Yangon, 4 November 2011
I have just completed a five day visit in the country at the invitation of the Government in my capacity as Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Myanmar. This was my third visit since last year’s election.
In Naypyitaw, I was received by Vice-President U Tin Aung Myint Oo, the Speaker of the Upper House U Khin Aung Myint, the Minister for Foreign Affairs U Wunna Maung Lwin, and the Minister of Social Welfare and Labour U Aung Kyi. I also met with the Union Peacemaking Group and with the Union Election Commission. In Mandalay and in Pathein, I was received by the Chief Ministers of Mandalay region and Irrawaddy region, respectively. In Yangon, I met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at her residence. I also met with representatives of other political parties, and with civil society organizations, as well as with the National Human Rights Commission.
An important purpose of my visit was to directly relay to the Myanmar leadership and other stakeholders the Secretary-General’s encouragement of the important steps taken in recent months to advance the reform agenda led by President Thein Sein, as well as the significant efforts made by all concerned to advance national dialogue and reconciliation. At this juncture, it is of crucial importance, for Myanmar’s regional and global standing, to maintain the positive momentum that these initiatives have generated.
The United Nations strongly encourages the continuation of such efforts as the best way to strengthen domestic and international confidence in Myanmar’s commitment to a reform process that is incremental, systematic and sustainable. In particular, we encourage all concerned to build on the steps taken thus far through an inclusive and broad-based political process to strengthen national unity. The release of the remaining political prisoners as part of the recent amnesty process and the enactment of the proposed amendments to the political party registration law are steps that can and should be taken as a matter of priority. Continuous dialogue is also needed to bring about peace and development in border areas. If sustained, these and other efforts offer a historic opportunity to set the country on a course than can fulfill the promises made to the people of Myanmar. I conveyed to the leadership that the Secretary-General looks forward to meeting President Thein Sein on the margins of the fourth UN-ASEAN Summit later this month.
Another objective of my visit was to see for myself the changing environment within which the country’s challenges and needs can now be addressed, from discussing national policy concerns to serving the people’s needs.
The Green Economy Green Growth conference in which I participated – the first of its kind in Myanmar – showed that it is now possible for a wide cross-section of stakeholders to create broad-based platforms around which issues of common concern can be discussed openly. It is an indicator of the direction in which Myanmar must continue to move if its democratic transition process is to succeed and if the country is to contribute to the global agenda by effectively addressing such concerns at home.
At the grassroots level, I heard directly from beneficiaries of UN assistance projects at the village and township level in the Dry Zone the difference that UN funds and programmes make in their lives. The UNDP projects I visited are clear evidence of the potential there is for doing more to better address critical needs. In order to do so more effectively and evenly across the country’s regions and states – especially in the areas of poverty alleviation, primary health care and education – and to contribute to the reform efforts, it is important that relevant mandates of the UN funds and programmes are maximized and restrictions removed. Ultimately, it is the people who bear cost of these restrictions. We will continue to work with all concerned, including the donor community, not only to maximize current activities but also to ensure the sustainability of our programmes.
Finally, my visit here is a signal of the importance the Secretary-General and the United Nations attach to the need for international understanding, encouragement and support to Myanmar’s transition. The Government’s reform agenda offers an unprecedented opportunity for greater mutual understanding between Myanmar and the international community, and for Myanmar and the UN to work together. Looking forward, the UN will continue to apply its Good Offices to strengthen our partnership with Myanmar.