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Myanmar: Note on 2017 Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan Update on Northern Rakhine - Update on Northern Rakhine, 15 March 2017

25 March 2017 - 2:11pm
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, CCCM Cluster, Shelter Cluster Country: Myanmar

Situation overview

A series of attacks on Border Guard Police posts on 9 October 2016 which killed nine police personnel, as well as subsequent security operations by government forces, have triggered a new humanitarian crisis in the northern part of Rakhine State. Hundreds of houses and buildings were burned, many people were killed and thousands fled their homes. Allegations of widespread human rights violations have been documented among those who have newly arrived in Bangladesh. While some internally displaced people have started to return to their homes in certain areas, other people are still on the move and the full scale of needs remains unknown due to the changing situation and ongoing access restrictions.

Displacement

According to the best information currently available, approximately 94,000 people are estimated to have been displaced either within northern Rakhine or into Bangladesh since 9 October. This includes an estimated 20,000 people who remain internally displaced people in the northern part of Maungdaw and about 74,000 people who are estimated by humanitarian organizations in Bangladesh to have crossed the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh since 9 October. There are also 326 Rakhine and Mro evacuees who continue to be hosted at two locations in Maungdaw township.

Humanitarian access

Five months after the initial border post attacks, humanitarian organizations continue to face access constraints. The Government has not yet authorized the United Nations and humanitarian partners to carry out a comprehensive needs assessment in the areas most affected by violence and displacement in northern Rakhine. Since the end of 2016, the Government has permitted an incremental resumption of some services including distributions of food and other relief items. However most protection activities remain suspended in Maungdaw District and the operating environment remains challenging and heavily restricted. WFP has had access to the affected area since the beginning of the year for its national staff and this is enabling collection of data on food security. However access is not being granted uniformly to all organizations and in most cases international staff are not allowed to work outside the main centres. These limitations significantly affect the quantity, quality and ability to provide sustainable life-saving assistance to internally displaced and other affected people. Serious concerns remain about the implications of ongoing disruptions to life-saving humanitarian activities and other services. This is compounded by a lack of local organizations and civil society with capacity to respond to the needs of the internally displaced and other vulnerable people.

Needs assessments

A limited Multi-Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) was conducted in two village tracts in the southern part of Maungdaw in January, but it was constrained by movement restrictions (no international staff were allowed to participate) and several challenges related to confidentiality.
Permission has not yet been granted by the authorities for a comprehensive needs assessment to be carried out in the northern part of Maungdaw Township, which is the most affected area, or other parts of the affected townships. Access for qualified staff to carry out comprehensive humanitarian assessments throughout the affected townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung remains a priority. In the meantime, initial observations suggest that food/nutrition, protection, shelter, household items, medical services, water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, as well as education support are the most critical humanitarian needs. In addition, the need for mental health services and psychosocial support is likely to have increased significantly.

Myanmar: Mon armed group pushed to sign nationwide ceasefire

25 March 2017 - 12:53am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By NANG MYA NADI / DVB

Mon political parties, monks and members of civil society in the southeastern state are urging the New Mon State Party (NMSP), a Mon ethnic armed group, to sign Burma’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

“At first, it was about signing together with the members of the Northern Alliance such as the KIA [Kachin Independence Army], MNDAA [Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army] and TNLA [Ta’ang National Liberation Army] — as all-inclusive,” said Mon National Party Central Executive Committee member Nai San Hlaing, who attended a meeting on Wednesday in Moulmein involving representatives from the NMSP, political parties and civil society organisations.

“However, the [Burma Army] commander-in-chief doesn’t accept them [members of the Northern Alliance] … and it cannot be all inclusive. Because the New Mon State Party is a comparatively small organisation, it is advised to sign the NCA. After signing the NCA, the NMSP should get the old [military] posts taken by the government army and other rights. Most of the attendees at the meeting told the NMSP to sign the NCA.”

An abbot, Wara Wontha, similarly said signing the NCA was the next step on the path to a sustainable peace.

“The NCA should be signed. If not, peace will not be achieved,” he said. “This is not a time to solve the problem through arms; [ethnic armed groups] should discuss at the table. If the NCA is not signed and armed groups are fighting, the people will be the victims. So, there is no way other than signing the NCA.”

Attempts by DVB to contact the NMSP spokesperson to discuss the armed group’s thinking on the issue were unsuccessful.

The NMSP is a member of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), a coalition of seven ethnic armed organisations that have not yet signed the NCA. Eight non-state armed groups signed onto the accord in October 2015 under the previous government led by then-President Thein Sein.

Whether to accede to the accord remains a contentious question among and within ethnic armed groups. For those against signing, one of the primary concerns has been inclusivity, with the previous government shutting a handful of ethnic armed groups out of the process, including the TNLA and the MNDAA.

Both are members of the Northern Alliance, which has clashed with the Burma Army intermittently since the alliance launched a coordinated assault on police and military outposts on 20 November in northern Shan State. That fighting, along with an MNDAA attack on the Kokang region’s administrative capital Laogai earlier this month, have left prospects for an inclusive peace process dim, at least in the short term.

By signing the NCA, the NMSP would be allowed to attend the upcoming 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference as a full participant. The status of NCA non-signatories at the conference, or whether they will be invited at all, remain uncertain. The 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference was due to convene at the end of February, but that deadline was missed and no summit now looks likely until at least May.

The delay has fuelled concerns that Burma’s peace process is foundering, as did a declaration by several ethnic armed groups, led by the country’s largest, disavowing the NCA and seeking alternative channels for dialogue.

The powerful United Wa State Army, an NCA non-signatory, was at the forefront of the declaration, which came following a meeting of seven non-signatory ethnic armed groups in late February.

Myanmar: Human Rights Council decides to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Myanmar to establish facts on violations, especially in Rakhine State

24 March 2017 - 2:29pm
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Myanmar, South Sudan, World

Human Rights Council

MORNING

24 March 2017

Council Adopts 13 Resolutions, Extends Mandates on Iran, Myanmar, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, South Sudan, Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Torture and Migrants

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted 13 resolutions, in which it decided to dispatch an independent, international fact-finding mission to establish the facts about alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces and abuses in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State. The Council also extended the mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran, Myanmar, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and South Sudan for a further period of one year, and extended the mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and on the human rights of migrants for a period of three years.

Other resolutions concerned human rights and unilateral coercive measures, the right to work, birth registration, the rights of the child, regional arrangements for the promotion of human rights, and human rights and the environment.

The Council decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran for a further period of one year in a resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran, adopted by a vote of 22 in favour, 12 against and 13 abstentions. It requested the Special Rapporteur to submit a report on the implementation of the mandate to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-seventh session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-second session. It called upon the Government of Iran to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to permit access to visit the country, and to provide all information necessary to allow the fulfilment of the mandate.

In a resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, adopted without a vote, the Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar for a further period of one year. It also decided to dispatch urgently an independent international fact-finding mission to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State. It called upon the Government of Myanmar to continue efforts to eliminate statelessness and the systematic and institutionalized discrimination against members of ethnic, and religious minorities, including the root causes of discrimination, in particular relating to the Rohingya minority.

The Council decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for a period of one year in a resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, adopted without a vote. The Council decided to strengthen, for a period of two years, the capacity of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, including its field-based structure in Seoul, to allow the implementation of relevant recommendations made by the group of independent experts on accountability in its report. It condemned in the strongest terms the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations and other human rights abuses committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

In a resolution on the situation of human rights in South Sudan, adopted without a vote, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for a period of one year. It condemned the ongoing violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan, and it demanded that all actors put a halt to all violations and abuses of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law. It also urged the Government of South Sudan to appoint a special representative on sexual and gender-based violence.

In a resolution on human rights of migrants: mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decided to extend for a period of three years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants to examine ways and means to overcome the obstacles existing to the full and effective protection of the human rights of migrants, recognizing the particular vulnerability of women, children and those undocumented or in an irregular situation. The Council also extended mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression for a period of three years, in a resolution adopted without a vote. It requested the Special Rapporteur to submit an annual report to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly covering all activities relating to the mandate.

In a resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: mandate of the Special Rapporteur, adopted without a vote, the Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for a further period of three years to receive, examine and act on information from Governments, intergovernmental and civil society organizations, individuals and groups of individuals regarding issues and alleged cases concerning torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to conduct country visits.

The Council also adopted a resolution on human rights and unilateral coercive measures, adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 15 against and zero abstentions, in which it called upon all States to stop adopting, maintaining or implementing unilateral coercive measures not in accordance with international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter of the United Nations and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States.

The Council called upon States to put in place comprehensive policies and to take the legislative and administrative measures necessary for the full realization of the right to work for all, including women, in a resolution on the right to work, adopted without a vote. In a resolution on birth registration and the right of everyone to recognition everywhere as a person before the law, adopted without a vote, the Council called upon States to establish or strengthen existing institutions at all levels responsible for birth registration and consider the development of comprehensive civil registration systems.

In a resolution on the rights of the child: protection of the rights of the child in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council called upon States to promote, protect, respect and fulfil the rights of the child and to mainstream them into all legislation, policies, programmes and budgets, as appropriate, aimed at implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

In a resolution on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council requested the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to provide the resources necessary to enable the Office of the High Commissioner to support regional and subregional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights. In a resolution on human rights and the environment, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council called upon States to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, including in all actions undertaken to address environmental challenges. It called upon States to adopt and implement strong laws ensuring the right to participation, to access to information and to justice, including to an effective remedy, in the field of the environment, and to facilitate public awareness and participation in environmental decision-making.

Speaking in the introduction of draft texts were Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Egypt, Greece, Mexico, Uruguay, Malta on behalf of the European Union, Belgium, United States, Denmark, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Sweden, and Japan.

Myanmar, Iran and South Sudan spoke as a concerned country. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not take the floor as a concerned country.

Cuba, Indonesia, Belgium, South Africa, Egypt, Germany on behalf of the European Union, Venezuela, Brazil, Philippines, Ecuador, and Bolivia spoke in general comments.

Germany on behalf the European Union, United States, Bangladesh, Cuba, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Japan, Brazil, United Kingdom, Iraq, and Egypt took the floor to speak in an explanation of the vote before or after the vote.

The Council will next meet at 12:15 p.m. to continue taking action on resolutions and decisions before closing its thirty-fourth session.

Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

Action on Resolution L.14 on Human Rights and Unilateral Coercive Measures

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.14) on human rights and unilateral coercive measures, adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 14 against and zero abstentions, the Council calls upon all States to stop adopting, maintaining or implementing unilateral coercive measures not in accordance with international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter of the United Nations and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States; and rejects all attempts to introduce unilateral coercive measures, as well as the increasing trend in this direction, including through the enactment of laws with extraterritorial application. The Council requests the High Commissioner, in discharging his functions in relation to the promotion and protection of human rights, to pay due attention and to give urgent consideration to the present resolution; and also requests the High Commissioner to organize for the thirty-sixth session of the Council the biennial panel discussion on the issue of unilateral coercive measures and human rights, and prepare a report on the panel discussion for submission and presentation to the Council at its thirty-seventh session.

The result of the vote was as follows: In favour (32): Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

Against (14): Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and United States of America.

Abstention (0):

Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, introducing draft resolution L.14 on human rights and unilateral coercive measures, stressed the importance of non-intervention and the protection of the social and economic development of peoples. The Non-Aligned Movement underlined the need for an independent human rights mechanism so that victims of unilateral coercive measures would have access to appeal and recourse. At the thirty-sixth session, a biannual panel would focus on recourse and reparation in that context. The negative impact of unilateral coercive measures needed to be highlighted, as it affected the most vulnerable classes in developing countries.

Cuba, in a general comment, said that the presentation of the draft resolution was a sign of general interest in the subject matter. Obstacles to the right to development needed to be studied by the Council. Some countries were imposing double standards on the work of the Council. Cuba fully supported draft resolution L.14, which was a sign of attachment to the work of the Council and the principles of the United Nations Charter.

Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, regretted that none of the European Union’s comments in informal consultations were taken onboard. Sufficient work on unilateral coercive measures was already being done in the United Nations system. Measures imposed always had to be proportionate. Targeted measures needed to take into account the needs of targeted populations. The Council was not the appropriate forum to address that issue, and the European Union members of the Council would vote against.

The Council adopted draft resolution L14 with 32 votes in favour, 15 against and no abstentions.

Action on Resolution L.22 on the Right to Work

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.22) on the right to work, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon States to put in place comprehensive policies and to take the legislative and administrative measures necessary for the full realization of the right to work for all, including women; and calls upon States to implement effective and targeted measures to ensure women’s equal access to decent work and full and productive employment, including through investments in care infrastructure, policies and employment services that address specific challenges faced by women and policies that aim at removing conditions disadvantageous to women during the recruitment process. The Council further calls upon States to continue their efforts to prevent and combat all forms of discrimination and violence, including sexual harassment at the workplace, including by adopting and implementing laws and policies and through training, awareness-raising and support for women’s access to justice with respect to violence and sexual harassment; and requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare an analytical report on the relationship between the realization of the right to work and the implementation of relevant targets in the Sustainable Development Goals, in accordance with States’ respective obligations under international human rights law, and to submit the report to the Human Rights Council prior to its thirty-seventh session.

Egypt, introducing draft resolution L.22, underlined the importance of the right to work, and noted that everyone had to choose their work and to be protected against unemployment, in line with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The draft resolution came at a time of very high unemployment rates. Young people were particularly affected by unemployment. Developing countries were also especially affected by high unemployment rates as they were not able to create the necessary economic conditions. Each State had to comply with international human rights and tackle issues related to the right to work, as well as to strengthen access of women to employment, including the provision of business loans. The draft resolution also referred to the role of vocational training and minimum standards of social protection. It emphasized the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals and their role in growth of employment in order to guarantee equal employment opportunities for men and women. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was asked to identify challenges in the accomplishment of that goal. It was hoped that there would be greater cooperation between the Council and the International Labour Organization.

Greece, also introducing the resolution, said Greece was a member of the core group on the resolution and was proud to have contributed to the final result which was L.22, given that the resolution focused on the right of women to work. Thanking all regional and additional co-sponsors, all others were invited to co-sponsor the resolution as well.

The Secretariat informed that the amendment to the resolution had been withdrawn.

Indonesia, in a general comment, said as a core group member, Indonesia reiterated its support to the resolution. The current text focused on men’s and women’s right to work and called for the implementation of relevant goals and targets. Indonesia thanked the co-sponsors and all who had provided input to the draft resolution and expressed hope that consensus could continue to be maintained.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, expressed concern that the resolution impinged on the role and responsibility of the International Labour Organization. Although the United States was joining consensus on the resolution, it did so on the understanding that the resolution did not imply that States had to join human rights instruments to which they were not a party, or otherwise implement obligations under those instruments. Furthermore, in joining consensus, the United States did not recognize any change in the current state of treaty or customary international law. The United States’ long-standing and well-known concerns regarding the right to development were reiterated.

The Council then adopted the resolution without a vote.

Action on Resolution L.24 on Birth Registration and the Right of Everyone to Recognition Everywhere as a Person before the Law

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.24) on birth registration and the right of everyone to recognition everywhere as a person before the law, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon States to establish or strengthen existing institutions at all levels responsible for birth registration and consider the development of comprehensive civil registration systems, and the preservation and security of such records, to ensure adequate training for registration officers, to allocate sufficient and adequate human, technical and financial resources to fulfil their mandate, and to increase, as needed, the accessibility of birth registration facilities within its territory; urges States to identify and remove physical, administrative, procedural and any other barriers that impede access to birth registration, including late registration; and invites States and other relevant stakeholders to work towards ensuring universal birth registration through, inter alia, the exchange of good practices and technical assistance, including through the universal periodic review and other relevant mechanisms of the Human Rights Council. The Council requests the High Commissioner to identify and actively pursue opportunities to collaborate with the United Nations Statistics Division and other relevant United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, as well as other relevant stakeholders, in order to strengthen existing policies and programmes aimed at universal birth registration and vital statistics development; to prepare a report on best practices and specific measures to ensure access to birth registration, and to submit the report to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-ninth session.

Mexico, speaking also on behalf of Turkey in introducing draft resolution L.24 on birth registration and the right of everyone to be recognized everywhere before the law, said that the text presented was the result of a wide consultative process. The right to recognition before the law was closely related to all other human rights and to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. This right was particularly important for vulnerable groups, such as migrants and asylum seekers. The Office of the High Commissioner would be requested to prepare a report on best practices in that regard, with a special focus on children migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and stateless children. Mexico encouraged the Council to adopt the resolution without a vote, as had been done with all related previous resolutions.

Belgium, in a general comment, believed that the initiative on birth registration was an important one because it reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to work together on the realization of birth registration. States were requested to register all birth registrations. It was shocking that one child out of four under the age of five had never been registered. Without documents proving their age, children were more vulnerable to discrimination and violation of their rights; children in armed conflict were particularly vulnerable. Their demobilization was made much more difficult. Birth registration was thus a vital element for accountability. Belgium would be happy to join the consensus.

The Council adopted draft resolution L.24 without a vote.

Action on Resolution L.25 on the Rights of the Child: Protection of the Rights of the Child in the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.25) on the rights of the child: protection of the rights of the child in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon States to promote, protect, respect and fulfil the rights of the child and to mainstream them into all legislation, policies, programmes and budgets, as appropriate, aimed at implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals; calls on States to work on the development of child rights-sensitive national, including sub-national and regional indicators, where applicable, taking into account indicators developed by appropriate global and regional fora, to measure progress, report and identify gaps in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and calls upon States to provide human rights education, and to promote children's empowerment and participation, as means to prevent and counteract violence, exploitation, and abuse of children. The Council also requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to contribute to the work of the High Level Political Forum on the follow-up of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in consultation with relevant stakeholders; and decides to continue its consideration of the question of the rights of the child, and to focus its next annual full-day meeting on the theme “Protecting the rights of the child in humanitarian situations”, and requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on that theme.

Uruguay, introducing draft resolution L.25 on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group and the European Union, said that the draft invited States to ensure that in the process of implementing Agenda 2030 they maintained a child-focused approach. The request of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights was welcomed to contribute to the work of the High-Level Political Forum with the thematic reviews on progress made in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. The Special Rapporteur was in a position to undertake an important support task for States in implementing Sustainable Development Goals related to that mandate. The negotiations had been open and transparent, and following that task, the text presented to the Council was balanced and took into account concerns of different delegations.

European Union, also introducing the draft resolution, said the text being presented would contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in a child rights compliant way. The European Union was fully committed to the achievement of all the goals and targets set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The European Union welcomed the proposal to dedicate the annual day of discussion on the rights of the child in 2018 to “Children in humanitarian situations” and the European Union would follow up with the introduction of a resolution focusing on the same theme.

The Secretariat informed that the amendments to the text had been withdrawn.

South Africa, in a general comment, said that it was disappointed that the sponsors of L.25 could not accept its language focusing on the activities of private military and security companies, transnational corporations and other business enterprises. In the modern digital age, where all kinds of repugnant ills were being brought into homes and immediate view, it was inconceivable that the sponsor could adopt a negative approach. Children everywhere deserved equal treatment. The Council could not pick and choose which rights of the child to protect.

Egypt, in a general comment, thanked the sponsors for accepting some of its suggestions, but believed that the draft resolution could be further improved and developed. Egypt would nonetheless continue to sponsor it.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, stated that any reaffirmation of prior documents in this resolution and any others adopted by the Council applied only to those States that affirmed them initially. The United States quoted that “the best interest of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his or her nature and protection” as recommendatory. The United States noted that human trafficking could include, but did not require, movement.

The Council adopted draft resolution L.25 as orally revised without a vote.

Action on Resolution L.26/Rev.1 on Regional Arrangements for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.26/Rev.1) on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to provide the resources necessary to enable the Office of the High Commissioner to support regional and subregional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights; requests the Office of the High Commissioner to expand its cooperation with regional human rights mechanisms by creating, as of 2018, a dedicated programme for the said mechanisms to gain experience in the United Nations human rights system in order to enhance capacity-building and cooperation among them; and also requests the High Commissioner to hold, in 2019, a workshop on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights to take stock of developments since the workshop held in 2016, including a thematic discussion on the role of regional arrangements in the combat against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and in the implementation of the commitments in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Belgium, introducing the draft resolution, said Belgium with its partners Armenia, Mexico, Senegal and Thailand, presented a resolution to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and relevant regional human rights organizations. Because of their respective geographical scopes, regional human rights mechanisms were in a better position to address the needs in various regions. Regional mechanisms contributed to the universality and indivisibility of human rights. As usual, the draft resolution proposed that under the Office of the High Commissioner, a new seminar be organized to which all regional mechanisms were invited. Combatting racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia would be one area of focus. The draft resolution also sought to promote cooperation between the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and regional mechanisms through focal points and also through programmes allowing members of regional arrangements to participate in Geneva and build personal relationships and bridges. It was hoped that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus.

The Council then adopted the resolution without a vote.

Action on Resolution L.27 on Freedom of Opinion and Expression: Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.27) on freedom of opinion and expression: mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further period of three years; urges all States to cooperate fully with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his/her tasks, to provide all necessary information requested by him/her and to consider favourably his/her requests for visits and for implementing his/her recommendations; and requests the Special Rapporteur to submit an annual report to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly covering all activities relating to his/her mandate, with a view to maximizing the benefits of the reporting process.

United States, introducing draft resolution L.27 on freedom of opinion and expression, said that the resolution would extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for three years. This right was as vital today as it had been in 1948, and was crucial for a healthy and well-functioning democratic society. The right to freedom of opinion and expression was inextricably linked to the enjoyment of other universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Council was urged to adopt the draft resolution by consensus.

Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, said that freedom of opinion and expression represented one of the European Union priorities in the framework of human rights and was a fundamental right of every human being. The European Union fully supported the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and considered it to be one of the most important. The Special Rapporteur was commended for his excellent work so far. The resolution should be adopted without a vote.

The Council adopted draft resolution L.27 without a vote.

Action on Resolution L.32 on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: Mandate of the Special Rapporteur

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.32) on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: mandate of the Special Rapporteur, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for a further period of three years to, inter alia, seek, receive, examine and act on information from Governments, intergovernmental and civil society organizations, individuals and groups of individuals regarding issues and alleged cases concerning torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and to conduct country visits with the consent or at the invitation of Governments and to enhance further dialogue with them, and to follow up on recommendations made in reports after visits to their countries. The Council also urges States to cooperate fully with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his or her task, to supply all necessary information requested by him or her and to fully and expeditiously respond to his or her urgent appeals, and urges those Governments that have not yet responded to communications transmitted to them by the Special Rapporteur to answer without further delay; and to become parties to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and to give early consideration to signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol thereto as a matter of priority.

Denmark, introducing the draft resolution, said an oral revision of the text had been distributed in the room, which added a preambular paragraph and revised preambular paragraph 3 and operative paragraph 3. The resolution extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for a new period of three years. By adopting the resolution, the Council once again provided the mandate for the Special Rapporteur to seek, receive, examine and act on information from all relevant sources on issues and alleged cases of torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, said a key role in the fight against torture was the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. With the resolution, the mandate was continued. The resolution was the result of the engagement of all main sponsors, and the European Union fully supported the resolution as orally revised.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution, as orally revised, without a vote.

