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Myanmar: Unique Partnership Seeks to Increase Developmental Role of Migration in Myanmar

17 March 2017 - 9:17am
Source: International Organization for Migration Country: Myanmar

Myanmar - One in four people in Myanmar is a migrant, many migrating in search of work. In this environment of high mobility, IOM and partners this week launched the project Twe Let – Increasing the Developmental Impact of Labour Migration through Strengthened Governance and Partnership.

Twe Let, which means "hand in hand" in the Myanmar language, seeks policy and community level partnership to increase the developmental role of migration. Supporting the efforts of the Government of Myanmar at the policy level, the project is led by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population (MOLIP) and will establish Myanmar’s first-ever comprehensive migration policy.

The project supports Myanmar’s development priorities and will address international migration as well as internal migration. Additionally, it is a mechanism to "mainstream" migration into national and local sectoral development planning.

At the community level, Twe Let supports migrants and their families from rural communities ensuring that their migration decisions improve their living conditions, helping them out of poverty to lead to inclusive and sustainable development. Twe Let aims to provide direct assistance to 50,000 potential migrants and members of migrant-sending households from rural communities in 29 townships of Chin State, Mandalay Region, Magway Region, Shan State, Mon State, Kayin State and Thanintharyi Region.

The Twe Let project was launched by U Myo Aung, Permanent Secretary of MOLIP, and was attended by over 80 participants from the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, including state and regional governments, members of parliament, civil society, international organizations, the private sector and the donor, Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT).

“This partnership formed between MOLIP, IOM and CSOs to implement the Twe Let project is the key to capitalize the impact of migration on Myanmar’s development. It will contribute to the protection of the rights of Myanmar migrants for safer and more gainful migration,” said U Myo Aung.

The project, worth USD 6.5 million, to be implemented over 30 months, provides aspiring migrants and their families with practical information and tools to help them take the best migration decisions and actions.

Migrant-sending families are supported through financial literacy training with the aim of increasing their ability to manage remittances and increase the developmental impact of remittances. Skills development training will also be provided for aspiring migrants and migrant‐sending households, including practical skills for employment and self-employment through migration and job-matching support to trainees.

“People choose to migrate for better lives for themselves and their families. However, migration does not guarantee a better life. Without good planning and preparation, people could end up migrating from one form of poverty to another. Through this project, we aim to support migrants and their families to place migration in their broader livelihood strategies and to increase developmental outcome of migration,” said Michiko Ito, Programme Manager at IOM Myanmar.

Twe Let is implemented by a unique consortium of organizations which include IOM, Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), the Mon coalition led by Mon Women’s Organization (MWO), Parami Development Network (PDN), and Pact Global Microfinance Fund (PGMF), with MOLIP as the counterpart Ministry.

National actors are central to delivering the Twe Let project throughout the targeted townships, while two international organizations renowned for their respective areas of expertise will be providing technical and operational support. Twe Let is the largest project funded through the migration section of LIFT.

LIFT's Migration Programme was launched in 2016 in recognition of the extensive impact that migration has on rural and urban transformation. Currently, the migration programme provides funding to 15 partners from international and national organizations, the Government of Myanmar, academia and media to jointly make migration safe and a real prospect for development.

For further information, please contact Michiko Ito, IOM Myanmar, Tel: +95 943170624, Email: mito@iom.int

World: Internal Displacement Update, Issue 12: 23 February - 8 March 2017

17 March 2017 - 7:49am
Source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre Country: Afghanistan, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, United States of America, World, Yemen, Zimbabwe

FEATURE

Iraq

AFFECTED AREAS Mosul district, Salahuddin governorate

CAUSE OF DISPLACEMENT Conflict

FIGURES About 43,000 new displacements between January and 5 March

CONTEXT

About 42,000 people were displaced from Mosul between 27 February and 5 March. This is the highest continuous displacement since 17 October when the government began an offensive to take control of eastern Mosul from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). More than 13,000 people were displaced on 3 March alone. Most displacements between 27 February and 5 March were due to military operations in western Mosul, which were initiated on 19 February (OCHA, 5 March 2017). The displacement came as the battle for Mosul entered more densely populated areas, including the Kuwait, Ma’mun, Tayaran and Wadi Hajar neighbourhoods, and Abu Saif village (OCHA, 28 February 2017).

The most recently displaced people said food shortages and intense fighting forced them to join more than 195,000 Iraqis in 21 camps built by UN agencies and the government around Mosul. “The newest arrivals are in a desperate condition, visibly traumatized, hungry and dehydrated. Many arrived without shoes and wearing soaking clothes, having walked long distances to reach safety at government checkpoints” (UNHCR, 7 March 2017).

Up to 750,000 people in western Mosul city remained largely inaccessible to humanitarians, sheltering from the fighting or waiting for a better time to flee. They risked being caught in the crossfire, and suffered shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel (OCHA, 2 March 2017; IOM, 28 February 2017).

Of the 256,000 people displaced from Mosul between 17 October and 2 March about 192,000 remained displaced as of 2 March, the highest number of IDPs since the crisis began. The remaining 64,000 people returned to their areas of origin (OCHA, 2 March 2017).

About 125 families (more than 800 people) were displaced in Salahuddin governorate between January and 5 March by forces backed by the Iraqi government because they were thought to have ties to ISIL. The displaced people were held against their will in a camp near Tikrit. Some of their homes were destroyed. Hundreds of other families were displaced after an August 2016 decree that ordered the expulsion of relatives of ISIL members and said anyone affiliated with ISIL had no right to return to the governorate. Families from Babil and Anbar governorates faced similar difficulties when returning (Human Rights Watch, 5 March 2017).

India: APRRN Statement: Stop the Eviction of Rohingyas in Jammu

17 March 2017 - 6:51am
Source: Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network Country: India, Myanmar

The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) urges the Government of India to act immediately to provide protection to Rohingya refugees living in Jammu. Since November 2016, Rohingya living in Jammu have increasingly been subject to a campaign of negative propaganda and actions by local right wing hindu political party leaders and residents. This includes forced evictions, slow genocidal and hate campaigns, demonstrations, and restrictions on Rohingya attending their places of work.

APRRN recognises and commends India for being a kind host to refugees for centuries, providing them a place of safety and protection. Not only has India provided sanctuary, but it has also played a vital part in enabling and empowering them to contribute to their local communities. It is in this context however that the recent ill-treatment of Rohingyas living in Jammu is very disturbing.

It is well known that the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted groups on earth and have faced decades of ongoing ethnic hate. As a disadvantaged ethnic group in Myanmar, they have fled their country because of severe and targetted ethnic discrimination and have sought safe haven in India. In Jammu, there are currently close to 6000 Rohingyas, with most living in squatters and temporary shelters in deplorable conditions. They are forced to take up difficult, dangerous and poorly paid jobs simply to make ends meet.

On November 26th 2016, a fire in Jammu’s Narwal refugee settlement destroyed several houses and four people including three children died. This incident was the trigger for politicians to put the issue of the Rohingya and their supposed association with militancy into the spotlight despite their being no substantive evidence. Since then, there has been a systematic campaign in Jammu to malign the Rohingya by criminalising them and branding them as a community of lawbreakers and illegal migrants. Under the pretext of local job protection, the Rohingya community are continuously being hounded and evicted from their squatters. Some of them have even been imprisoned and detained under the Public Safety Act without trial or due process. In addition, some radical right wing organisations have also started a villification campaign called “Quit Jammu” that has created an environment of fear and traumatisation.

APRRN raises serious concerns about these developments in Jammu and calls upon the State Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of India to provide necessary protection to this vulnerable population.

APRRN makes the following call for action to the Government of India and the State Government of Jammu and Kashmir:

•Provide protection to all Rohingya living in Jammu and Kashmir and take concrete actions to thwart the malicious campaigns by radical groups.

•Provide safe accommodation for Rohingya in order to prevent fundamentalist groups using the Rohingya population as easy targets.

•Extend the welfare programs of the state that are available for the most vulnerable to the Rohingya as done in some other states in India.

•Immediately release refugees who have been detained under the Public Security Act and are being held without trial.

•Take complete responsibility to provide workshops, pre-employment jobskills training and education to empower the Rohingya population within their borders.

While APRRN statements are prepared in consultations with APRRN members, they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Julia Mayerhofer, Interim Secretary General, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network

Email: julia@aprrn.info

Tel: +66 (0) 2 2526654

Mobile: +66 (0) 89 1125761

Myanmar: Interim report and recommendations; Advisory Commission on Rakhine State

17 March 2017 - 4:42am
Source: Advisory Commission on Rakhine State Country: Myanmar

Introduction

Mandate of the Advisory Commission

The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State – chaired by Mr Kofi Annan – was established on 5 September 2016 at the behest of Myanmar’s State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. According to the Commission’s Terms of Reference – agreed by the Government of Myanmar and the Kofi Annan Foundation – the Commission will analyse the present situation of all communities in Rakhine State, and seek to identify the factors that have resulted in violence, displacement and underdevelopment.
In doing so, the Commission will consider humanitarian issues, living conditions, access to health, education and livelihoods, the question of citizenship and freedom of movement, and the assurance of basic rights. In accordance with established international standards, the Commission will develop recommendations within five thematic areas: conflict prevention, humanitarian assistance, reconciliation, institution building and development.

The Commission is composed of six national members (U Win Mra, U Aye Lwin, Dr.
Tha Hla Shwe, Dr. Mya Thida, Daw Saw Khin Tint and U Khin Maung Lay) and three international members (Mr Ghassan Salamé, Ms Laetitia van den Assum and Mr Kofi Annan).

Purpose of this report

The main body of recommendations will be presented in the Commission’s final report towards the end of August 2017. However, pending the publication of the final report, the Commission has decided – in line with its mandate – to present a set of interim recommendations. This decision was made in light of the recent developments in northern Rakhine State, which necessitate urgent action from the government and other stakeholders, in order to ward off any further violence while also laying the groundwork for a more peaceful and prosperous future. While the final report will address all issues covered by the Commission’s mandate, this interim report addresses issues where urgent action is required. Implementation of the interim recommendations will inform and inspire the content of the final report.

The Commission is not mandated to investigate specific alleged human rights violations. Rather, it seeks to address institutional and structural issues which undermine the prospects for peace, justice and development in Rakhine, and to propose concrete steps that may contribute to improving the well-being of all communities in the state.

Myanmar: Interim report and recommendations

17 March 2017 - 4:42am
Source: Advisory Commission on Rakhine State Country: Myanmar

Introduction

Mandate of the Advisory Commission

The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State – chaired by Mr Kofi Annan – was established on 5 September 2016 at the behest of Myanmar’s State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. According to the Commission’s Terms of Reference – agreed by the Government of Myanmar and the Kofi Annan Foundation – the Commission will analyse the present situation of all communities in Rakhine State, and seek to identify the factors that have resulted in violence, displacement and underdevelopment. In doing so, the Commission will consider humanitarian issues, living conditions, access to health, education and livelihoods, the question of citizenship and freedom of movement, and the assurance of basic rights. In accordance with established international standards, the Commission will develop recommendations within five thematic areas: conflict prevention, humanitarian assistance, reconciliation, institution building and development. The Commission is composed of six national members (U Win Mra, U Aye Lwin, Dr. Tha Hla Shwe, Dr. Mya Thida, Daw Saw Khin Tint and U Khin Maung Lay) and three international members (Mr Ghassan Salamé, Ms Laetitia van den Assum and Mr Kofi Annan).

Purpose of this report

The main body of recommendations will be presented in the Commission’s final report towards the end of August 2017. However, pending the publication of the final report, the Commission has decided – in line with its mandate – to present a set of interim recommendations. This decision was made in light of the recent developments in northern Rakhine State, which necessitate urgent action from the government and other stakeholders, in order to ward off any further violence while also laying the groundwork for a more peaceful and prosperous future. While the final report will address all issues covered by the Commission’s mandate, this interim report addresses issues where urgent action is required. Implementation of the interim recommendations will inform and inspire the content of the final report. The Commission is not mandated to investigate specific alleged human rights violations. Rather, it seeks to address institutional and structural issues which undermine the prospects for peace, justice and development in Rakhine, and to propose concrete steps that may contribute to improving the well-being of all communities in the state.

Thailand: Thailand Border Operation: RTG/MOI-UNHCR Verified Refugee Population, 28 February 2017

17 March 2017 - 4:41am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Myanmar, Thailand

Thailand: Resettlement of Myanmar Refugees from Temporary Shelters in Thailand, 28 February 2017

17 March 2017 - 4:25am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Australia, Canada, Finland, Myanmar, Norway, Thailand, United States of America

Myanmar: Myanmar: Act now on Rakhine Commission report

17 March 2017 - 2:56am
Source: Amnesty International Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Myanmar’s authorities must immediately act on the urgent calls made in an interim report by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, Amnesty International said today.

“The authorities must immediately act on the Rakhine Commission’s recommendations to grant humanitarian access, end the media blackout in northern Rakhine State, and ensure the perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

On 16 March 2017, the Commission published its interim report, with recommendations to the Myanmar government on “improving the welfare of all people in Rakhine state”. The report’s authors said their recommendations must be met with “urgent action” by the Myanmar authorities.

“Unfortunately, the commission’s recommendations do not far enough to address the increasingly dire situation on the ground. There is much more the authorities can and should do, including lifting restrictions on freedom of movement for the Rohingya and other Muslims,” said Champa Patel.

The Commission’s recommendations fall short of ensuring full respect for the protection and rights of the Rohingya. Amnesty International is particularly concerned about the Commission’s failure to recommend necessary amendments to Myanmar’s highly discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively denies citizenship to the Rohingya – something it should address, along with other human rights violations, in its final report, due by August.

The Rakhine Commission does not have a mandate to investigate allegations of human rights violations by the security forces, which the UN and Amnesty International believe may constitute crimes against humanity. The government’s own investigations also lack the independence and impartiality necessary to deliver justice for victims.

“Given the Myanmar government’s repeated failure to carry out a credible and effective investigation, the UN should mandate a Commission of Inquiry, as recommended by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar,” said Champa Patel.

Background

In December 2016, Amnesty International published a report, “We are at breaking point”: Rohingya Persecuted in Myanmar, Neglected in Bangladesh, which documented a wide range of human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine State, including unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment, rape and other sexual violence, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detentions, and the torching of hundreds of Rohingya homes and buildings.

In February 2017, the United National Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a “flash report” also documented these human rights violations.

