Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
Myanmar: Statement by Adama Dieng, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, and Jennifer Welsh, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect, on the upcoming elections in Myanmar [EN/MY]
New York, 4 November 2015) The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Jennifer Welsh, called on the Government of Myanmar to take all possible measures to ensure that the upcoming elections of 8 November are held in a peaceful environment.
The Special Advisers expressed concern at the politicization of ethnicity and religion during electoral campaigning in violation of Article 364 of the 2008 Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. “The promotion of a political agenda that is based primarily on the protection of a particular religion or ethnic group is dangerous, particularly in a country as richly diverse as Myanmar”, said the Special Advisers. They raised alarm at reports of increased advocacy of religious hatred against Muslim minorities by religious groups and leaders, as well as by members of political parties, noting that such advocacy may constitute incitement to violence and is prohibited under international law.
While recognizing the importance of the elections for the democratization of Myanmar, the Special Advisers voiced concerns that the electoral process has resulted in further marginalisation of religious minorities, in particular Muslim Rohingya. In the last few months, the Rohingya have been stripped of their right to vote; their freedom of association has been curtailed, impeding them from forming or joining political parties, and their representatives are no longer eligible to stand as candidates for seats in Parliament. The Special Advisers stated that “silencing the voice of one sector of the population brings into question the integrity of any electoral process.” They underlined that the Muslim Rohingya population has been subjected to decades of institutionalized discrimination in law, policies and practice. More recently, four pieces of legislation, also known as the Protection of Race and Religion Bills, have been adopted in what the Special Advisers qualified as a clear step backwards for the protection of fundamental rights in Myanmar, in particular the right to freedom of religion and belief and women’s rights.
According to the Special Advisers, “these bills discriminate against religious minorities and strengthen a rising Buddhist ultra-nationalist movement that is likely to take advantage of this opportunity to advance their platform against Muslims. This is unacceptable in the new Myanmar.” The Special Advisers concluded: “We would like to make three requests. The first is to the current Government of Myanmar, to take all possible measures to guarantee that the elections take place in a climate of freedom, mutual respect and peace. To this end, we urge the Government to publicly condemn and counter any discourse that incites the population to discrimination, hostility and violence based on religion or ethnicity, and to take measures against those responsible. Our second request is to the people of Myanmar: we urge you to use these elections to show the potential of Myanmar to be a nation of tolerance and peace. Finally, our third request is to the leaders who will form the new Government of Myanmar.
We call on you to show a commitment to democracy, the rule of law and human rights. This includes addressing the communal tensions in Rakhine State and developing sustainable solutions that respond to the concerns and needs of all communities, or face the risk of further violence and potentially, more serious crimes. Religious minorities, including the Rohingya, are a part of Myanmar. Building an inclusive and tolerant society is essential for democracy and long-term peace in the country.”
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Myanmar: Historic Myanmar elections presents opportunity for new leaders to commit to children, say UNICEF and Save the Children
Yangon, Myanmar, 4 November 2015 - As Myanmar heads for a historic election on 8th November, UNICEF and Save the Children are calling on potential future leaders to prioritise children and commit to provide them with a fair start in life.
The two children’s organisations have been actively engaging with more than 80 political parties to urge them to prioritise children in their manifestos. As a result, 37 parties have included children in their campaigns, particularly by highlighting education, health, nutrition, social welfare and protection.
“In the months leading up to this election, UNICEF and Save the Children have been campaigning with children and other child-focused agencies in a call to political parties to commit to improving the lives of children should they get elected,” explains Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar. “We hope that this will help put children at the centre of voters choices and that the elections results will have a clear winner - children”.
In Myanmar, over 60% of children still live in poverty. In addition, 1-in-14 do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday, and over a third of children between ages 5 and 18 do not go to school, many having to work to support their families.
“From our experience on the ground, we know that children are eager to learn and want to break free from the poverty cycle. However, with 70% of Myanmar’s families living close to the poverty line, the reality for them is a hungry household, and unaffordable out-of-pocket expenditures for an education and life-saving health services,” said Kelly Stevenson, Country Director for Save the Children. “1.6 million children, or 20% of children in Myanmar between ages 10 and 18, are now employed, some exploited with low wages or forced to work under hazardous conditions. These vulnerable children are also at risk of recruitment into armed forces and trafficking.”