Action on Resolution L.33 on Human Rights and the Environment

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.33) on human rights and the environment, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council calls upon States to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, including in all actions undertaken to address environmental challenges, including the rights to life and to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, to an adequate standard of living, to adequate food, to safe drinking water and sanitation, and to housing and cultural rights; also calls upon States to adopt and implement strong laws ensuring, among other things, the rights to participation, to access to information and to justice, including to an effective remedy, in the field of the environment, and to facilitate public awareness and participation in environmental decision-making. The Council further requests the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner, to convene, prior to the thirty-seventh session of the Human Rights Council, a one-day expert seminar on best practices, lessons learned and the way forward with regard to human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, informed by the findings of the mandate holder; and to submit to the Human Rights Council, at its thirty-seventh session, a report on the above-mentioned seminar.

Costa Rica, introducing draft resolution L.33 as orally revised on behalf of the core group, said that the draft focused on the linkages between human rights and the environment, in particular with respect to biodiversity and ecosystem services. It was undeniable that the well-being of every person on the planet went hand in hand with the rights to adequate food, safe drinking water and sanitation, and to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women had to be acknowledged in that context. Effective remedies had to be provided for human rights violations and abuses, including those relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Switzerland, also introducing draft resolution L.33 as orally revised, explained that the one-day seminar mandated by the resolution provided an opportunity to take stock of the progress that had been achieved by the Special Rapporteur John Knox during his six years as a mandate holder. Switzerland was confident that this year too draft resolution L.33 as orally revised would be adopted by consensus.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the resolution’s reference to States was noted. The United States did not recognize any change in international customary law. States were responsible for implementing their human rights obligations. The United States noted its longstanding reservations to the right to development. The high cost of the resolution was noted, and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights was asked to minimise costs.

Bangladesh, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the issue of human rights and the environment was very important, and as a populous country faced with environmental challenges, Bangladesh was pleased to have contributed to the process of producing the resolution. Some of Bangladesh’s suggestions had not been taken on board and the process did not therefore appear inclusive. From the start, Bangladesh was placed at a disadvantage but kept negotiating. The core group could have done better in producing a transparent and open negotiating environment. In spite of that, Bangladesh would join the consensus in recognition of the importance of the issue.

The Council then adopted draft resolution L. 33 as orally revised without a vote.

Action on Resolution L.36 on Human Rights of Migrants: Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.36) on human rights of migrants: mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decides to extend for a period of three years, effective from the end of its thirty-fifth session, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, with the following functions, inter alia: to examine ways and means to overcome the obstacles existing to the full and effective protection of the human rights of migrants, recognizing the particular vulnerability of women, children and those undocumented or in an irregular situation; to request and receive information from all relevant sources, including migrants themselves, on violations of the human rights of migrants and their families; and to formulate appropriate recommendations to prevent and remedy violations of the human rights of migrants, wherever they may occur. The Council requests the Special Rapporteur, in carrying out his or her mandate, to take into consideration relevant human rights instruments of the United Nations to promote and protect the human rights of migrants, and to take into account bilateral, regional and international initiatives that address issues relating to the effective protection of human rights of migrants.

Mexico, introducing the draft resolution L.36 as orally revised, said that the oral revisions sought to align the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights of migrants with the standards relative to the functioning of Special Procedures. Mexico noted the increase in large movements of people throughout the world in recent years, and said that this trend would continue and even increase, as a result of armed conflict, poverty, inequality and climate change. Thousands of people had lost their lives in the search for better lives, millions lived in very precarious conditions, without the necessary protection, and migrants were increasingly the victims of certain policies to promote intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia under the pretext of security. Renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in this context was essential to the promotion and protection of human rights of migrants everywhere.

Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on Situations of Human Rights Requiring the Council’s Attention

Action on Resolution L.8/Rev.1 on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.8/Rev.1) on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon the Government of Myanmar to continue efforts to eliminate statelessness and the systematic and institutionalized discrimination against members of ethnic, and religious minorities, including the root causes of discrimination, in particular relating to the Rohingya minority, inter alia by reviewing the 1982 Citizenship Law; and also calls upon the Government of Myanmar to take further measures for a voluntary and sustainable return of all refugees and internally displaced persons and others who had to leave Myanmar, including from the Rohingya minority, to Rakhine State in safety, security and dignity, and in accordance with international law. The Council decides to dispatch urgently an independent international Fact Finding Mission to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State, and requests the Fact Finding Mission to present an oral update at the thirty-sixth session of the Human Rights Council, and a full report at the thirty-seventh session of the Human Rights Council. The Council also decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights in Myanmar for a further period of one year, requests the Special Rapporteur to present an oral progress report at the thirty-fifth session of the Human Rights Council.

Malta, speaking on behalf of the European Union, introducing the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said the draft provided for an extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for one year, inter alia for further work on the “implementation of the proposed joint benchmarks and for progress in priority areas of technical assistance and capacity-building”. In light of recent reports of human rights violations, the draft resolution also asked the President of the Human Rights Council to appoint an independent international fact-finding mission “to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State.” The adoption of the resolution by consensus would send a strong signal of support from the Council to the transition underway in “Myanmar/Burma”.

Venezuela, in a general comment, said Myanmar had demonstrated its cooperation with the Human Rights Council and reported on measures taken in the country. The draft resolution was a sign of politicization of mandates. The co-sponsors of the initiative insisted on measures that did not enjoy consensus. Constructive dialogue and technical assistance with the concerned country were the way forward. Venezuela reiterated its position on the resolution which was politically motivated, and that was why Venezuela would disassociate itself from the consensus.

Egypt welcomed in a general comment the efforts of the Government to promote and protect human rights and to address the underlying causes of the violations in Rakhine state. Egypt remained very concerned about the recent violence that had resulted in the loss of innocent lives and the displacement of tens of thousands of Rohingya. Egypt called upon the country to remove all forms of violence and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, and increase its effort to facilitate the return of all refugees and internally displaced persons. Egypt welcomed the establishment of the fact-finding mission proposed by the draft resolution and urged the Government to fully cooperate and share the results of domestic investigations.

Brazil, in a general comment, supported the resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar. Brazil was aware of the allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine state and shared concern about the violation of the human rights of Rohingya and other minorities. Brazil acknowledged the seriousness of facts described in the flash report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Brazil recognized the formidable human rights challenges that the current Government had inherited and warned the international community against taking any premature actions that might undermine national efforts.

Philippines, in a general comment, supported Myanmar’s democratization efforts. There were complex issues in Rakhine state, and Philippines supported the provision of assistance to Myanmar. It was with that in mind that Philippines would not break consensus on the resolution as a whole, yet did not support the establishment of an international fact-finding mission. The balanced efforts of the European Union were appreciated, steering away from a Commission of Inquiry. Philippines would dissociate from operative paragraphs 10, 11 and 12.

Ecuador, in a general comment, aligned itself with the consensus but urged support to be provided to the Government of Myanmar. Ecuador said it should be ensured that the support provided visible results.

Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, said that there were positive elements in some paragraphs of the draft resolution, but the key one was hard to accept. Myanmar was committed to finding a sustainable solution to the situation in Rakhine state and was implementing the recommendations it had received, which it believed would be successful in the long run. The situation in Rakhine state was stabilizing and people were returning. Based on the findings and recommendations by the national investigation commission and the advisory commission, Myanmar would be putting in place a long-term peace building plan for Rakhine state; any action taken by the international community should not add to the already complex situation. Against this backdrop, Myanmar disassociated itself from the draft resolution as a whole, and particularly from its operative paragraph calling for the dispatch of a fact-finding mission. Myanmar urged the international community to let Myanmar choose the best and most authentic course of action to address its challenges, and reiterated that the country would be doing what needed to be done.

Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it had always objected to selective initiatives targeting developing countries and therefore did not support the draft. The establishment of the Universal Periodic Review paved the way to promoting cooperation on human rights and thus Cuba confirmed that respectful dialogue had to be the way forward regarding human rights.

China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it had a persistent position on country situations which was that all countries should engage in dialogue. The international community should look at the progress Myanmar had made in the field of human rights and respect Myanmar’s sovereignty. Ethnic strife was an internal affairs and had complex roots, and could not be solved overnight. The international community should work to create a favourable environment for the parties to resolve their differences through dialogue. The international community should avoid further complicating the matter. China would disassociate itself from consensus on the draft resolution.

India, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, welcomed the positive developments in Myanmar and was convinced that the international community should continue to constructively engage with the Government and the people, particularly following the successful elections. All necessary assistance, as requested by the country itself, needed to be provided. Myanmar had demonstrated firm political will for reform and the international community should support this process. The draft resolution was not entirely helpful and India regretted the way in which the draft resolution had been negotiated. Thus, India disassociated itself from the draft resolution.

Indonesia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would join the consensus. Indonesia shared the legitimate concern about the human rights situation in Rakhine state, but was of the opinion that the international community should understand the dimension of human rights challenges that the Government had inherited. In this regard, the international community should ensure that Myanmar had the opportunity and space to address those challenges and conclude the ongoing national processes, including through the national investigation commission and the advisory commission on Rakhine state led by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Japan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, found it regrettable that Myanmar had dissociated itself from consensus. The new Myanmar Government placed importance on achieving national reconciliation, and its cooperation with the international community toward improving the human rights in the country was welcomed. Japan was concerned at attacks that started in October last year and clashes with armed groups. Serious human rights violations and displacement were also worrying. Regarding the decision to dispatch an international fact-finding mission, first, the Myanmar Government’s investigation had to be evaluated. Japan was thus not supportive of the content of the concerned paragraphs. Japan acknowledged the Myanmar Government’s commitment to promptly implement the large number of recommendations made in the interim report.

Bolivia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, condemned all forms of violations of human rights and said principles of non-discrimination and non-selectivity should guide the Council. Constructive dialogue had to guide the Council, based on respect for sovereignty of peoples.

The Council then adopted resolution L.8/Rev.1 without a vote.

Action on the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.17) on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, adopted by a vote of 22 in favour, 12 against and 13 abstentions, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran for a further period of one year, and requests the Special Rapporteur to submit a report on the implementation of the mandate to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-seventh session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-second session; and calls upon the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to permit access to visit the country, and to provide all information necessary to allow the fulfilment of the mandate.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (22): Albania, Belgium, Botswana, Croatia, El Salvador, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and United States of America.

Against (12): Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burundi, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, and Venezuela.

Abstentions (13): Brazil, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Mongolia, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, Togo, and Tunisia.

Sweden introduced draft resolution L.17 on the human rights situation in Iran which aimed to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further period of one year. No changes to the mandate had been made. Sweden welcomed the work carried out by the mandate holder, with integrity and professionalism. Iran should facilitate the request by the Special Rapporteur to visit the country, which would be an opportunity to engage with the Human Rights Council on concerns that persisted with regards to the human rights situation in the country.

Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, said that the European Union was concerned about the human rights situation in Iran, and it continued its engagement with the Government of Iran on the human rights situation that had started in November 2016. The European Union supported the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and said that her reports provided detailed information on the human rights situation as well as on legislative and other initiatives in the country. The European Union noted the increased engagement of Iran with the international community and urged Iran to allow the visit to the country by the Special Rapporteur.

Iran, speaking as the concerned country, said human rights were not the exclusive value of any one culture or society. Bias needed to be abandoned and replaced with a heightened awareness of the dangers caused by extremism. An unfair draft resolution on Iran was abuse of the Human Rights Council which contributed to polarization in the Council. The credibility of the Council was damaged, and it was unfortunate that the draft resolution was tabled at a time of historic success for diplomacy. Iran had extended constructive cooperation with international human rights mechanisms, and efforts had been made towards cooperation with monitoring treaty bodies. Members of the Human Rights Council were requested to say no to the draft resolution.

Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the basis behind resolution L.17 did not lead to genuine dialogue and cooperation and initiatives such as this one undermined the credibility of the Council. Those were instruments to promote geopolitical interests and strategic confrontation. There was evidence of manipulation carried out by some powers promoting hostility against sovereign States. Venezuela would continue to reject the selective practice of introducing draft resolutions against countries when they did not enjoy the support of the country concerned. Venezuela requested a vote on the text and would be voting against.

Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the existence of the mandate on Iran was a clear example of practices of politicization and double standards and Cuba reiterated its stand against country-specific mandates against countries of the south. Human rights were not the real reason behind the treatment of Iran in this Council. It was only through dialogue and a cooperation-based approach that the Council could be successful in the promotion and protection of human rights and it was essential that the process went hand in hand with the country concerned. Mandates imposed without consensus were destined to fail. Using human rights mechanisms to justify imposing unilateral coercive measures against countries of the south, as was the case in Iran, was unacceptable. Cuba could not support the resolution and would vote against.

Japan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, took note of the commitment of Iran to improve the human rights situation and said that further improvements were needed on a number of issues, such as freedom of expression. Therefore, Japan would vote in favour of the resolution and urged Iran to work with the international community for the good of its people.

Brazil, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would abstain in the vote on this draft resolution. Despite legitimate concerns regarding the human rights situation in Iran, Brazil recognized the efforts of the Government to implement gradual reforms, and was aware of the difficulties in the implementation of the Citizenship Charter, which it hoped Iran would soon overcome. Recognizing the challenges such as the use of the death penalty and the high number of executions, including of juveniles, Brazil urged Iran to continue to maintain the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur which would translate into positive developments in the human rights situation in the country. Brazil reaffirmed the legitimate aspirations of the Baha’is, the most persecuted ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, to peacefully exercise their rights.

United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, thanked the sponsors for the draft resolution. The United Kingdom remained concerned about the situation of human rights in Iran, and the work of the Special Rapporteur was important for those fighting for improvements in the situation within the country. The United Kingdom supported the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation for a moratorium on the death penalty. Iran should allow the Special Rapporteur access to the country. Iran should demonstrate to the international community that it took its commitments seriously. The nuclear deal was a major achievement, but despite that renewed momentum in relations with the international community, Iran had to be held to account. The resolution on Iran continued to be warranted. The United Kingdom would vote yes on the draft resolution.

Iraq, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the main reason of the Council issuing such resolutions was to tackle violations of human rights; it did not select some countries due to political motivations, because that contradicted the Council’s mandate. The draft resolution did not reflect positive developments in Iran, and it was noteworthy to mention that not including such developments discouraged the Government. Giving the Council the mandate was to improve countries’ performance and that was not seen in the draft resolution and for that reason Iraq would vote against the draft.

The Council then adopted the resolution by a recorded vote of 22 in favour with 12 against and 13 abstentions.

Action on L.23 on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

In a resolution(A/HRC/34/L.23) on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, adopted without a vote, the Council condemns in the strongest terms the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations and other human rights abuses committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; urges the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to acknowledge its crimes and human rights violations in and outside of the country, and to take immediate steps to end all such crimes and violations through, inter alia, the implementation of relevant recommendations in the report of the commission of inquiry; and decides to strengthen, for a period of two years, the capacity of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, including its field-based structure in Seoul, to allow the implementation of relevant recommendations made by the group of independent experts on accountability in its report. The Council also requests the High Commissioner to provide an oral update on the progress made in this regard to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-seventh session with a view to submitting a full report on the implementation of the said recommendations to the Council at its fortieth session; decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 31/18, for a period of one year; and urges the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, through continuous dialogues, to invite and to cooperate fully with all special procedure mandate holders, especially the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Malta, introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the European Union, reiterated deep concern about the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the findings of the Commission of Inquiry of ongoing, systematic and widespread gross human rights violations, some of which might amount to crimes against humanity. It was the common responsibility of the international community to ensure that this precarious human rights situation continued to receive the attention it deserved. The draft resolution aimed to address the most pertinent issues related to the dire situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, including to strengthen the monitoring and documentation capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and its field-based structure in Seoul by establishing a central repository of information and evidence, and having legal accountability experts assess all information and testimonies with a view to developing possible strategies to be used in any accountability processes. The draft resolution also extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of one year.

Japan, also introducing the draft resolution, shared international concerns about the long-standing and ongoing systematic human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The present resolution included the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and the strengthening of the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including in the Seoul office. Japan urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to engage in constructive dialogue with the international community and to take concrete steps to address the international concerns as well as to resolve the long-standing issue of the abduction of foreign nationals.

Venezuela, in a general comment, said that cooperation had to guide the work of the Council. Treatment of the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had to involve the country to improve the situation on the ground. Venezuela reiterated its opposition to the draft resolution which was founded on bias. Venezuela dissociated itself from consensus on the draft resolution.

The Secretariat noted that the country concerned was not present in the room.

Bolivia, in a general comment, expressed concern at any and all violations of human rights and did not support resolutions that did not involve the country concerned. Bolivia did not welcome the resolution.

Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the draft resolution to renew the selective and politically motivated mandate against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was discriminatory. Cuba objected to the imposition of mandates which were selective and which were against countries of the south. Politicization, selectivity and double standards should not be used. Cuba rejected the fact that the resolution could be used to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, and the inclusion of concepts such as the responsibility to protect. Cuba called on the international community to return to non-politicization and respect for State sovereignty. The promotion of resolutions such as the present one did not conform to the ideals of the Human Rights Council. Cuba dissociated itself from the consensus on the resolution.

China, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated that China was against the politicization of human rights issues. The situation in the Korean peninsula was sensitive and China hoped that both sides would meet each other half way and avoid the escalation of the tensions. China would disassociate itself from the consensus on this draft resolution.

Egypt, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would vote against the draft resolution, thus reinforcing its principle of being against country-mandates without the consent of the country concerned.

Bolivia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it would disassociate itself from the consensus on this draft resolution.

Action on Resolution L.34 on the Situation of Human Rights in South Sudan

In a resolution (A/HRC/34/L.34) on the situation of human rights in South Sudan, adopted without a vote, the Council condemns the ongoing violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan; demands that all actors put a halt to all violations and abuses of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law, and strongly calls upon the Government of South Sudan to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Council calls upon the Government of South Sudan to investigate all violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law and to hold those responsible to account. The Council decides to extend the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, composed of three members, for a period of one year, renewable as authorized by the Human Rights Council; reiterates its request to the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan to suggest priority recommendations for the Government of South Sudan on considering how to end sexual and gender-based violence, urges relevant United Nations actors to assist in such implementation as appropriate, and urges the Government to appoint a special representative on sexual and gender-based violence; reiterates its request that representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner, the African Union, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other stakeholders, as appropriate, be invited to discuss the situation of human rights in South Sudan and the steps taken by the Government of South Sudan to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses in an enhanced interactive dialogue at the thirty-sixth session of the Human Rights Council; and requests the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan to participate in the enhanced interactive dialogue, and to present a comprehensive written report, in an interactive dialogue, to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-seventh session.

United States, introducing draft resolution L.34, said the human rights situation in South Sudan was deeply alarming to all. Numerous reports and statements, including from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, had detailed ongoing gross human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. The recent declaration of famine in parts of the former Unity State were also gravely concerning. Mass displacements continued within and outside South Sudan. The international community had to come together and address those atrocities and put an end to the humanitarian crisis. The Human Rights Council had to condemn violence by all sides, encourage domestic and regional efforts to foster a national reconciliation process, and ensure accountability. The resolution enhanced the Commission’s mandate to determine and report the facts and circumstances of gross violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes. The Government of South Sudan was called on to continue to cooperate fully and constructively with the Commission for Human Rights in South Sudan and to provide unhindered access to its members, as well as to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

Germany, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said that it was gravely concerned about human rights violations in South Sudan, including ethnically motivated killings and sexual and gender-based violence which had reached epic proportions. The European Union welcomed the resolution as documenting of atrocities must start without delay before the evidence was lost. The European Union welcomed the link between the Commission for Human Rights in South Sudan and the Hybrid Court. The European Union stood ready to support the people of South Sudan in their quest for accountability and peace.

South Sudan, speaking as the concerned country, said that it would join consensus on the draft resolution in compliance with its commitment to cooperate with the United Nations and all its various institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. South Sudan thanked the African Group and the core group for their full support and solidarity, and commended the United States and other sponsors and co-sponsors for their understanding and cooperation during the engagement on draft resolution. Reiterating the commitment of the Government of National Unity to the work of the Commission on Human Rights, South Sudan stressed that the Commission must comply with the principles of the United Nations Charter and the principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence laid down in the Human Rights Council 5/1 of 2007 on institution building in the field of human rights.

Egypt, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it had constantly sought to provide assistance to South Sudan and finance many infrastructural projects. Other States had made promises but had not followed up with concrete measures. Egypt had hoped that the draft resolution would reflect the efforts of the African Union and that it would be far removed from politicization. The draft resolution went beyond the mandate of the Human Rights Council, as well as of the United Nations. For those reasons, Egypt would not join the consensus on paragraph 16b.

For use of the information media; not an official record

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World: Women’s leadership in resilience: Eight inspiring case studies from Africa and Asia

24 March 2017 - 2:13pm
Source: ActionAid Country: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Myanmar, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Viet Nam, World, Zimbabwe

INTRODUCTION

ActionAid is working with poor communities across the world to support them in building their resilience to disasters, climate change and other shocks and stresses. This work is of ever-growing importance, not only because of changing weather patterns and rising temperatures increasing the likelihood of disasters, but also because of growing risks related to violent conflict, human and livestock epidemics, environmental degradation and political and economic crises.

The shape and nature of our resilience programmes varies from country to country, depending on the local context, but generally includes a combination of approaches such as disaster risk reduction, climate resilient sustainable agriculture, natural resource management, humanitarian response and recovery, and promoting accountable and inclusive governance.
What sets us apart is our focus on women’s rights and leadership in resilience-building.

It is widely known that women and girls are disproportionally affected by disasters, climate change and conflict. Women and girls face heightened risks due to the cultural and social norms that define gender stereotypes, and the breakdown of normal protection structures during crises. We see that all forms of violence against women and girls are exacerbated during humanitarian crises, and in emergency relief and recovery efforts women tend to be discriminated against by existing norms and processes. For example, social customs and women’s role as carers limits their mobility and access to public spaces, meaning they do not directly receive relief items and are restricted from taking part in the decision-making that affects their lives.

Though the concept of gendered vulnerability is important for understanding the different ways in which women and men are affected by disasters, it must not be forgotten that there is nothing natural about this vulnerability. Rather, it is caused by the social and economic disadvantage that women experience as a result of socially constructed gender roles, systematic discrimination, and the power imbalance between women and men. While it is important to understand women’s vulnerability to disasters and climate change, it is also vital to avoid stereotyping women as inherently vulnerable, passive recipients of aid and protection. This has previously precluded women from being considered as active agents in humanitarian action and resilience-building, and overlooks the fulfilment of their right to equal participation and decision-making.

Women have a fundamental right to contribute to the decisions that affect their lives, and they bring vital skills, resources and experience to building resilience. They hold intimate ‘front-line’ knowledge of the local environment, including a good understanding of local-level risk, which is extremely useful in identifying and implementing the most effective resilience building activities.

Women’s connections within their community and their skills in mobilisation suggest they are well-placed to be transformative agents in community disaster planning and preparedness, should they be empowered to do so. “Women have an inherent capacity for risk management which has not been capitalised upon,” says Santosh Kumar, director of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Disaster Management Centre. “Experience from disasters indicates that the way women handle risk is different from men. They have different qualities to bring to disaster planning that have been ignored in the name of vulnerability.” When supported and empowered to take up a leadership role, the women ActionAid works with have shown readiness and enthusiasm to lead resilience-building efforts, and have time and again demonstrated their ability to do so. Women are leading initiatives to diversify livelihoods, adapt agricultural practices in the light of climate change, ensure governmental disaster management strategies incorporate their needs, and advocate for sustainable use of natural resources.

Our experiences demonstrate that facilitating women’s leadership in resilience-building fosters a sense of self-confidence and empowerment among women that can help transform gender power relations in their households and communities, and overcome the barriers that have traditionally excluded women from decision-making and leadership.

The case studies in this publication demonstrate the incredible courage of women who have taken up leadership roles in different resilience-building initiatives in eight countries across Africa and Asia.
The stories illustrate the personal changes women have experienced, from being confined to their domestic responsibilities to participating in community decision-making processes and earning an income from different livelihood activities. They show the transformative change that women can bring about individually, or when they organise as a group.

Such as in Vietnam, where women have demanded local authorities recognise and protect their right to forest land, and led the design and implementation of sustainable forest-based livelihoods. Or in Malawi, where women have decided to transition to agro-ecological farming practices, demonstrating its success and encouraging the larger community to follow suit.

They are true stories of change, and we hope they inspire you.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Repair of prostheses close to home brings hope

24 March 2017 - 1:51pm
Source: International Committee of the Red Cross Country: Myanmar

More flexible physical rehabilitation services allow patients to gain time and save money.

For nearly three years, the Myanmar Red Cross is making a difference in the lives of persons with disabilities through mobile clinics that roam local communities. From July 2014 to December 2016, a total of 1,280 patients from East Bago received services alone. In a vast country such as Myanmar which is developing at he facility of physical rehabilitation services close to home saves people time and money, while giving them critical support to improve their prostheses.

It is early on a Tuesday morning at the hospital compound in Shwe Kyin, East Bago. A group of people with protheses wait patiently for the Myanmar Red Cross' mobile repair team. This region of Myanmar is one of those most heavily affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war. Zaw Win, a gold catcher of 59 years, arrived early. He stands with the others at the entrance wearing a dusty, green tee shirt.. He looks tired, but his eyes are bright with hope. Zaw Win lost one of his legs in 2000, when he stepped on a mine while working in his field.

Three dusty land cruisers, one of them carrying wheelchairs, drive into the compound. Technicians start to install their workshop material in front of one of the vehicles. They repair the prostheses of patients like Zaw Win who live in remote regions. In a few minutes, patient take seats and wait for their turn to get welding and repair services for their prostheses, foot straps, wheelchairs and other walking aids. The Myanmar Red Cross conducts the work with both the technical and financial support of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who have experience around the world in physical rehabilitation.

"This makes our lives easier," explains Zaw Win, as his prosthetic leg is repaired . "I don't need to take time off of work. I just go to the gathering place and get the required services, and it only takes about an hour.", he says.

Zaw Win has worked as a "gold catcher" since he was 18 years old. He explains patiently how he puts the mud from the ground into the bowl, separates the gold from the mud, and then sells it to merchants. To perform his job, he needs to rest on his legs, and has to work while both standing as well as sitting.

"I live from hand to mouth, surviving on a daily wages labour job. I cannot work without my legs. I also need to get maintenance or repair services every year. To keep our prostheses in a good state is our only hope to survive for our living," he said.

Zaw Win got his first prostheses from the Myanmar Red Cross Hpa-an Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Centre (HORC), which is supported by the ICRC. He has been there three times, but he also appreciates not having to travel a far distance. "The travelling costs were high and the trip was time consuming. It took at least three to four days to get the job done. Getting a mobile repair service close to my home means a lot to me", he said.

Within one year of theMyanmar Red Cross and the ICRC opening the mobile repair workshops, a network of repairmen such as owners of bike or motorbike shops, come to occasionally provide a basic repair such as fixing a foot, or a strap.

"The Red Cross aims to invest in the local community for the long term. There was no school in Myanmar for prosthetic technicians until 2015. We sent students to Cambodia to study. There are now 15 graduated professionals in Myanmar. It is still far below the 300 technicians needed, but we are glad to support the process as it begins," explains Didier Reck, head of the ICRC physical rehabilitation programme in Myanmar.

Zaw Win's prostheses has been repaired. The gold catcher can now return to his village. Happy, his thoughts are focused on the dreams he had before he lost his legs. He would like to stop catching gold and start farming. Zaw Win has already bought three acres of land last year to cultivate lime and lemon. Saving money and having mobility allows him to slowly but surely realise this dream.

Myanmar: Burma: UN Takes Key Step for Justice

24 March 2017 - 7:33am
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Myanmar

Human Rights Council Orders International Fact-Finding Mission

(Geneva) – The United Nations Human Rights Council on March 24, 2017, took a key step toward preventing future abuses and bringing justice for victims in Burma by adopting a strong resolution condemning violations and making significant recommendations, Human Rights Watch said today.

The resolution authorizes the council president to urgently dispatch an independent, international fact-finding mission to Burma. The mission would establish the facts and circumstances of alleged recent human rights violations, particularly against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, to ensure “full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.”

“The Human Rights Council’s authorization of an international fact-finding mission is crucial for ensuring that allegations of serious human rights abuses in Burma are thoroughly examined by experts, and to ensure that those responsible will ultimately be held accountable,” said John Fisher, Geneva director. “Burma’s government should cooperate fully with the mission, including by providing unfettered access to all affected areas.”

The fact-finding mission will examine allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, rape and other sexual violence, and destruction of property by Burmese security forces during “clearance operations” against ethnic Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State. The “clearance operations” followed an October 9, 2016 attack by Rohingya militants on border guard posts that reportedly killed nine police officers. The mission will include expertise in forensics as well as on sexual and gender-based violence.

Human Rights Watch, along with other groups, has documented widespread and serious abuses against Rohingya by Burmese military and police in Rakhine State, including extrajudicial killings, systematic rape, and the burning of numerous Rohingya villages. The UN estimates that more than 1,000 people died in the crackdown, from October through December.

The resolution also says that Burma should continue to address systemic and institutionalized discrimination against the Rohingya and other ethnic and religious minorities, amend or repeal all discriminatory legislation and policies, and take measures for the safe return of all internally displaced people and refugees. Approximately 120,000 Rohingya remain displaced in Rakhine State as a result of violence in 2012. About 100,000 of them are in closed camps near Sittwe, the state capital, where they are living in squalid conditions, many of them in rice fields prone to seasonal flooding. The violence since October has created an additional 25,000 internally displaced people in Burma and led to the flight of 74,000 more to neighboring Bangladesh.

The resolution also addresses other important human rights concerns in Burma. These include the use of criminal defamation laws against journalists, politicians, students, and social media users in violation of their right to free expression; restrictions on peaceful assembly; and the continued use of child soldiers by both state and non-state actors. The Human Rights Council also cited the recent killings of constitutional expert and National League for Democracy advisor U Ko Ni, environmental activist Naw Chit Pan Daing, and journalist Soe Moe Tun. It called on Burma to reform all laws restricting the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association; release all remaining political prisoners; and ensure thorough, impartial, and independent investigations into the recent killings.

“The violations occurring in Rakhine State threaten to undo Burma’s hard-won progress toward a more rights-respecting and democratic future,” Fisher said. “Burma’s government should make full use of the Human Rights Council resolution to address the major human rights challenges ahead.”

Bangladesh: Living a life of uncertainty

24 March 2017 - 6:15am
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

By Raqibul Alam, IFRC

Just a few months ago, 10-year-old Rameda Begum had a normal life growing up in Rakhine state in western Myanmar. She went to school, played with her friends and enjoyed the company of her family. Now, like thousands of other children who fled an upsurge of violence in northern areas of Rakhine, Rameda is living a life of uncertainty in a makeshift camp in the district of Cox’s Bazar in neighboring Bangladesh. She has no clear news about her home, or when she could return.

Rameda left Rakhine with her Grandmother. Their journey to Bangladesh took several days, as they had to hide in the jungle during the day to avoid detection. They arrived in Cox’s Bazar after crossing a river bordering the two countries.

Living in the camp, Rameda is unable to continue her studies. Her dream is to finish school and become a teacher.

“People need to show respect to each other, and I want to help others and encourage people to acquire knowledge and values so that they can live a peaceful life,” she says.

Two days ago, Rameda’s grandmother received relief supplies including food items like rice, flour, sugar and non-food items like blankets from the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. Since October 2016 approximately 74,550 people have arrived in Cox’s Bazar. Most are living in poor conditions in overcrowded settlements and are largely dependent on humanitarian aid. The shortage of food, clean water and medical services is taking a toll on the displaced communities. The majority of the newly displaced are women and children – and there are reports of both gender based violence and child protection concerns.

“I feel safe here in the camp, but at the same time, I want to go back to my country,” says Rameda. “I have already lost my mother. I don’t want to lose any other family members. I want to see my father and brothers, and I want to live a normal life.”

On 20 March 2016, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched a 3.2 million Swiss Francs emergency appeal in support of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society’s efforts to address the most urgent humanitarian needs of the newly arrived migrants in Cox’s Bazar.

The appeal will focus on providing food aid and other emergency relief items including shelter materials, clean water, sanitation and health care for 25,000 people over a nine-month period. The Bangladesh Red Crescent will provide psychosocial support and child-friendly, safe spaces for children like Rameda. Red Crescent volunteers and medical teams are also working with other humanitarian agencies on creating awareness amongst the migrant population on Gender Based Violence referral services.

Bangladesh: WFP Bangladesh Country Brief, February 2017

24 March 2017 - 5:53am
Source: World Food Programme Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Highlights

  • The WFP Bangladesh Country Strategic Plan for 2017 to 2020 was approved at the February 2017 Executive Board Session on 22 February 2017. It will replace the Country Programme and Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation starting on 01 March 2017.

  • A high-level mission by the Australian, Canadian and British High Commissioners to Cox’s Bazar was conducted 8-9 February to observe the current situation following the influx of 70,000 new arrivals fleeing violence in north Rakhine State, Myanmar, as well as WFP’s humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya population there and forthcoming interventions.

Operational Updates

  • WFP Bangladesh’s Country Strategic Plan (2017-2020) was approved at the 2017 First Regular Session of the Executive Board, on 22 February 2017. The CSP will be operational beginning 01 March 2017. The CSP will support the country in ending hunger and reducing malnutrition by 2030 through four strategic outcomes: i) nutrition-sensitive social protection; ii) the food security and nutrition of the most vulnerable populations of Cox’s Bazar, the Chittagong Hill Tracts and areas affected by disaster; iii) evidence on innovative approaches to enhancing the resilience of food-insecure households affected by climate-related stresses; and iv) reduced costs and lead times for large-scale natural disaster responses.

  • The Ministry of Primary and Mass Education has prepared a draft National School Feeding Policy and circulated it to other relevant Government agencies, research institutes, academia, UN agencies and civil society for comments and feedback. WFP Bangladesh, at the Ministry’s request, provided technical assistance in the formulation of the policy, along with contributions from WFP's Centre of Excellence in Brazil. The Government aims to finalise the National School Feeding Policy in 2017 with the support of WFP.

  • The High Commissioners to Bangladesh of Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom visited Cox’s Bazar on 8-9 February. While there, they met with WFP staff from the country office and Cox’s Bazar sub-office in order to discuss and observe the status of recently arrived Rohingya fleeing violence in north Rakhine State, Myanmar, as well as the planned food security and nutrition interventions for vulnerable populations in Cox’s Bazar.

Myanmar: Kayin State IDP camp call for emergency medical aid

23 March 2017 - 9:36pm
Source: Myanmar Peace Monitor Country: Myanmar

Urgent medical attention is needed at the Ee Tu Hta displaced persons camp in Kayin State amid an outbreak of diarrhea among children and the elderly, camp officials have said.

The outbreak began on February 20 and has so far affected around 30 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Camp officials are calling for emergency aid, including medicine, to be provided in order to prevent dehydration fatalities as well as to stop the spread of any infection. The Hpapun township camp is home to some 3,000 displaced persons.

“Children under two-years-old have been suffering from diarrhea since last month until now. They have had both diarrhea and vomiting. It is difficult for us to treat them since we don’t have any medicine,” said Saw Mya Ku, a camp official responsible for health care.

The Ee Tu Hta IDP camp normally receives a delivery of medical supplies every six months from the Karen Department of Health and Welfare, which is under the umbrella of the Karen National Union (KNU). But Saw Mya Ku said that no medicine has been provided since last July.

As the number of people affected by diarrhea began to increase in the camp, local organizations came and provided information and sanitation and hygiene on March 8.

Myanmar: SSPP Urges Govt to Allow By-Elections to Proceed as Planned

23 March 2017 - 8:38pm
Source: The Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By Lawi Weng

The Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) has asked the National League for Democracy (NLD) government to let by-elections proceed as planned, amid discussions of postponing voting in almost 40 villages in northern Shan State due to security concerns.

Col Sai Su, an SSPP spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy that the Shan State Army-North—the armed wing of the SSPP—would not interfere with the elections, leaving any concerned candidates and parties free to contest the election in area under its control.

“Our Shan people did not get to vote in the elections in 2010 or 2015,” he said.

“We want to ask the government, the Election Commission, and other authorities to allow our ethnic people the right to vote. We ask that they listen to the voice of our people, and not to others who hope to block our rights under false pretenses,” he said.

Some NLD members who planned to run in the by-election in Mong Hsu Township said security in the SSPP-controlled area was insufficient.

The NLD-led government will discuss the issue on Thursday.

“We will not interfere. We will not threaten other parties or tell people who to vote for. We have told our members not to interrupt. If someone does, we will take action,” said Col Sai Su.

Candidates from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party and the NLD will run in northern Shan State, where there are eight open seats in the two chambers of Parliament.

The SSPP issued a statement last month stating that they would not interfere with the election in any way.

But, Sai Su said his group questions why the NLD is listening to its sources on the ground as opposed to the SSPP statement.

Myanmar: Reservoir leakage rumours spark fears in Pyay

23 March 2017 - 8:30pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By Min Nyo

News that water was leaking from a reservoir in Pyay District, Pegu Division, caused panic among local villagers, prompting a number of families to lock up their homes and move elsewhere in the meantime.

On Tuesday, at least a dozen villages in Paungde Township were practically evacuated after news circulated that a landslide had caused water to leak from the 252,500-cubic-feet capacity reservoir known as Weigyi dam [not to be confused with the 5,000-megawatt Weigyi Dam on the Salween River].

Local villager Aung Win, who is from Themae village, the closest settlement to the reservoir, said, “I was in the paddy field last night when someone from my house called me to come back home. In the village, everybody was frightened and didn’t know where to go. We went to the reservoir and saw soil sliding down. Water was leaking under the wall.”

However, speaking to DVB yesterday, local Irrigation Department official Tun Tun Win said there was nothing to worry about.

“The dyke of the dam was eroded in October 2016 during rainy season when it had too much water. Reparations started on 3 January this year,” he said. “But some locals have been talking and getting afraid through hearsay. There is nothing to worry about. The water is stored securely. It is just that some of the land around the walls has slid. We are working on the site and will finish in five days.”

On Wednesday, volunteers from NGOs, police officers and local civil servants gathered at the site of the reservoir to help workers repairing the damaged wall.

China: Laogai fighting intensifies, shells land on Chinese soil

23 March 2017 - 8:28pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: China, Myanmar

The conflict between Burmese government forces and Kokang rebels intensified in the Laogai area yesterday.

According to a TV report on China’s Nansan News, the road between Nansan (Nansanzhen) and Mengdui (Mengduixiang) in China was closed after artillery shells landed nearby.

“Many shells landed. They were fired across the border and landed about two miles inside Chinese territory,” a local said when interviewed by the TV station.

“Usually, vehicles take just one hour to drive this road,” Nansan local Wan Aik Tin said. “But today, it took me four hours. We had to stop many times because of the shelling. Chinese soldiers have set up security checks every 10 miles along the 40-mile stretch of road.”

He added: “There was also heavy fighting in previous days and a lot of shells landed here. Today [22 March], we heard heavy fighting between 7am and 7pm. I can’t even count how many shells dropped on the Chinese side [of the border].”

Though not specifically alluded to in the broadcast, it is most likely that the artillery shells were fired by Burmese forces taking aim at Kokang positions. The Kokang army, officially known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), generally occupies mountain bases along the Burma-China border, while government troops hold the city of Laogai.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 30,000 local civilians have fled Burma’s restive Kokang autonomous zone since the MNDAA launched assaults earlier this month on Laogai in an attempt to take back control of the city, which is a vital trade hub and strategic military position.

A 6 March attack by the MNDAA targeted police stations and a handful of casinos in the town. It was alleged that the Kokang soldiers abducted 80 female staffers from the casinos, though ethnic allies of the MNDAA counter-claimed that the women were being evacuated to safety.

Significant fighting between the MNDAA and government troops last flared in February 2015. In April and May that year, the Tatmadaw brought in heavy artillery and employed airstrikes to try to dislodge the MNDAA from its mountain bases.

The MNDAA is a member of the so-called Northern Alliance – alongside the Kachin Independence Army, Arakan Army and Ta’ang National Liberation Army – which has been excluded from the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement between the government and other ethnic militias, and from the peace process in general.

Thailand: Government to ask 70,000 refugees to go home

23 March 2017 - 8:16pm
Source: Bangkok Post Country: Myanmar, Thailand

WRITER: WASSANA NANUAM

PHITSANULOK - Thailand will ask nearly 70,000 refugees displaced by skirmishes in Myanmar to return home, but only on a voluntary basis. Those ready to make the trip back home will be sent only gradually, 3rd Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop said Thursday.

Nay Pyi Taw has prepared areas for them and current peace talks with armed ethnic groups in Myanmar look promising, he said.

Their return will focus on their "safety and dignity" to ensure there will be no danger to them and that they receive good treatment, Lt Gen Vijak said. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will coordinate and fund the refugees' return, while the Thai government wiBan Um Piam in Phop Phra district and Ban Nu Pho in Umphang district.

The other four camps are in remote villages in Mae Hong Son - Ban No Soi in Muang district, Ban Mae Suri in Khun Yuam district, while Ban Mae Lama Luang and Ban Mae La Lun are in Sop Moei district.

"We will also teach the refugees about King Rama IX's sufficiency economy," Lt Gen Vijak said, hoping these principles would be able to inspire them to pursue productive lives in Myanmar.

Republished with permission. © Post Publishing Plc. www.bangkokpost.com

Thailand: Thailand/Myanmar: UNHCR Offices in South East Region (February 2017)

23 March 2017 - 5:16am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Myanmar, Thailand

Bangladesh: Maungtaw investigators travel to Bangladeshi refugee camps

23 March 2017 - 3:52am
Source: Government of Myanmar Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

U Zaw Myint Pe, Secretary of Maungtaw Investigation Commission, and its members — U Tun Myat, Dr Aung Tun Thet, Dr. Daw Thet Thet Zin, U Nyunt Swe, and Daw Kyein Ngai Man — met with villagers from 18 March to 22 March in the Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp in Bangladesh in an effort to fulfil their mission for a complete and thorough investigation. Thousands of residents in northern Rakhine fled across the border to Bangladesh after insurgent attacks on border police outposts in October and November, 2016.

Meanwhile, remaining members of the commission went to the Maungtaw District for the fourth time to monitor the progress of coordination work done by the commission in the villages that were harmed in the wake of the attacks, return of displaced villagers to their locations and peace and stability of the area.

The aim of Maungtaw Investigation Commission is to submit suggestions, practical solutions, and assessments of the problems that occurred after the attacks last year, in a report to the Union Government. Hence, the commission went to the refugee camps with great difficulty, seeking the cooperation of the Bangladesh Government and respective international organizations who had taken over the responsibilities of the refugee camps.

On 19 March, the commission met with Deputy Commissioner Mr MD Ali Hossain at the office of the Cox’s Bazaar Deputy Commissioner. The meeting was attended by representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In the afternoon, commission members Dr Daw Thet Thet Zin and Daw Kyein Ngai Man questioned 17 women at the Kutupalong Refugee Camp, with U Zaw Myint Pe and other members investigating men separately.

On 20 March, commission members went to the Balukhali refugee camp, interrogating five men and three women separately, with some men investigated in a group under the arrangement of IOM. In the afternoon, they proceeded to Leda refugee camp, where they spoke to five women and three men according to arrangements made by the IOM.

On 21 March, the commission left for Dhaka, with commission members U Tun Myat and Dr Aung Tun Thet meeting with representatives of IOM & UNHCR separately.

On the morning of 22 March, the Secretary and members of the Maungtaw Investigation Commission left Bangladesh by air, arriving at the Yangon International Airport in the afternoon.

It is learnt that U Myo Myint Than, the Myanmar Ambassador to Bangladesh, and Embassy staff made advance arrangements for the Bangladesh trip.—Myanmar News Agency

Myanmar: Myanmar military chief seeks China’s cooperation in forging peace in northern Shan State

23 March 2017 - 1:15am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: China, Myanmar

Myanmar’s military commander-in-chief on Tuesday summoned China’s ambassador to Myanmar to discuss the volatile situation along the border area in northern Shan state where Myanmar ethnic rebels are battling government forces, in a bid to relax relations with the neighboring country strained by the hostilities.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing told Ambassador Hong Liang in the capital Naypyidaw that both countries must cooperate to create peace and stability in the border areas, according to an announcement by the commander-in-chief’s office.

They discussed the situation in Laukkai, capital of the area controlled by the ethnic Kokang in the northern part of Shan State and site of recent clashes between ethnic rebels and security forces.

Min Aung Hlaing also said the hostilities have hurt local residents and bilateral border trade relations with China

Hong Liang reiterated China’s call for a cessation of fighting in the area, which he said was harming peace, stability, security, and participation in the negotiations for restoring peace in Myanmar.

On March 15, leaders of the Northern Alliance—a coalition of four ethnic militias engaged in fighting in northern Shan state—met with a Chinese envoy in Kunming, capital of southwestern China’s Yunnan province, to discuss stopping deadly clashes along the border that have forced tens of thousands of Myanmar residents to flee to China.

Sun Guoxiang, China’s special envoy for Asian affairs, told the representatives from the ethnic armed groups that China would be willing to mediate negotiations between the militias and the Myanmar government.

The members of the Northern Alliance—Arakan Army (AA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—launched coordinated attacks on Nov. 20 on government and military targets in northern Shan state and the 105-mile border trade zone between Myanmar and China.

China suspends ban account

In a related development, Reuters reported on Wednesday that China had suspended an account at the state-owned Agricultural Bank of China (AgBank) used by the MNDAA, also known as the Kokang army, to receive donations from supporters.

The MNDAA is involved in ongoing hostilities with Myanmar security forces after launching an attack on a police station, military camps, and civilian buildings on March 6 in Laukkai township in northeastern Shan State.

Dozens have been reported killed in the skirmishes that have driven more than 30,000 people to flee to safety, mostly in China where the Chinese government is housing them in refugee camps.

Calls by the Chinese government for an immediate cease-fire and the restoration of order along the border area have been ignored.

Presidential spokesman Zaw Htay praised the move and told the news agency that “stability and peace in the border area is a common interest for both sides.”

The Myanmar News Agency has reported 57 armed clashes between the MNDAA and government soldiers up to March 14.

NMSP seeks ‘political way’

Meanwhile, another ethnic armed group—the New Mon State Party (NMSP)—has changed tack in its approach to reaching a cease-fire deal with the Myanmar military, an NMSP spokesman said on Wednesday.

The NMSP did not sign the nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the Myanmar government that eight other ethnic militias inked in October 2015.

“The Mon people suggested that we decide to sign the government’s NCA as a political way [to resolve the hostilities with the Myanmar army],” said Naing Win Hla, adding that the organization will abandon its insistence on a peace deal with the government that includes all militias that have not signed the NCA.

The NMSP cannot participate in talks along with the AA, MNDAA, and TNLA because they have said that they will not sign the NCA and will try to reach peace through other means, he said.

The NMSP will join other ethnic armed groups that are part of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of nine ethnic armed groups that did not sign the government’s NCA.

Reported by Kyaw Soe Lin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written by Roseanne Gerin.

Myanmar: Parliamentary Committee Contests Full Citizenship for Maungdaw Muslims

23 March 2017 - 12:31am
Source: The Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By MOE MYINT

RANGOON – A seven-member investigation committee from within the Arakan State parliament criticized the township level National Verification Card (NVC) securitization body, for, as they said, “wrongly issuing full citizenship” to Muslims in Maungdaw District.

The body reportedly issued “pink ID cards”—denoting full citizenship—to 22 Muslims, and offered naturalized citizenship to 37 others.

There are an estimated 1 million Muslims in the region who self-identify as Rohingya and who are today largely stateless.

In early 2017, the state parliament received complaint letters on the issue of citizenship verification in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships, and formed an investigation committee to look into the allegations.

The investigation committee is led by the Arakan National Party’s (ANP) regional parliamentarian U Tun Aung Thein, of Buthidaung Constituency (2). Only one member of the committee is from the ruling National League for Democracy—divisional legislator U Win Naing of Thandwe Constituency.

The team spent three days in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships in February, but U Win Naing did not join the trip, according to U Tun Aung Thein. The investigation committee submitted their findings to the Arakan State parliament on Monday, with members denouncing the pink cards handed out as “invalid.” Parliamentary debate on the issue is scheduled for Thursday.

Burma’s current citizenship law, established in 1982 under the former military regime, recognizes three categories of citizenship, each with diminishing rights: full, naturalized and associate. The law states that applicants whose families were already in Burma on Jan. 4, 1948—the day of Burma’s independence from Britain—would be recognized as Burmese citizens.

Yet U Tun Aung Thein maintained that “the 1982 law does not state anything about full citizenship,” in reference to the Muslim community in question. Many within the Buddhist Arakanese community, and in Burma’s government, describe the self-identifying Muslim Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying that they are migrants from Bangladesh.

Another ANP committee member, U Kyaw Zaw Oo of Sittwe Constituency (2), said that Maungdaw’s Muslims who can demonstrate that their families were in Burma prior to its establishment as an independent state in 1948, could apply to the central body for naturalized citizenship with evidence as such. Yet this documentation can be difficult to come by, and this level of citizenship does not allow individuals to own land, form political parties, or act as civil servants.

Applications for associate citizenship—frequently described by critics as a second-class form of citizenship—are examined by the central body. It is typically designated to residents who had previously applied for citizenship under the Citizenship Act of 1948, prior to the introduction of the 1982 law.

U Kyaw Zaw Oo said they had observed a “reckless sign-off” on approval of full citizenship pink cards to Muslim applicants in Buthidaung. He and U Tun Aung Thein alleged that the orders came from the national level.

“The Union government is responsible for this project,” U Tun Aung Thein said.

Hundreds of Buddhist Arakanese residents of the Arakan State capital of Sittwe staged a protest on Sunday against the issuing of full citizenship to Muslims in Maungdaw.

In June 2016, in order to accelerate the issuance of NVCs in Arakan State, the Union government formed a body with six officials and ministers; led by U Thein Swe, minister of Labor, Immigration and Population.

The ANP repeatedly accused the previous ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party of granting citizenship documents to more than 900 naturalized citizens, and full citizenship to nearly 100 Muslims in Arakan State’s Myebon Township.

The ANP again criticized immigration officials last August, when, out of 31 Muslim applicants from Buthidaung, two to three were granted full citizenship.

Representatives from the immigration offices could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

NVCs have been delivered to around 6,200 of nearly 397,500 people who returned the “white cards” they once held. White cards had denoted “temporary citizenship” and were abolished by ex-President U Thein Sein’s government in 2015.

Myanmar: Myanmar Investigation Commission Prepares to Work on Second Report on Rakhine Crisis

22 March 2017 - 12:38am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Investigators from a Myanmar commission probing reports of recent violence against Rohingya Muslims in the northern part of restive Rakhine state will draft a “balanced” report based on fact-finding missions in Rakhine villages and refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, where tens of thousands of the minority group have fled from a crackdown, a member of the body said Tuesday.

Members of the Maungdaw Investigation Commission, appointed by the Rakhine state parliament last October, have wrapped up a fact-finding trip to the area and will soon meet with another group of members from the body that went to Bangladesh, said commission member Saw Thalay Saw.

“Most of them [residents of the affected townships in northern Rakhine] are getting back to their business, and they have been receiving help from the state government and international nongovernmental organizations,” she said.

“We will hold a meeting about our visits and will work on reaching a decision about them,” she said.

Maungdaw Commission members went to northern Rakhine state on March 17 and met with border guard police and local government officials, as well as with resettled families and individuals who fled during the October attacks, Myanmar News Agency reported

The commission members also discussed plans to ensure health care, shelter, and food for residents, the report said.

The commission’s two groups will discuss having a balanced point of view from both sides—Rohingya who accuse security forces of committing atrocities against them and ethnic Rakhine villagers whose accounts differ from those of the Rohingya, Saw Thalay Saw said.

Some Rohingya have accused Myanmar security forces of carrying out extrajudicial killings, torture, arson and rape during a four-month crackdown following a deadly attack on local border guard posts last October that was blamed on Rohingya militants.

About 1,000 people have died during the security operations, and more than 77,000 have fled mainly to Bangladesh where they have sought refuge in displaced persons camps.

The group from the Maungdaw Investigation Commission that went to Bangladesh to talk to Rohingya about the alleged rights abuses has completed its trip.

Ten investigators questioned about 35 Rohingya in relief camps in southern Bangladesh, who gave accounts of persecution and horrors they faced, according to a report by TRT World, the international news platform of the Turkish Radio and Television Corp.

Saw Thalay Saw, who is also a lawmaker from Shwegyin in Bago region, told RFA’s Myanmar Service last week that the group was going to Bangladesh to investigate what happened to those who fled Myanmar and to check both sides in order to get complete information.

It is not known when the commission will complete its second report and submit it to the Rakhine state government. The first report was submitted to Rakhine lawmakers on Dec. 27, 2016.

No proper strategy

In February, the commission completed another fact-finding mission in the affected areas to investigate United Nations’ allegations of human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine that said abuses committed by soldiers and police during the crackdown indicated “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

At the time, Saw Thalay Saw told RFA that the commission members visited several villages in Maungdaw township, one of the areas under security lockdown, and investigated the differences between the U.N. report and the situation on the ground.

Rights groups have criticized the investigation commission and three others set up by President Htin Kyaw, the Myanmar army, and the police to look into reports of atrocities against the Rohingya during the security operations.

The Rohingya face routine discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar where they are denied citizenship and other basic rights.

“All problems in Rakhine from the past and present have occurred because each government has been unable to solve them with the proper strategy,” Rakhine state lawmaker Zaw Zaw Myint told RFA on Tuesday.

He went on to say that the situation in Rakhine will never be resolved as long as the rights of the ethnic Buddhist Rakhine people are not taken into consideration.

‘Crimes against humanity’

U.N. special rapporteur to Myanmar Yanghee Lee, who recently visited the affected areas in northern Rakhine state and Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, told CNN on Monday that the violence could indicate crimes against humanity committed in the Southeast Asia nation.

When Lee visited refugee camps in Bangladesh, she spoke with more than 140 people about the reports of indiscriminate killings, arson, torture, and rape during the four-month-long-security operations in northern Rakhine state.

When asked by CNN if the crisis in Rakhine amounted to genocide, she said, “I would not use that word right now, but …from the allegations I heard and from where I saw it, it could amount to crimes against humanity.”

Though Lee has called for a U.N. inquiry commission to look into the recent violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine state, she said the “international community really did not have the appetite for it.”

On March 16, the European Union submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. Human Rights Council calling for an immediate international probe of human rights violations by the military against Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

Members of the Human Rights Council will vote on the resolution this week.

Reported by Waiyan Moe Myint and Min Theing Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Myanmar: Tens of thousands displaced from Kokang as fighting persists

21 March 2017 - 8:53pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: China, Myanmar

More than 30,000 people have fled Burma’s restive Kokang autonomous zone in the aftermath of an attack by the region’s dominant ethnic armed group on the administrative capital Laogai earlier this month, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Of that total, over 20,000 have crossed the border into neighbouring China’s Yunnan province, with the rest either internally displaced to other locations in Shan State or part of a contingent of more than 10,000 migrant workers that have left Kokang to return to homes elsewhere in Burma.

The 6 March attack by the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army targeted police and a handful of casinos in the town of Laogai, capital of the autonomous Kokang enclave in northern Shan State. Fighting between the MNDAA and Burmese security forces has continued in the surrounding countryside in the weeks since.

Dozens have been killed on both sides of the conflict, according to the government.

Speaking to DVB, one local resident in the Chinese town of Nansan, across the border from Laogai, said the number of refugees who had fled the fighting was significantly higher than the latest OCHA estimates.

“There are a lot of refugees — over 30,000 at the 125th [Border Post] near where I live and more further at the 123rd and 127th [border posts] — no less than 50,000 people in total, which is about half the population in Kokang,” said the resident, Wan Aik Tin.

He said Chinese authorities were compiling a list of refugees and have provided them with food in the form of a bag of rice for each family of more than three people.

Significant fighting between the MNDAA and government troops last flared in February 2015 and continued intermittently in the following months, after the MNDAA similarly staged a coordinated assault on Laogai. The group is part of the Northern Alliance, a coalition involving three other ethnic armed groups, though the MNDAA’s latest strike against Laogai appears to have been unilateral.

“This isn’t as bad as back in 2015,” said Wan Aik Tin. “This time around, the fighting is confined to an area that covered about one-third of the border area so it is not as bad.”

Locals in Nansan said the fighting in Laogai appeared to simmer down over the past week but reported still hearing the sound of occasional gunfire across the border.

Over the weekend, state media reported that the MNDAA launched attacks on Friday that involved high-calibre rockets from positions along the border, striking four locations and destroying one home that was not inhabited.

Myanmar: Formative Evaluation of UNICEF’S Strategy and Approach to Child Protection Systems Building: Final Report - (Volume I) - April to November 2016

21 March 2017 - 4:20pm
Source: UN Children's Fund Country: Myanmar

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In 2013, UNICEF underwent a significant reorientation of its Child Protection Programme in response to an extensive mid-term review (MTR) and changes in the political and social context of Myanmar. The opening of the country in 2012 and the significant push for reform by the Government created the space for UNICEF to shift the focus of its Child Protection Programme to target a systems building strategy and approach, to best address the multiple challenges hindering the provision of protection for children.

With this backdrop, in August 2013, UNICEF began to support the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) to undertake child protection case work in 27 townships across all regions and states in the country. In 19 of these, UNICEF funded Save the Children to work with local NGO partners (RMO, KMSS and YKBWA) to support DSW with ‘non-statutory’ child protection cases: those in which children were in need, but did not necessarily meet the legal threshold for requiring immediate care and protection of the state under Section 32 of the Child Law (1993). UNICEF also funded the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) to deliver awareness raising on a simple reporting and referral channel for communities in 950 villages where the CMS was operative, and engaged in extensive advocacy and coordination with Government partners to ensure buy-in and support for the case management system at the national, regional, state and townships levels.

Purpose, Objectives and Intended Audience: In April 2016, UNICEF contracted Coram International to assess the merit and worth of UNICEF’s strategy and approach to child protection systems building, and in particular the development of the national, social work, case management system as a key entry point to protect children’s rights in Myanmar. The evaluation, which covers the period from mid-2013 to August 2016, was intended to: provide rapid-feedback on the programme’s strengths and weaknesses to improve the current programme; establish the evidence base needed to inform the design of a new five-year programme starting in 2018; and generate learning for advocacy on systems strengthening. Being a formative, learning-oriented, evaluation, the primary audience was the Child Protection section and senior management, within UNICEF.
Other usersincluded the Government, particularly DSW, key development partners and child protection actors working in Myanmar.

Evaluation Methodology: The evaluation was theory-based, reflecting its central purpose as a strategic learning opportunity. Mixed methods were used to gather data from 11 townships, selected purposively for diversity according to a number of demographic and programmatic criteria. The evaluation team conducted a total of: 102 key informant interviews with child protection stakeholders at national, district and townships levels; 37 case studies interviews with children who had received support from the case management system and their parents or care givers; 16 focus group discussions with community members in selected wards and villages; and 31 case file reviews. 55 structured surveys were also completed by case managers and officers in each township. Finally, the evaluation team conducted statistical analysis of raw case management data from all 27 townships in which the case management system has been established. The evaluation limited its focus on aspects of UNICEF’s work related to the development of the case management system. Other areas of UNICEF’s Child Protection Programme were considered in terms of their relevance towards supporting the development of the case management system. Strict ethical guidelines were followed at all stages of the data collection and analysis.

Main Findings and Conclusions: In only three years, UNICEF has succeeded in establishing an emergent and functioning social work, case management system, in which DSW is playing an active role. Between August 2014 and August 2016, the case management system had a total intake of 1,330 child protection cases. This figure is on the low side, comprising less than 0.05 per cent of the total population of children in the case management townships, however, the data reveals that the case load is increasing over time, particularly within DSW offices. Despite its infancy, the case management system was found to be facilitating a broad range of important child protection interventions across townships, filling a critical gap in services for children in need of protection. The value of these interventions was recognised by a diversity of respondents. Many children and parents said that they valued the social and emotional care provided by case officers, reporting that they felt calmer, stronger, and happier as a result of interventions. Clients also expressed gratitude for the support that they had received in accessing or navigating the justice system and other government services.

Despite these positive aspects, the evaluation also identified some limitations. Not all clients had a positive experience with the case management system; and some noted that interventions had failed to result in any real change in their circumstances, particularly where poverty was an underlying driver of child protection concerns. Furthermore, the largest category of cases addressed by the case management system comprised cases of ‘children in conflict with the law’ and this was particularly true of DSW’s caseload. In addition, the vast majority of cases involved older children, aged 14–16, with very few cases relating to children under nine years of age, indicating that cases involving young children are potentially being missed by the system. This highlights some of the system’s current limitations; suggesting that the case management system is currently functioning primarily as a response to cases where children are perceived as a ‘social problem’, rather than delivering child protection interventions that support vulnerable families and safeguard children at risk of harm. This may be unsurprising given the nascent state of the case management system; but it raises the question of how to build more social work capacity within the system over time.

The effectiveness of the case management system was found to vary widely across different regions and townships, and this was found to be particularly the case within DSW offices. The system was found to be performing particularly well in the South East, most particularly in Mon and Kayin States, and less well in other areas, such as Rakhine and Shan. There were also significant indications that the case management system was functioning better in areas with an NGO partner supporting DSW with case management work and where MRCS were active in awareness raising.

DSW’s current capacity to undertake social work with children and families was found to be hindered by a number of capacity gaps and bottlenecks. First, whilst non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners had fulltime case-work staff, DSW staff were only part-time. Second, whilst DSW case managers were aware of the importance of multi-sector cooperation, working hard to collaborate with actors from different sectors, coordination with different government actors was found to be a challenge: stakeholders from other sectors, including health, education and justice, had limited knowledge of child protection and the social work role of DSW. Finally, hierarchical structures, administrative procedures and an overemphasis on paperwork were in many cases impeded the ability of DSW staff to undertake the practical business of social work with children and families. While processes and procedures contained within the standard operating procedures (SOPs) were being followed carefully by the case managers, at times evaluators observed an overemphasis on process, at the expense of a more substantive engagement with the practical aspects of addressing and resolving cases. In particular, some cases would have benefited from case managers engaging in a greater level of critical thinking and creative problem solving to correctly identify and meaningfully address underlying factors which place a child at risk. The evaluation identified a need for more ‘practice’ training and coaching, particularly in social work and communication skills.

The decision to re-orient the Child Protection Programme to focus on case management systems building was determined to have the potential to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of UNICEF’s child protection work in a number of ways. First, the new approach has made child protection activities more targeted, directing effort and resources towards those most in need; as well as increasing coverage of the system as a whole. Second, assigning case managers within DSW is building capacity and harnessing resources within Government, avoiding intensive resourcing requirements associated with funding NGOs to undertake service delivery. Third, the case management system approach is establishing a system of referrals across a network of social services, improving access to existing resources, and reducing fragmentation and duplication of efforts. Despite these positive aspects, a significantly higher level of investment, both financial and human, will be needed before the case management system can deliver real change for children. It is encouraging to note that UNICEF has already begun work with DSW on further reform, including the development of a defined case management budget, with provisions for full time case workers, travel and communication, training costs and others. If implemented, these reforms have the potential to improve the efficiency and performance of the case management system and strengthen opportunities for its sustainability.

The evaluation revealed broad consensus that UNICEF’s new approach to child protection systems building is both relevant and appropriate within the Myanmar context. The reorientation of the Programme, and particularly the focus on building capacity within DSW, has the potential to make child protection work more systematic and promote its sustainability. DSW case managers were found to be more effective than NGOs in liaising with and influencing child protection duty bearers across different sectors, including in the justice sector, health, education and the General Administration Department, critical for the implementation of an effective child protection response.

In addition to directly supporting the development of the case management system, UNICEF has undertaken work across a number of other child protection streams which were found to be highly relevant to child protection systems building, and necessary to achieve and sustain effective case management work. First, UNICEF’s efforts towards promoting the development of family-based alternative care are be vital given the over-reliance on institutionalisation or family reunification as a default child protection response. Second, UNICEF’s work towards legislative reform and development of child friendly justice institutions is highly relevant given that the inadequate response to child abuse cases in the justice system and insufficient focus on using alternatives to detention are serving to undermine the results of the child protection system. Whilst the CMS is playing an essential advocacy role in addressing child protection issues occurring within the justice system,sustainable change cannot be achieved without systemic reforms within the justice sector itself. Third, UNICEF’s focus on protecting children from exploitation, including sexual exploitation, child labour and trafficking is essential to sustaining results realised through the CMS: findings from the evaluation suggest that (early) identification of child exploitation – especially trafficking – remains a challenge and that there is an urgent need to address the underlying vulnerabilities which place children at risk of ending up in exploitative labour arrangements. The case management system has a potential role to play in both areas and it is a particularly welcome development that UNICEF is supporting DSW social workers to integrate the trafficking guidelines and SOPs into the SOPs for case management. Finally, the significant child protection in emergencies component of the Child Protection Programme is both relevant and necessary given the persistence of ongoing humanitarian crises in border areas of the country, particularly in Rakhine State, and a lack of government legitimacy amongst marginalised ethnic minority communities. There is strong consensus amongst stakeholders for the need to strengthen links between UNICEF’s emergency work – which remains community-based and largely administered through NGOs – and the new systems-based work, focused on partnerships with the Government and the establishment of the case management system; however, it is vital that UNICEF continues to acknowledge the risks associated with this approach in the short to medium terms.

There are significant positive indications of the sustainability of the case management system. UNICEF’s advocacy efforts have been well targeted, building government commitment to developing a national child protection system. Additionally, there is evidence that progress is being made towards building trust in, and demand for, the case management system at the community level, further consolidating the system’s long term viability. Nevertheless, a number of threats to sustainability remain. In particular, support and commitment to UNICEF’s vision of the child protection system appears to be largely concentrated within DSW.
Achieving support from other government departments, particularly within the justice, health and education sectors, remains a challenge. The need for greater financial investment is also critical as the case management system is brought to scale, particularly in the absence of NGO support.

The protection rights and needs of children have been clearly placed at the front and centre of the Child Protection Programme. The decision to build capacity within DSW to deliver the case management system recognises that the Government is a key duty bearer responsible for implementing children’s rights within its jurisdiction, in accordance with Art. 3 and 4 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, there are a number of cross-cutting concerns that were identified by the evaluation as requiring further consideration.

These include: the need for greater attention to child participation, and ensuring that the view and wishes of children, especially adolescents, are fully incorporated into the case management system; the need for improved data collection systems disaggregated by demographic factors such as disability and ethnicity; and the need for greater attention to aspects of gender and vulnerability.

Lessons Learned: The evaluation helped identifying a number of key lessons from the findings and conclusions.

First, child protection case management is a time and resource intensive service. It is essential to ensure that adequate human resources are made available, including full time social work staff, with a local presence, and effective and localised management structures. It is also essential that case management staff receive substantial training, including coaching on the more substantive elements of case management including critical thinking, creative problem solving, managing family dynamics and communication skills. Second, it was noted that certain child protection cases are susceptible to being missed by the case management system, which at present, is mainly picking up cases that have escalated to a crisis level, or where children are considered to be a ‘social problem’ and are engaged in criminal behaviour. More emphasis needs to be placed on early intervention in cases where children are at risk of harm, particularly during early childhood. Moreover, child protection case management is a multi-disciplinary project, which requires involvement from a number of government departments, particularly justice, law enforcement, health, education and local authorities, who need to understand and be committed to child protection, and work together with social welfare staff on referral and response to cases. Lastly, well-targeted social welfare benefits and cash transfers are indispensable counterparts to a child protection case management system, particularly where poverty and other forms of social vulnerability aggravate child protection concerns.

Main Recommendations: The following inter-connected and inter-related recommendations were validated in a series of validation workshops, and they are as follows:

  • Support the Government to develop a national child protection policy and strategic plan for scaling up the delivery of child protection services through case management in the townships. In particular, the strategic plan should address: how to reform the case management system from a system that is essentially crisis management to a pro-active system which includes early intervention when a child is at risk; and short and long term strategic measures for the use of NGO input and capacity to strengthen local delivery whilst building capacity within DSW, particularly in Chin, and other expansion townships.

  • Work with DSW to reform administration of the case management system at township level including: devolvement of decision-making on case work to a designated supervisor at township level; appointment of full time staff to focus exclusively on child protection case management; the appointment of a Director of Child Protection, ideally with professional social work experience, in each district; support of NGO staff to DSW case management teams to build the practice and professional capacity of DSW staff; reform of financial procedures to ensure adequate and advanced provision of expenses associated with case work; and establishment of a client fund including provisions for some limited material goods for children and families.

  • Develop referral mechanisms into the case management system through secondary legislation, including joint working SOPs with health and education providers, the Police and prosecutors. Conduct outreach and capacity building with key referral bodies to ensure they have the skills and commitment to implement protocols. Engage DSW early childcare and development centres in identification and referral.

  • Scale up training and coaching programmes on social work skills. In particular it is recommended that the training should focus on substantive aspects of social work practices including child development; family dynamics; managing challenging behaviour; positive parenting; the nature and recognition of addiction; identification of abuse, assessing children and meeting their needs. It is recommended that coaching programmes, whereby an experienced social worker work alongside case managers, providing guidance and feedback are made available. It may also be useful to scale up innovative capacity building initiatives such as that delivered by Point B.

  • Review and modify data collection systems to ensure consistency of data and to include information on ethnicity, language and disability and other relevant demographic factors, in addition to age and gender (already included). It is also recommended to collect data on resources required to address each case, and to collect and compile data on the key outcomes of cases progressing through the system.