Myanmar: EU seeks UN probe into crimes against Rohingya

17 March 2017 - 2:18am
Source: Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation Country: Myanmar

If resolution is adopted, the U.N. Human Rights Council would "dispatch urgently an independent international fact-finding mission" to investigate violations

*UN Human Rights Council to vote on EU resolution next week

*EU wants international fact-finding mission, govt cooperation

*U.N. Security Council to discuss Myanmar on Friday (Adds UN Security Council meeting on Fri in 7th para)

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, March 16 (Reuters) - The European Union called on Thursday for the United Nations to send an international fact-finding mission urgently to Myanmar to investigate allegations of torture, rapes and executions by the military against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Rakhine CCCM Dashboard (1-Jan-2017)

17 March 2017 - 12:33am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Myanmar Information Management Unit, CCCM Cluster, Shelter Cluster Country: Myanmar

Number of IDP Locations 36
Number of IDPs 120,468

In Myanmar, the Shelter/NFI/CCCM Cluster was activated in January 2013. By March 2013, the CCCM Cluster became operational in Rakhine State. Currently 3 Camp Management Agencies undertake substantial work for the CCCM Cluster: data collection, coordination, monitoring of services, community mobilization and capacity building across camps that house over 92,000 IDPs. In addition, one agency serves as a CCCM Focal Point, which ensures communication between the camp population and the UNHCR co-led CCCM Cluster. The objective of the CCCM Cluster remains to ensure all of the priority camps, camps that contain the majority of IDPs, have a dedicated Camp Management Agency, delivering coordinated assistance in line with the rights and needs of the displaced and where possible preparing them for life after displacement.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Kachin & Northern Shan CCCM Dashboard (1/Dec/2016)

17 March 2017 - 12:26am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, CCCM Cluster, Shelter Cluster Country: Myanmar

# of IDP Locations (host families & Camps): 188

Estimated number of IDPs: 99,242

Displacement started in June 2011 due to the fighting between the Government and the Kachin Independence Organization. The majority of IDPs live in camps along the Myanmar-China Border. Approximately 43% of IDPs live in camps in non-Government Controlled areas (NGCA).

Myanmar: Local Militia Expels Myanmar Internal Refugees From Land in Kachin State

16 March 2017 - 8:28pm
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Myanmar

A local militia in the northern Myanmar town of Waingmaw has started clearing out refugees who have been staying on its land since 2012 when they were displaced by hostilities between ethnic rebels and the government army, villagers and a lawmaker from Kachin state said Thursday.

The militia asked half of the 70 households on its land to move elsewhere because it needs the acreage for planting crops, the villagers said.

Soldiers then used bulldozers to destroy houses and other buildings used by the refugees, they said, prompting them to seek help from a state lawmaker.

“People came to me and asked me to help them,” said parliamentarian Zakhaung Kham Yal. “I wrote a letter about their situation and sent it to the state government. I also sent copies to the state’s security and border affairs minister and the chairman of the state parliament.”

Some members of the militia told RFA that Colonel Myo Tin, Kachin state’s minister of security and border affairs, will visit the area.

More than 200 internally displaced persons comprising the 70 households have been living in Waingmaw since 2012.

The local militia led by Colonel Lasan Aung War, former intelligence chief of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), broke with the KIO and its armed wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in 2004 when an attempted coup forced his expulsion.

His armed faction settled in the Gwayhtu region of Waingmaw township after the group signed a cease-fire agreement with the government.

The KIA, which controls large swathes of northeastern Kachin state, has regularly engaged in hostilities with the Myanmar army since a cease-fire deal collapsed in 2011.

Last November, the KIA teamed up with three other ethnic armed groups—the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—to form the Northern Alliance.

The alliance then launched coordinated attacks on 10 government and military targets in three townships in neighboring Shan state and along the105-mile border trade zone between Myanmar and China in retaliation for government army offensives against its soldiers.

An End to Forced Tolls

Meanwhile, soldiers from another militia in Muse township of Myanmar’s volatile northern Shan state has stopped seeking tolls from and confiscating the cell phones of drivers along Muse Road since Tuesday, a district administrator said.

“They had damaged the wheels of trucks” traveling along a major thoroughfare that heavy vehicles transporting goods for trade use to enter southwestern China, Muse district administrator Kyaw Kyaw Tun told RFA.

“They didn’t do anything to drivers, but took their money and phones,” he said, blaming Northern Alliance soldiers for harassing and stealing from truck drivers.

A spokesman for the Northern Alliance denied that soldiers from the organization were involved, and pointed a finger at government army troops instead.

“We sometimes stop buses and trucks for passengers’ security, but we never ask for money,” said Colonel Ta Aik Kyaw of the TNLA. “Government army soldiers have sometimes dressed in our [TNLA] uniforms and asked [motorists] for money.”

Kachin and Shan states are hotbeds of illegal drug and smuggling activities where ethnic rebels have engaged in periodic hostilities with the Myanmar army during the last few years.

Reported by Kyaw Myo Min, Thet Su Aung, and Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Myanmar: Close all IDP camps in Arakan, says Advisory Commission

16 March 2017 - 8:03pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By Libby Hogan

All internally displaced person (IDP) camps in Arakan State should be closed down—that is the recommendation of the commission tasked with investigating the problems in the conflict-marred region.

Speaking at a press conference today in Rangoon, Commissioner Ghassan Salamé, a former Lebanese minister of culture and advisor to the UN secretary-general, unveiled 13 interim recommendations on behalf of the Arakan Advisory Commission.

Alongside a call to shut down the IDP camps, chief points raised by the commission included calls for: unimpeded humanitarian and media access; the training of security forces in human rights; inter-communal dialogue; and unrestricted freedom of movement.

Assuming the reins in the absence of the Advisory Commission Chairman Kofi Annan, Salamé addressed the Burmese government, saying the commission’s findings “necessitate urgent action.”

Salamé closed with the comment: “Let me be frank. Everybody needs to do their own job and we are not an investigation committee. We are not equipped with forensic capability … We are here to listen.” He then added: “We do endorse of course an impartial and independent investigation into what happened,” in reference to the 9 October attacks last year in Maungdaw where nine Burmese border policemen were killed.

The international report follows a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council this week in Geneva where the issue of Arakan State and the Rohingya crisis was tabled. In addition, UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee again urged the formation of an independent commission to investigate the alleged human rights abuses in the beleaguered western Burmese state. She also warned that if it is not formed quickly, the Rohingya population could continue to endure serious human rights abuses.

Paramount among the Arakan Advisory Commission’s recommendations was the call to close all IDP camps. More than 120,000 Muslims are confined to cramped and primitive conditions inside the camps, which are mostly dotted around northwestern Arakan State. The camps were established after violent clashes between Buddhist and Muslim mobs in 2012.

Salamé acknowledged that all the IDPs “can’t all of a sudden go back to where they used to live,” but that the government should prepare a comprehensive strategy aimed at closing all camps. He added: “In particular, we would like them to go back in the state and environment where they don’t feel any fear, and also don’t constitute any fear for others.”

The report recommended that the government immediately facilitate the return of IDPs from 55 Kaman Muslim households in Ramree; 215 Muslim households from Min That Phar village currently living in Kyein Ni Pyin camp; and 65 Arakanese Buddhist households from Ka Yin Taw.

The citizenship issue was also met head on with the recommendation that “the government should speed up the verification process,” said Salamé.

The largely stateless Rohingya Muslim populace in Burma faces restrictions on movement, ownership of land, and access to education and healthcare. The commission stated that the current citizenship verification process has been unsuccessful as only around 2,000 individuals have been granted a form of citizenship. Salamé said the commission advocated the establishment of a government authority independent of the verification institution and a non-bureaucratic approach, giving the example that if the head of a family received citizenship then all his or her descendants should not have to go through the same verification process.

Salamé’s delivery that the government should allow “full and unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas affected by recent violence” and “full and regular access for domestic and international media” was met by a weary press in the former Burmese capital, principally because Annan had raised this call at the last meeting.

When a member of the press – who had just returned from a trip to Arakan State where their organisation was blocked from accessing the northern regions – asked when the media can expect full access, no timeline or estimation was offered in response.

Although the commission was established ahead of the deadly attacks on Burmese border guard police stations in October, Salamé said it was impossible to ignore the rise in allegations of human rights violations carried out in apparent revenge against the Rohingya community.

“We should accept that the nature of the violence has changed since 9 October attacks,” he said, adding that the commission was calling for an independent and impartial investigation to ensure the perpetrators are held accountable.

Salamé also emphasised cross-border co-operation. “We believe bilateral security with Bangladesh is critical,” he stated, before explaining that a joint commission should be established between the governments of Burma and Bangladesh to facilitate the voluntary return of refugees to Burma.

He further suggested that this commission develop a joint strategy to: address the issues of illegal migration and drug smuggling; strengthen intelligence-sharing; and cooperation to combat terrorism.

Around 75,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across the border to Bangladesh since security forces began “clearance operations” late last year.

Burma’s security forces have been widely criticised by international agencies for allegedly adopting a heavy-handed or brutal approach to the operations in northwestern Arakan State. As a result, Salamé said, the Advisory Commission was suggesting that they should be trained in respecting human rights. The Commissioner called on international donors “to dig deep into their pockets” to support such efforts.

The police force should also better reflect the different minority groups and women in its composition, stated the commission in its report.

Addressing some of the deep-rooted problems in the state, such as poverty and religious tensions, an inter-communal dialogue was recommended at a Union and State level. Salamé said he encouraged Buddhists and Muslims to generate dialogue between the two communities and establish joint markets and “friendly bazaars” at a local level.

The Advisory Commission is expected to deliver its full report at the end of this year.

Myanmar: Mangrove conservation for disaster risk reduction

16 March 2017 - 4:24pm
Source: Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development Country: Myanmar

Myanmar, and especially Rakhine State, is part of the most disaster-affected regions in the world in terms of frequency, scale, and severity, and is particularly negatively impacted by tropical cyclones and floods. In 2015, cyclone Komen made landfall in Northern Rakhine State, resulting in massive floods and landslides, exacerbating the monsoonal flooding. Coupled with overall underdevelopment, reoccurring conflicts, and low resilience, the population in Rakhine State is extremely vulnerable to changes in weather patterns and are often ill-prepared to withstand the impact of disasters. Strengthening populations’ resilience to natural disasters is one of the priorities for ACTED in Myanmar.

One method to mitigate risks of natural disasters is to ensure the conservation and rehabilitation of mangrove plants. Mangroves offer an essential source of protection against the effects of natural hazards and erosions because they serve as a buffer against strong winds, storm surges, and tsunamis. Beyond protection, mangroves provide a home to dozens of different types of fish, birds, and small animals, in addition to being a source of food and livelihood for fishermen and local communities.

However, there is a growing challenge of mangrove conservation in Rakhine State. Existing mangrove forests lack legal protection and are often used by local communities as a source of firewood and food for livestock, leading to their degradation. Indeed, a study from November 2015 conducted by ACTED’s partner REACH indicated that, across Rakhine State, mangrove coverage shrank by 23% from 2000 to 2015. Consequently, as mangrove coverage decreases, the vulnerability of local communities increases.

Informing about mangrove regeneration techniques and disaster risk reduction

Given the context in the city of Sittwe and in order to educate local communities and community-based organisations on the necessity for mangrove conservation, ACTED and its partner Mangrove Action Project (MAP) conducted a series of trainings known as Community-Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR). CBEMR training is an alternative mangrove restoration technique in which local communities are encouraged to facilitate the natural regeneration of mangroves by restoring and improving their local hydrology and topography. Training participants included local government, local NGOs, and civil society organisations which then took part in the restoration of two demonstration plots to put what they learned into practice.

The CBEMR training and demonstration plots were part of an on-going project by ACTED with partner International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Sittwe. This programme for improved disaster management and resilience against natural disaster in Rakhine, emphasises disaster risk management, resilience, and the importance of mangroves in mitigating natural disasters.

Myanmar: Advisory Commission on Rakhine State: Interim Report and Recommendations (March 2017)

16 March 2017 - 3:59pm
Source: Advisory Commission on Rakhine State Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Statement by Kofi Annan, Chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State (Interim Report)

MARCH 16, 2017

Let me make a few introductory remarks on our report.

First, we should accept that the nature of the crisis facing Rakhine state has changed due to the attacks of 9 October and the subsequent security operations.

This has led to investigations and reports by the United Nations and human rights agencies. However, we as the Advisory Commission are guided by our mandate to focus mainly on long-standing obstacles to peace and development in Rakhine State.

We recognise that the challenges facing Rakhine State and its peoples are complex and the search for lasting solutions will require determination, perseverance and trust. Nevertheless, there are steps that can be taken immediately, which we put forward in this report.

The report proposes a series of measures to address the situation in Rakhine State.

These recommendations include a renewed call for unimpeded access for humanitarian actors and journalists to the affected areas in Northern Rakhine and for independent and impartial investigation of the allegations of crimes committed on and since 9 October 2016.

We strongly believe that perpetrators of these crimes must be held to account.

Our recommendations, of course, go beyond the current situation in Northern Rakhine and include proposals relating to: the protection of rights, freedom of movement, enhanced economic and social development and the edification of Rakhine’s cultural heritage.

The Commission is aware of a number of unresolved concerns surrounding the verification of citizenship and recommends that they be clarified and resolved without delay.

We also stress that inclusive access to healthcare and education for the all the people in Rakhine requires attention and improvement.

In this context the Commission makes some interim recommendations for early remedial measures.

In the Commission’s view, creating conditions conducive for inter-communal dialogue, representation and participation in public life are essential to ensure that Rakhine state is spared from recurring cycles of violence and destruction. We make some recommendations in that regard.

In developing these interim recommendations, my fellow Commissioners and I have undertaken numerous consultations and discussions with a wide range of stakeholders in Rakhine, Yangon, and Naypyitaw.

As part of that consultative process, a Commission team visited Bangladesh. We have also held consultations with officials from Indonesia, Thailand and organisations based in New York and Geneva.

We believe that bilateral cooperation with Bangladesh on security and economic matters is critical, as is the outreach to ASEAN members.

The recommendations in this report are not exhaustive and do not address all of the issues covered in our mandate.

These are early proposals for action. The main body of our recommendations will be presented in a final report later this year.

In closing I want to commend my fellow Commissioners and members of our office in Yangon, who have worked tirelessly to fulfil the important task, set for us by the State Counsellor.

Our consultations will continue as we work to produce our final report, and we look forward to further exchanges with communities and stakeholders across Rakhine State.

Myanmar: Myanmar – Displacements in North Shan State (DG ECHO, UN OCHA) (ECHO Daily Flash of 16 March 2017)

16 March 2017 - 10:49am
Source: European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Country: Myanmar
  • Following a series of attacks that occurred in Laukkai, Kokang Self-Administered Zone of North Shan State on 6 March, at least 30 people, including at least five civilians, are now reported to have been killed. Most of the residents of Laukkai town have been evacuated. An estimated 20 000 people crossed the Chinese border, while others including migrant workers, civil servants, NGO workers from other parts of the country have also left.
  • The Chinese Government has established camps and is providing assistance with Chinese Red Cross’ support. In Laukkai town, one of the pre-existing camps established during the 2015 conflict continues to accommodate 50 people and the Myanmar Red Cross Society provided food rations. 10 000 migrant laborers working on sugar cane plantations may return to their areas of origin in other parts of Myanmar.
  • As of 13 March, about 5 000 people have transited through Man Su monastery in Lashio and several hundred people were still on their way. It is likely that the total number of migrant workers having left the Kokang SAZ is higher than reported.
  • On 14 March, OCHA visited Man Su monastery in Lashio to assess the humanitarian situation. The Man Su monastery is providing shelter, food and WASH support, arranging transport for the migrant workers to be able to go back to their villages of origin with support from private donors, well-wishers and community-based organizations. The government of Myanmar and the Myanmar Army has provided food assistance and health care at the monastery. The Myanmar Red Cross Society has provided dignity kits to the women and is planning to provide cash support to the people returning to their places of origin.

Myanmar: Walking the distance in Myanmar

16 March 2017 - 10:39am
Source: International Committee of the Red Cross Country: Myanmar

The smell of rubber and other chemicals welcomes visitors when entering the small workshop of the Hpa-an Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Centre (HORC). Zaw Zaw Aung is weighing chemicals on a balance. He is surrounded by dozens of pots – some filled with zinc oxide, some with stearic acid. Gloves lie strewn around him. A white blouse hangs nearby. It looks like a laboratory.

The HORC was opened in 2003 to mainly support victims of landmines. "Along with Afghanistan and Cambodia, Myanmar is one countries most severely affected. These mines cause massive injury and death to people accidentally stepping on these weapons. Those lucky to survive still suffer a major impact on their lives and livelihoods," explains Didier Reck, head of ICRC's physical rehabilitation programme in Myanmar. Parts of the region covered by the centre, Bago and Kayin, have the highest number of recorded victims and are believed to have the heaviest concentrations of mines.

Zaw Zaw Aung, 32, has been working at the centre since 2009. He went through a one-month training in Cambodia in August 2012 and did another short training on the manufacturing of prostheses from smoked rubber at the Yangon Rubber Institute in 2014. "We invest a lot to build local expertise," says Reck.

Few know that prosthetic feet are produced in Hpa-an. "At the beginning, we had no capacity and had to order them from Switzerland," explains Zaw Zaw Aung. The devices were of excellent quality but the problem was that they were not compatible with the climate. In the region of Hpa-an, temperatures can reach 36 degrees Celsius and it rains on an average of more than 200 days per year. "The [prosthetic] feet got damaged because of the heat and humidity. They became fragile within a short period of time and did not last."

Constant adaptation

So technicians like Zaw Zaw Aung started to manufacture prosthetic feet on their own at the centre with a technology developed by the ICRC using a thermoplastic called polypropylene combined with locally produced rubber. "The big advantage is that the raw material is readily available in the region as there are many plantations in Mon and Kayin States, and chemicals can be easily purchased in local markets." This contributes to support the local economy.

There are four major stages in the manufacturing of the prostheses: rubber mixing, foot shaping, vulcanizing (steaming) and packaging. Once the mixture of the rubber is ready, one has to pass the slab through a roller to make it flat. Then, one cuts it and wraps layers of rubber around a polypropylene keel. The preparation is then put in a mould in an oven for the vulcanizing phase.

The technique has been constantly improved, taking into account the local reality and challenges. "For instance, to make the feet more solid, we have decided to add fishnets between the layers," explains Reck. "We are also working with the Yangon Rubber Institute to optimize the chemical formula to obtain an adequate balance between softness, shock absorption and resistance of the final product."

More innovation in the future

The technology continues to evolve. Articulated and dynamic prosthetic feet today offer better stability to the users and require less effort to walk in. In 2016, the ICRC and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have started a joint research and development program called Humanitarian Tech Hub. Partners are looking into how new articulated dynamic prosthetic feet could complement the prosthetic feet currently in use. "We could be a pilot place to test such products in Myanmarm" says Reck.

But for the time being, on the outskirts of Hpa-an, in Thamut Nyun village, half an hour into his motorbike ride on a bumpy road, Saw Maung Maung, 42, lost both his legs after stepping on a landmine in 2001. "Thanks to the quality of the prostheses, I am now able to ride even a motorbike,"he says. "This helps me a lot to go to the centre to have my prostheses repaired."

Enjoying a new mobility, he spends his time hunting rats or birds, taps rubber and works on a rambutan orchard. Saw Maung Maung comes to the centre twice a year to repair his prostheses or to get new ones. Like him, almost 3,000 patients received services at the centre last year. One day, thanks to the constant evolution of the technology, his mobility might improve even further. At the same time, local expertise are developed to produce prostheses that last.

The 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census has shown that 4.6 % (2,331,250) of the total population has at least one of the four categories of disability (seeing, hearing, walking or intellectual/mental disorder). There is a higher proportion of people with disabilities amongst the poorest sections of society. 85% of the people with disabilities in Myanmar do not have a job and their education is considerably lower than the national average, with only 10% attending high school.

The ICRC has a long term commitment in Myanmar to help physical disabled people. It started to support a first centre in 1986. Then, a second orthopaedic workshop, the Mingaladon centre, was opened in cooperation with the Ministry of Defence. Today, physical rehabilitation is a major activity the ICRC undertakes. The ICRC supports four centres: one under the MRCS in Hpa-An and three centres under the Ministry of Health and Sports in Mandalay, Myitkyina and Kyaing Tong. In 2017, a budget of around US $1,200,000 is dedicated to run these centres.

World: Disasters and national economic resilience

16 March 2017 - 7:47am
Source: ODI - Humanitarian Practice Network Country: Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, World

By Catherine Simonet, Eva Comba and Emily Wilkinson

This working paper provides an analysis of economic resilience at the national level, presenting a broad picture of changes in resilience to climate extremes over a 42 year period. It focuses on 12 countries in the Sahel, East Africa and Asia that are part of the UK Government funded resilience programme Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED).

In this paper, authors create a typology of risk for countries that can be used to inform approaches to building resilience. Burkina Faso and Mali, for example, have a ‘mono-risk’ profile as they have experienced relatively few events, whereas Nepal has a ‘multi-risk’ profile and has experienced various disasters over the 42 year period analysed. Droughts are seen to have a disproportionate effect compared with other climate-related hazards, especially in Africa, and floods have also been very frequent.

This paper looks at how the national economies of different sets of developing countries are affected by disasters and have been able to ‘bounce back’ afterwards. The findings confirm a negative significant effect of disasters on economic growth: a climate event that affects 1% of the population contributes to a reduction in gross domestic product of 0.05% on average. In particular, the negative effects of climate-induced events are highly significant and important in landlocked countries, a category that includes many BRACED countries. More specifically, shocks seem to be absorbed one year following a disaster, but there is a negative impact on economic growth three years following a disaster.

Read the full report on ODI.

Myanmar: With a stroke of red pen, Myanmar's Rohingya fear losing right to return

16 March 2017 - 7:04am
Source: Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar
  • Annual household survey conducted in Muslim areas of NW Myanmar

  • 75,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence

  • Those marked off lists could face charges if they try to return

  • Myanmar says lists not finalised, not trying to expel Rohingya

  • Thousands of buildings in Rohingya areas marked for demolition

By Simon Lewis and Wa Lone

SITTWE, Myanmar, March 16 (Reuters) - Since security forces swept into their villages in northwestern Myanmar late last year, around 75,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across the nearby border to Bangladesh. Many now fear that the authorities in Myanmar could make their displacement permanent.

Read the full report on Reuters.

World: South-East Asia countries adopt Call for Action to accelerate efforts to End TB

16 March 2017 - 2:39am
Source: World Health Organization Country: Bangladesh, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, World

WHO SEARO Press release 1644

New Delhi, 16 March 2017 - Health Ministers from countries in WHO South-East Asia Region which bear half the global TB burden, and WHO today signed a Call for Action for Ending TB, pledging to scale-up efforts and implement adequately funded, innovative, multisectoral and comprehensive measures to achieve the global target to end the disease by 2030.

“We need to make ending TB our central priority. The disease continues to be a leading cause of death and lost productive years in the crucial age group of 15-49 years causing catastrophic expenses, financial losses, outright impoverishment of individuals and households and massive aggregate costs to national economies. Ending TB is paramount for health and development across the Region,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia, told the Ministerial Meeting Towards Ending TB in the South-East Asia Region, here.

In 2015 TB caused nearly 800 000 deaths in the Region while an estimated 4.74 million new cases were reported. Six of the Region’s countries – Bangladesh, DPR Korea, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand – are among the 30 high TB burden countries globally.

While countries in the Region have been making efforts against TB, the annual decline in TB incidence – which is currently between 1.5% and 2% – is insufficient and needs to be scaled up to at least 10% to 15% for the countries and the Region to meet the End TB targets. The global targets seek to reduce TB mortality by 90% and incidence by 80% by 2030.

Committing to take exceptional action and high-impact interventions as per the Call for Action, the Ministers of Health agreed to lead the implementation of the national TB response through an empowered body reporting to the highest levels of Government.

The Call for Action stresses upon increasing government and partner budgetary allocations to enable national TB plans to be fully funded.

The Ministers discussed setting up of a Regional Innovation to Implementation (I 2 I) fund for accelerated sharing of knowledge, intellectual resources and innovations to reach out and treat all cases.

Dr Khetrapal Singh said countries also need to apply best practices in taking comprehensive TB treatment and prevention programmes to universal scale, while improving quality and making them genuinely ‘people-centered’. They need to tackle poverty, malnutrition, quality of health care services, sub-optimum living conditions and other socio-economic factors that fuel TB.

Opportunities to accelerate progress should be seized with rapid adoption of advances in diagnostics and medicines.

“Together we can and must end TB,” the Regional Director said, while announcing that ‘bending the curve to end TB’ would be a flagship programme of WHO in South-East Asia Region to support member countries take immediate action with an extreme sense of urgency to End TB.

The investments in ending TB are expected to give huge returns, with more than 11 million lives expected to be saved and nearly 60 million infections expected to be prevented across the Region by 2035. This will also complement social and economic growth by averting nearly 300 million DALYs.

Other than the Ministers of Health, officials from health departments of member countries, and representatives of partner organizations such as the World Bank, The Global Fund, Stop TB Partnership, USAID and DFAT Australia, attended the two-day meeting organized by WHO.

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