In order to tackle these challenges for children, UNICEF and Save the Children suggest a series of policy changes that can help to dramatically improve the lives of children and their families. These include:
Increasing the government budget share for education, health and social welfare from 9% to 15% Consolidating and fully implementing recently established frameworks that will benefit children, such as the Social Protection Strategic Plan, the National Education Sector Plan and the finalisation of the draft Child Law
Proposing a new compact for children, such as prioritising the first 1,000 days of life and achieving free and compulsory education
Setting bold new targets for children, so they have an equal chance at surviving and thriving, such as 100% birth registration by 2017, reduce under five mortality rate and malnutrition by 50% by 2020, and reduce school drop out after the age of 10 by 70% .
“This election is a time to inspire the future leaders to become champions for children in the new Union Parliament”, said Bertrand Bainvel. “Our mission doesn’t end after the elections. We are committed to keep working with elected candidates, so that they keep their promises to children.”
UNICEF in Myanmar
UNICEF has been working with the Government and the people of Myanmar since 1950. In partnership with the Government and the civil society, UNICEF’s current focus of work aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation. For more information about UNICEF and its work in Myanmar.
Please visit: http://www.unicef.org/myanmar.
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unicefmyanmar
Save the Children
Save the Children has worked in Myanmar since 1995, helping children to access essential services such as healthcare and education. Since then, Save the Children has expanded its programmes within the country, supporting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families to access nutritious foods, gainful employment and financial services, community protection, child rights, clean water and sanitation, malaria and TB control and HIV/AIDS treatment. In 2014, Save the Children reached over 1.2 million children.
For more information, please contact:
Mariana Palavra, Communication Specialist, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, (+95) 9795452618, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynette Lim, Communications Manager, Save the Children, Tel: +95 9250638569, +95 9250638569, email@example.com
4 November 2015 – As the historic elections in Myanmar draws closer, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children urged potential leaders of the country to prioritise children and commit to providing them with a fair start in life.
“In the months leading up to this election, UNICEF and Save the Children have been campaigning with children and other child-focused agencies in a call to political parties to commit to improving the lives of children should they get elected,” explains Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar in a press release.
UNICEF said that ahead of the elections on November 8, the two organizations engaged with over 80 political parties in the country, urging them to prioritise children in their manifestos, which led to 37 parties including children in their campaigns, particularly by highlighting education, health, nutrition, social welfare and protection.
“We hope that this will help put children at the centre of voters' choices and that the elections results will have a clear winner- children,” said Mr. Bainvel.
According to UNICEF estimates, over 60 per cent children in Myanmar still live in poverty and about one in 14 do not live to the age of five. In addition, over a third of children aged between five and 18 do not go to school as many work to support their families.
“From our experience on the ground, we know that children are eager to learn and want to break free from the poverty cycle,” said Kelly Stevenson, Country Director for Save the Children.
She explains that as 70 per cent of Myanmar's families live close to the poverty line, the reality for them is a hungry household, and unaffordable out-of-pocket expenditures for an education and life-saving health services.
“Around 1.6 million children, or 20 percent of children in Myanmar between ages 10 and 18, are now employed, some exploited with low wages or forced to work under hazardous conditions. These vulnerable children are also at risk of recruitment into armed forces and trafficking,” Ms. Stevenson added.
The two organizations recommended a series of policy changes that can help dramatically improve the lives of children and their families.
This includes increasing government budget for education, health and social welfare from 9 to 15 per cent, consolidate and implement recently established frameworks that will benefit children such as Social Protection Strategic Plan, National Education Sector Plan and finalisation of the draft Child Law.
The two organizations also suggested setting up a new compact for children such as prioritising the first 1,000 days of life and providing free and compulsory education. They also recommended setting bold new targets for them such as universal birth registration by 2017, reduce under five mortality rate and malnutrition by 50 percent by 2020, and reduce school drop out after the age of 10 by 70 percent.
Mr. Bainvel emphasized that Myanmar's upcoming election is a time for future leaders to become “champions for children in the new Union Parliament”.
