Statement of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator a.i., Mr. Bertrand Bainvel, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2013
This year’s global theme for Human Rights Day – ‘working for your rights’ enables us all to take stock of achievements since the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action 20 years ago. Worldwide, there have been advances in international human rights law, with national and international institutions adopting standards and monitoring compliance, and stronger action from civil society and human rights defenders. There have also been setbacks – inadequate political will and a lack of capacity and resources to acknowledge and address human rights violations, to protect defenders and to provide justice to victims.
These global developments are mirrored in Myanmar as part of the current, rapid transition process. There are encouraging signs that the political, economic and social reforms could lead to a lasting improvement of the human rights situation.. New policies, legislative reforms and practical action on the ground are strengthening institutions so they can work in accordance with international norms and standards. Civil society and the media have more space. Many political prisoners have been released, and after many decades, prospects for peace and reconciliation are real.
Yet here as at the international level, work remains to be done to transform human rights from abstract promises to genuine improvement in the daily lives of all people, especially those who are currently marginalized, disadvantaged or excluded. In recalling the Vienna Declaration, we emphasize the principle of non-discrimination and protection for all individuals and groups regardless of nationality, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, sexuality or other status.
Human rights are the rights of all people. This is particularly crucial in areas in which conflict still shapes daily lives, whether this is armed conflict in border areas such as Kachin State, inter-communal violence such as Rakhine State, where segregation, discrimination and violence prevent thousands of individuals- children, women and men- to realize their full potential
In the measures that are now being taken by the Government, non-state groups, civil society and many others to support national peace and reconciliation, human rights will have to play an important role –without respect for human rights there can be no justice, no peace and no prosperity.
Human rights must also guide solutions for ending inter-communal violence in Myanmar, otherwise it may threaten reform. Gains in the area of freedom of expression, association and assembly must be preserved and strengthened, and the space for human rights defenders vigorously defended. Capacity development and changes in the mindset are required.
As the United Nations family in Myanmar, we work with our national partners across many areas, whether in social protection, local governance, ending forced labour and child soldier recruitment, providing humanitarian aid to displaced persons, supporting the rule of law, on police and prison reform, or engaging with civil society and strengthening the media. We also support inclusive and participatory sector reforms to build better systems- especially in health and education- to provide higher quality services for all, and address inequities.
Our joint action and our advocacy on critical human rights issues aims to safeguard the rights of every person in Myanmar to life and liberty, development, education, health, freedom of expression, association and assembly, freedom of movement and adequate housing. As the UN, we contribute to working for these rights in support of the State. We also work with the civil society whose tireless human rights work deserves the fullest support, and with the women, men and children of Myanmar who contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights every day.
On the occasion of this International Human Rights Day, the UN looks forward to continuing to collaborating with all of you in Myanmar society, to ‘work for your rights’.
For further information contact: