. [3]

Foto: DFID – UK Department for International Development/www.flickr.com/Creative Commons

Through combined measures of UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and GAVI more than 670.000 children aged between 9 months and 15 years were immunized against Japanese Encephalitis in Rakhine state. The WHO also provided technical and coordination support in the acute rotavirus outbreak, which affected the populations in Sittwe and Pauktaw townships in January 2018. The United Nations Fund for Population Activities provided mobile health clinics which have supported about 40.000 women of all ethnicities in 35 villages and 7 IDP camps with sexual and reproductive health care. UNFPA also assisted expecting mothers with over 800 clean delivery kits, supporting safe birth. The United Nations Office for Project Services has developed a master plan for the enlargement and renewal of Sittwe General Hospital. The master plan provides for a project for the hospital’s future function and form to meet the medical care needs of all communities in Rakhine state. Furthermore, it is also providing microfinance services to 71.000 people living in Rakhine state. People living there should invest the loans in livestock, trading and agriculture to increase their livelihoods. [4]

#Shelter, Infrastructure and Humanitarian Assistance

The United Nations Development Programme reached agreements with stakeholders in the Townships Ponnagyun, Thandwe, Gwa, Ramree and Toungup in the Rakhine state to build roads and bridges, schools, sub-rural health centres and water supply systems that will help approx. 103.000 people. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), an intergovernmental organization related to UN, improved infrastructure and livelihood in Rakhine, promoted disaster risk reduction and community outreach on safe migration as well as provided health service provision for 38.843 persons. [5]

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR and its partners were able to provide emergency shelter support, including critical household items to some 40.880 stateless IDPs in camps in the central areas of Rakhine State, despite an exceptionally constrained environment, including severely restricted access. The United Nations Fund for Population Activities established 13 UNFPA Women and Girls Centres in both Buddhist and Muslim IDP camps and supports thousands of adolescent girls towards the right to live free of violence. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs supported over 600.000 people with humanitarian needs in Rakhine state, including 130.000 displaced people in camps. [6]

Furthermore, protection interventions were implemented in central Rakhine areas. UNHCR helped stateless communities with programs for people in need during 210 missions to IDP sites. Additionally, UNHCR provided assistance to 1.470 people with specific needs, including the elderly, persons living with disabilities, and those with serious medical concerns. At a national level, capacity building of over 80 members of the government on international standards for voluntary repatriation took place. [7]

UNHCR and UNDP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Myanmar on 6th June 2018. This MoU is a necessary step to establish a framework for cooperation between the UN and the government of Myanmar. According to it, the government of Myanmar has to create conducive conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.[8]

Foto: DFID – UK Department for International Development/www.flickr.com/Creative Commons

#Justice

The UNHRC fact-finding mission on Myanmar has concluded in a report that the security forces of Myanmar, especially military have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in its treatment of several ethnic and religious minorities in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States. The report concluded “there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide.” and calls for the prosecution of the perpetrators.[9] The case was referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).However, Myanmar is not a state party to the Rome Statute, and therefore, the ICC has no jurisdiction. For all that, Bangladesh is a member of the Rome Statute, thus, the ICC may exercise its jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh. You can read more about it here.

 

Vasilina is currently studying Law and Politics at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder. Based on her studies she is focusing, amongst others, on the topics of political conflicts, discrimination and genocide. Vasilina wants to contribute to the prevention of grave human rights violations through education. She stands up for human rights and hopes to make the world a bit better.

 

Bibliography

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# CNN, 09.02.2018: Reuters report alleges murder, arson by Myanmar´s military, (https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/09/asia/rohingya-mass-grave-reuters-intl/index.html, last access on 14.10.2018)).

# CNN, 11. 04.2018: Seven Myanmar soldiers jailed for Rohingya killing uncovered by reporters ( https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/10/asia/rohingya-myanmar-soldiers-jailed-intl/index.html, last access on 14.10.2018).

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# Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (2018) “Release of 75 Ex-Child Soldiers by Myanmar Armed Forces Encouraging – SRSG Gamba“ Available at: https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/release-of-75-ex-child-soldiers-by-myanmar-armed-forces-encouraging-srsg-gamba/ (Last Accessed 24.10.2018)

# Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (https://www.icc-cpi.int/nr/rdonlyres/ea9aeff7-5752-4f84-be94-0a655eb30e16/0/rome_statute_english.pdf, last access on 13.10.2018)

# Spiegel online, 16. 08.2018: Myanmar: Facebooks halbherziger Kampf gegen den Hass (http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/web/facebook-in-myanmar-halbherziger-kampf-gegen-den-hass-a-1223480.html, last access on 14.10.2018)

# The Guardian, Holmes, 04. 09.2017: Myanmar blocks all UN aid to civilians at heart of Rohingya crisis, (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/04/myanmar-blocks-all-un-aid-to-civilians-at-heart-of-rohingya-crisis, last access on 14.10.2018)

# The Guardian, 27. 08. 2018, Petersen: Myanmar’s military accused of genocide in damning UN report (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/27/myanmars-military-accused-of-genocide-by-damning-un-report, last access on 03.10.2018)

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[1] Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (2018) https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/release-of-75-ex-child-soldiers-by-myanmar-armed-forces-encouraging-srsg-gamba/
[2] UN in Myanmar (2018) http://mm.one.un.org/content/unct/myanmar/en/home/news/results-achieved-in-rakhine-by-the-un-over-the-past-twelve-month.html
[3] UN in Myanmar (2018) http://mm.one.un.org/content/unct/myanmar/en/home/news/results-achieved-in-rakhine-by-the-un-over-the-past-twelve-month.html
[4] UN in Myanmar (2018) http://mm.one.un.org/content/unct/myanmar/en/home/news/results-achieved-in-rakhine-by-the-un-over-the-past-twelve-month.html
[5] UN in Myanmar (2018) http://mm.one.un.org/content/unct/myanmar/en/home/news/results-achieved-in-rakhine-by-the-un-over-the-past-twelve-month.html
[6] UN in Myanmar (2018) http://mm.one.un.org/content/unct/myanmar/en/home/news/results-achieved-in-rakhine-by-the-un-over-the-past-twelve-month.html
[7] UN in Myanmar (2018) http://mm.one.un.org/content/unct/myanmar/en/home/news/results-achieved-in-rakhine-by-the-un-over-the-past-twelve-month.html
[8] UNHCR (2018) http://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2018/5/5b0fff7b4/unhcr-undp-agree-text-mou-myanmar-support-creation-conditions-return-rohingya.html
[9] UNHRC (2018) https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/FFM-Myanmar/A_HRC_39_64.pdf

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