Foreign minister tells General Assembly that lack of development in western state is among the root causes of the conflict
Myanmar yesterday called on the United Nations to provide development aid for its troubled Rakhine State, where tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities have affected hundreds of thousands of families since violence between the two erupted in 2012.
“In addressing the root cause, we are working for peace, stability, harmony and development of all people in Rakhine State,” Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin told the Assembly as it entered the second week of its 69th annual high-level meeting.
“As development is one of the main challenges in Rakhine State, I would also like to invite the international community particularly the United Nations to provide much-needed development assistance there.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said last week that international humanitarian agencies and the UN were committed to deliver increased “development and humanitarian assistance” to “all sections of the population in an impartial and equitable manner” in the troubled state, which is Myanmar's second-poorest.
An assessment of communal conflict in Myanmar commissioned by international non-governmental organisation Mercy Corps, suggests that international NGOs should adopt a 50:50 ratio in distributing aid to ethnic Rakhine and Muslim residents of the state to avoid reinforcing and inflaming conflict, citing the so-called “Do No Harm” approach to aid delivery in conflict settings.
The report notes that “the international narrative [of the conflict] tends to be ignorant of the conflict’s causes, and employs a name and shame strategy that serves to reinforce threat perceptions and renders the perception that international actors are biased”.
“This effect is particularly pronounced in Rakhine State insofar as the grievances of Rakhine communities, some of which are entirely legitimate, are summarily ignored in international discourse. Like other ethnic nationalities, Rakhine people have been culturally and politically marginalised within their country for decades,” says the report “Intercommunal Violence in Myanmar: Risks and Opportunities for International Assistance”.
Last week Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply troubled” by the situation in Rakhine, and he warned that the conditions of vulnerable populations, including those in internally displaced persons camps, remained “precarious and unsustainable”.
The United Nations will continue to play a “constructive role” in Myanmar’s “ambitious reform agenda which aims to better the lives of all the country’s people”, he said in a statement released over the weekend.
Ban Ki-moon also said Myanmar was showing progress in many areas but faced “critical hurdles” that “must be overcome as the country prepares for a general election in 2015”.
“The role of Parliament will be crucial as the country takes decisive measures on national reconciliation, engages in political dialogue with its diverse ethnic groups, and debates a range of matters including control of hate speech as well as a host of other socio-economic and developmental issues,” he told a meeting of the Myanmar partnership group at UN headquarters in New York on September 26, according to the statement.
The secretary-general said there were “encouraging” signs in the peace process, noting the emergence of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team – an umbrella group for peace negotiators from armed ethnic groups – and “a single draft text of a ceasefire agreement”.
“In addition, open discussions on issues like power, resource sharing and a federal union based on equality, democracy and self-determination are signs of a serious commitment to a united Myanmar,” Ban Ki-moon said. “Now is the time to move beyond narrow agendas and towards cooperation,” he added.