“Our mission doesn't end after the elections. We are committed to keep working with elected candidates, so that they keep their promises to children,” he added.
World: The Market Monitor - Trends and impacts of staple food prices in vulnerable countries, Issue 29 - October 2015
This bulletin examines trends in staple food and fuel prices, the cost of the basic food basket and consumer price indices for 70 countries in the third quarter of 2015 (July to September).1 The maps on pages 6–7 disaggregate the impact analysis to sub-national level.
• FAO’s global cereal price index still continued to fall in Q3-2015, down 12.7 percent year-on-year and is now at 2010 levels.
• The real price2 of wheat dropped a further 14 percent over the last quarter. Prices are 30 percent lower than in Q3-2014, thanks to record production in 2015, abundant global supply and strong export competition.
• The real price of maize has dropped 2 percent since Q2-2015 and is 3 percent lower than in Q3-2014. However, global production 2015/16 is projected to be lower than this year.
• The real price of rice has fallen by 1 percent since Q2-2015 and is 15 percent lower than Q3 last year.
Despite reduced production amid increased global utilisation, weakened import demand has kept rice prices in check.
• In Q3-2015, the real price of crude oil dropped by 19 percent compared with Q2-2015 and reached a level last seen in 2004.
• The cost of the minimum food basket increased severely (>10%) during Q3-2015 in four countries:
Ghana, Myanmar, Syria and Tanzania. High increases (5–10%) were seen in Benin, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya and Mali. In the other monitored countries, the change was low or moderate (<5%).
• Price spikes, as monitored by ALPS (Alert for Price Spikes), are evident in 16 countries, particularly in Ghana, India, Malawi, Myanmar, South Sudan,
Sudan and Yemen (see the map below).3 These spikes indicate crisis levels for the two most important staples in the country, whether they are either cassava, maize, rice, wheat, sorghum or sugar.
On 6 October 2015, fighting broke out between the Myanmar Military and Shan State Army North (SSA-N) forces in Monghsu Township, central Shan State, and has continued since then. As of 30 October, around 6,000 people have been displaced, with those displaced staying in monasteries and IDP camps in Monghsu and Kyethi townships. This includes an estimated 1,500 people displaced following clashes on 29 October. Displaced people who were staying in Wan Hai, as well as villagers from this area, have reportedly fled to Wan Hsaw and other areas following recent fighting. This information is not yet confirmed and the situation remains fluid.
Heavy rains caused floods and landslides in several parts of Myanmar since June 2015. On 30 July, Cyclone Komen made landfall in Bangladesh, bringing strong winds and additional heavy rains to the country, which resulted in widespread flooding across 12 of the country’s 14 states and regions (Ayeyarwady, Bago, Chin, Kachin, Kayin, Magway, Mandalay, Mon, Rakhine, Sagaing, Shan, Yangon). On 31 July, the President declared Chin and Rakhine states, and Magway and Sagaing regions as natural disaster zones.
According to the National Natural Disaster Management Committee (NNDMC), 125 people were killed and some 1.7 million people were temporarily displaced by floods and landslides. Almost all of the displaced people had returned to their villages of origin by the end of September, leaving only about 10,000 people in evacuation centres (mainly in Sagaing Region and Chin State) awaiting relocation. The Government has said it expects most of these remaining displaced people to return to their villages of origin or to be relocated by the end of October, although a portion of these people may be in temporary accommodation for longer, particularly in the case of people who are going to be permanently relocated to new sites.
The NNDMC identified Hakha in Chin State, Kale in Sagaing Region, Pwintbyu in Magway Region, and Minbya and Mrauk-U in Rakhine as the five most affected townships where a total of 229,600 people were affected by the floods. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, over 1.1 million acres of farmlands have been inundated, with more than 872,000 acres destroyed, as of 4 October. So far, 495,000 acres have since been re-cultivated. Damage to crops and arable land will disrupt the planting season and pose a risk to long-term food security.
While the water has receded in most areas, many roads and bridges were destroyed in the worst affected states and regions. The roads in Chin State were particularly badly affected and continue to pose a major logistical challenge for assessments and assistance delivery.
Multi-sectoral Initial Rapid Assessments (MIRA) were conducted in 317 locations of 34 townships in Ayeyarwady, Bago, Chin, Magway, Rakhine and Sagaing, covering close to 200,000 people. Other needs assessments were also carried out in areas not covered by the MIRA assessments in Chin and Rakhine states. According to the Rakhine State Government (RSG), Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Minbya, Maungdaw and Mrauk-U townships were the most severely affected areas in Rakhine State. In many parts of Rahine State, floods and salt water severely damaged the paddy fields. A major concern remains water contamination, as most villages use water ponds for drinking water and many ponds were flooded and contaminated.
Logistical difficulties have made it difficult for the Government and humanitarian organizations to respond to the most urgent needs of displaced people and other affected people in Chin State, and cold temperatures have further exacerbated the situation for people living in tents and other temporary accommodation. In Magway Region, two of the worst affected townships are Pwintbyu and Sidoktaya. According to RRD, Kale is the hardest hit township in Sagaing Region, with some 78,978 people affected. In Ayeyarwady Region, some 500,000 people were affected or displaced by floods.
On 4 August, the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar welcomed international assistance for the flood response. Priority humanitarian needs include food, water and sanitation services, shelter and access to emergency health care. Livelihood support, health and education assistance and other interventions are also needed for the early recovery phase.
Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Wednesday 11/4/2015 - 05:27 GMT | 715 words
by Kelly MACNAMARA
When hundreds of election observers fan out across Myanmar for Sunday's landmark poll, their boss Ko Sai will be relishing a very personal milestone -- his first chance to vote in a ballot that could reshape the political landscape after decades of military dominance.
Ko Sai, whose full name is Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint, is in charge of a network of 2,000 domestic observers monitoring the election, which pits Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition against the army-backed ruling party.
But as with many people of his generation, the 38-year-old has never marked a ballot paper.
"I haven't had the experience inside a polling station properly yet. It is crazy," he told AFP in the bustling Yangon command centre for his People's Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE).
He was too young to vote in 1990, when Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a nationwide vote by a landslide.
The generals ignored that result, embarking on a wave of repression that saw thousands of critics locked up and cast a shadow over a generation.
The next election was held in 2010, yet despite the 20-year wait Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint opted not to vote in polls boycotted by the NLD and seen as unfair.
Those flawed polls ushered in the current quasi-civilian government that has set the country on the path to reform.
With a history of disenfranchisement, he believes Sunday's vote will be a game-changer for Myanmar's long-repressed people, explaining his belief that the "experience is much more valuable than the outcome".
"The election result might not bring the country democracy, but I think having the opportunity to be involved, that empowers the people," he said.
- 'Never afraid' -
As election day edges nearer, anticipation and anxiety is building at the NLD's bustling headquarters in downtown Yangon.
Myint Myint San watches the frantic preparations with the calm of someone who has lived through Myanmar's treacherous politics.
The 70-year-old was born five days before Suu Kyi and has supported Myanmar's most famous activist since mass uprisings against military rule in 1988 that were brutally crushed by the army.
"We were under such pressure at that time," she told AFP, wearing a traditional dress in the vibrant red of the NLD.
Arrested in 2002 for supporting Suu Kyi, she spent four months in jail, largely in Yangon's notorious Insein prison.
"There were no human rights. We barely even ate and the curry they gave us smelled like cockroach droppings," she said.
But the grandmother said she was "never afraid because I did nothing wrong."
In her eyes, Suu Kyi, who was unable to see her children or dying husband during 15 years of house arrest under the junta, is a "hero" for her personal sacrifice.
Sunday's poll is a key shot at changing the system and Myint Myint San is confident the electorate will seize the moment after years of struggle and hardship.
"I don't want this to happen to the next generation," she said.
- Economy rules -
Nearly half a century under military rule drove Myanmar -- once the rice bowl of Asia -- into economic ruin.
Reforms since the end of outright military rule in 2011 have delivered a shot-in-the arm for the economy and enticed billions of dollars of foreign investment to the frontier market of 51 million.
But life expectancy remains among the lowest in the region and 37 percent of the population still live in poverty according to the World Bank.
"Whichever party wins, they need to solve the problems of ordinary people," said Aung Chit Mhuu a trishaw rider whose battered vehicle sports the lion insignia of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party.
Hundreds of thousands will not get the chance to have their say on Sunday.
Zin Mar Oo, 23, supports her family in rural central Magway division by hauling concrete on Yangon construction sites for less than $4 a day.
She missed the deadline to register in Yangon and the cost of travelling home for the vote is beyond her means.
But she is not apathetic.
"I want Aung San Suu Kyi to win. I want this economic system to change," she told AFP.
But she says the people will have to be patient.
"The changes won't come right away. We have to wait."
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Key Elements of Electoral Process Structurally Unfair, Discriminatory
(Rangoon, November 4, 2015) – Burma’s parliamentary election slated for November 8, 2015, is fundamentally flawed, depriving Burmese of their right to freely elect their government, Human Rights Watch said today. The electoral process is undermined by systematic and structural problems including the lack of an independent election commission, ruling party dominance of state media, the reservation of 25 percent of seats for the military, discriminatory voter registration laws, and mass disenfranchisement of voters in some parts of the country.
“Long lines of voters on November 8 won’t make these fundamentally flawed elections free and fair,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Burma’s parliamentary election is the key test of the military-backed government’s commitment to reforms and to building a democratic state. This election, however, suffers from critical flaws, such as a biased election commission, a ruling party-dominated state media, and laws and policies preventing Rohingya and others from voting and standing as candidates.”
The election will be Burma’s first contested national polls since 1990, when the military annulled an overwhelming victory by the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).
Many internationally recognized elements for a free and fair election are missing from Burma’s election process as detailed below, Human Rights Watch said. International standards include the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, and movement; candidates and voters participating in an environment free from violence, threats and intimidation; universal and equal suffrage; the right to stand for election; the right to vote; the right to a secret ballot; and freedom from discrimination. Enforcement of these rights requires an election administration that acts in an effective, impartial, independent, and accountable manner; equal access for candidates and political parties to state resources; equal access for candidates and political parties to unbiased state media; and an independent and impartial mechanism to resolve complaints and disputes.
One key concern is the lack of independence and impartiality of the Union Election Commission (UEC), both at the national and local levels, Human Rights Watch said. Chairman U Tin Aye, a former army general and member of parliament from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) who stepped down immediately before taking the position of UEC chairman, has expressed views demonstrating a lack of impartiality. In June 2015, he said, “As a chairman, I am not supposed to have attachment to the party…. I have an attachment, but I don’t put it at the forefront of my mind…. I want the USDP to win, but to win fairly, not by cheating.”
In April, he defended the constitutional provision guaranteeing 25 percent of parliamentary seats to serving military officers, claiming the quota was needed to avert a future coup. While promising that the 2015 elections would be free and fair, he said they would be conducted in “disciplined democracy style,” using rhetoric closely associated with past Burmese military governments. On March 27, during the annual Armed Forces Day parade in the capital, Naypyidaw, Tin Aye wore his military uniform during the ceremony, saying: “I would give up my life to wear my uniform. I wear it because I want to. That’s why I wear it even if I have to quit [the UEC] because of that. But there is no law saying I should resign for wearing [my] uniform.”
The election procedures also lack appropriate mechanisms for resolving complaints, Human Rights Watch said. Complaints will be brought before ad hoc tribunals set up under the UEC, with a panel of three arbiters comprised of election commissioners. But in violation of international norms, complainants can only appeal a tribunal’s final decision to the UEC, whose ruling is final and made without judicial oversight.
The counting of ballots at the village level is also a matter of concern, Human Rights Watch said. Counting at the village level instead of mixing ballots with other villages and counting at the district or township level could lead to threats and retaliation against specific villages by the authorities on the basis of their vote.
“The sight of mass campaign rallies is a positive sign, but they don’t make up for an electoral system that systematically favors one party over others,” Adams said. “The system lacks an independent and impartial process to resolve complaints and major controversies once the voting has ended.”
Under Burma’s 2008 constitution, promulgated by the Burmese military after a sham referendum held to ensure the protection of its interests, only 75 percent of seats in Burma’s parliament are up for election, while 25 percent of seats in both the upper and lower houses are reserved for serving military appointees. The military created and remains allied with the ruling USDP, meaning any opposition coalition must win over two-thirds of the remaining seats to form a majority in the parliament. In contrast, the USDP needs to win just over one-third of the seats to obtain an effective majority.
The constitution also dictates that the president, who will be elected in 2016 by the parliament established by the November 8 elections, cannot have a spouse or children possessing foreign citizenship, a provision aimed at opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose two sons hold foreign passports.
Even if Burmese opposition parties win a parliamentary majority in the election, they will be unable to amend the constitution without votes from among the 25 percent of MPs appointed by the military, as the constitution requires a 75 percent vote to amend the charter. A recent effort led by opposition party MPs to pass a constitutional amendment to reduce the threshold to 70 per cent, thereby removing the military’s veto, was voted down.
The constitution also includes provisions that allow the military to dismiss parliament in the event of a “national emergency.”
“An election can’t be considered fair if 25 percent of the seats are handed to the military – and the party it supports – before a single vote is even cast,” Adams said. “Just because Burma’s political parties have no choice but to play against a stacked deck doesn’t mean the deck isn’t stacked.”
For more information on the principal concerns regarding Burma’s 2015 elections, please see below.
To view the Human Rights Watch Burma Elections 2015 blog, please visit: https://www.hrw.org/blog-feed/burma-elections-2015
To view the Human Rights Watch Burma / Myanmar Facebook page, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/Human-Rights-Watch-Burma-Myanmar-1512219955770512/
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Burma, please visit: https://www.hrw.org/asia/burma
Lack of Independence and Impartiality of the Union Election Commission
The UEC lacks independence and has demonstrated a pro-USDP and military bias. As discussed above, the UEC chairman, U Tin Aye, is a former lieutenant-general and USDP member of parliament, who has defended the military in an inappropriate way for a supposedly impartial official.
The UEC maintains an exceptional level of control over all election matters. Its operations are not subject to supervision by the judiciary or parliament. Its broad mandate, encompassing executive, judicial, and legislative functions, is defined in the 2008 constitution: “To monitor and decide the fate of political parties, arrange or postpone or cancel election schedules, hold elections, judge election-related cases, and investigate members of parliament if just one percent of their constituents complain and fire them if allegations are found true.” Article 402 of the constitution further enshrines its unchecked authority: “The resolution and functions made by the Union Election Commission on the following matters shall be final and conclusive: (a) election functions; (b) appeals and revisions relating to the resolutions and orders of the election tribunals; (c) matters taken under the law relating to political party.”
As described in a Carter Center monitoring report, “In all six states and regions visited, political parties and civil society expressed concern that sub-commissions might not act independently if put under pressure by local government officials.”
A proposal from opposition parties calling for a three to five year interval between working for a political party and serving on the commission was rejected, citing the UEC’s limited legislative scope.
The majority of commissioners are former military generals. The president, responsible for all UEC appointments without parliamentary oversight, has the authority to dismiss commissioners for various reasons including “misconduct,” potentially silencing commissioners who might adopt positions contrary to the military or the government.
On August 29, 2015, the UEC announced a ban on any political campaign content that disrespects the military or the 2008 constitution in the official state media. In May 2014, in response to comments that Aung San Suu Kyi made at a rally calling for amending the military’s constitutional veto power, the UEC threatened to reject the NLD’s registration for the 2015 elections, claiming that challenging the military to prove its willingness to entertain constitutional reform violated the political party law.
On August 3, 2015, the UEC issued restrictions on election day coverage by journalists, limiting them to being accredited to one township, a regulation that was later extended to the district level after a complaint by the Interim Press Council.
The Burmese government has taken several steps to disenfranchise Rohingya Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities in the lead-up to the election. Despite lack of citizenship, many Rohingya were allowed to participate in Burma’s 2010 and 2012 elections. In February 2015, however, the government announced that temporary registration certificates (“white cards”) provided to many minorities as provisional citizenship documents would expire in March, in doing so revoking their voter eligibility. The decision was aimed at the Rohingya and disenfranchised approximately 700,000 Rohingya, as well as tens of thousands of ethnic Chinese and Indians.
Displaced people and migrant workers also face a high risk of being denied access to vote. Internal migrants are required to provide certification that verifies their current residence for a minimum of 180 days, reinforcing their vulnerability to exploitation and intimidation by local authorities. Years of armed conflict and violence against religious minorities have led to an estimated 660,000 displaced persons nationwide, making the effects of this countrywide disenfranchisement severe. In addition, Burmese living abroad – refugees, migrant workers, and citizens-in-exile – were given limited access to advance voter registration. Only about 19,000 registered to vote absentee before the deadline, out of an estimated two to five million who live overseas.
The UEC rejected a total of 88 candidates who submitted bids to run, citing election laws that bar candidates based on citizenship. One-third of the rejected candidates were Rohingya applicants from Arakan State, including several candidates who had run in prior elections without issue. Burma’s discriminatory citizenship law effectively denies most Rohingya citizenship, even though many of their families have lived in Burma for generations.
Problems with Electoral Rolls
While the UEC has made efforts to improve the credibility of its election management, significant problems remain. Despite reaching the end of the voter roll review process, the lists continue to be plagued by numerous inaccuracies with missing and incorrect personal data, in spite of several million corrections to the digitized list being made so far. The intended release date of the final lists, set to take place on November 2, was postponed as officials attempt to integrate mass changes with limited office and staff resources.
Limitations on Election Observation
Election observers planning to monitor polls are challenged by limits on resources and training. Civil society monitors have been active only one year and will cover less than one-third of all townships. In rural areas, local military officials or leaders with military ties may have the ability to hold sway over how villagers vote, making it possible that independent and secret voting will be imperiled in parts of the country falling outside of national or international observation.
Ruling Party Dominance of State Media
Despite a flourishing and generally open print media sector in Burma since 2012, the government has used state media, including newspapers such as Myanmar Alin, New Light of Myanmar, and Kyemon; state television stations including the military-controlled TV station Myawaddy; and state radio to rigidly maintain government lines and promote internal candidates. In a media monitoring report of the election period, the Myanmar Institute for Democracy found that the state-owned sources have failed to present balanced or fair election coverage, with an absence of critical or independent viewpoints. State media has been used as a mouthpiece for updates on USDP projects and achievements, as well as a forum for positive coverage of the president, military, and USDP candidates. In government-funded newspapers, 96 percent of USDP coverage was positive in tone (3 percent neutral, 1 percent negative), while any coverage of opposition parties, including the NLD, was “very marginal.”
Lack of Independent and Impartial Complaints Mechanisms
For pre-election complaints, plans to establish mediation committees at the state/region, district, and township levels were carried out in some locations, and state-level committees were involved in the resolution of disputes in Kachin and Arakan States.
However, overall the UEC has failed to develop appropriate procedures for handling complaints during the electoral process. In May, the development of election tribunals to handle post-election complaints was announced. The ad hoc tribunals will be set up under the purview of the UEC, with a panel of three arbiters comprised of election commissioners. Complainants can only appeal the tribunal’s final decision to the UEC, whose ruling is final and made without judicial oversight.
The gFSC global dashboard provides a quick snapshot of the country-level Food Security Clusters around the world. The updated dasboard shows that as of October 2015, the country-level Food Security Clusters remain only at 52 percent funded against their yearly requirements
Push to include mitigation, preparation, response and recovery in regional curricula moves forward following nine country seminar
At least a dozen Afghan schoolgirls were trampled to death as they and others tried to flee to safety once the deadly 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck their country and Pakistan earlier this week. Their deaths were yet another tragic reminder of how integrating risk reduction in education is becoming a moral imperative in a region where such disasters are occurring with increasing frequency.
Asia-Pacific is the most disaster-prone region in the world, according to the latest Asia-Pacific Disaster Report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The estimated 1,625 disasters in Asia-Pacific over the past decade account for more than 40% of the global total and cost half a million people their lives. Violence in the region – terror attacks, politically fuelled clashes, etc – only compounds this natural volatility.
Addressing a recent regional seminar on this topic, UNESCO Bangkok Director Gwang-Jo Kim said that there is a pressing need for education that teaches people skills for how best to mitigate, prepare for and respond to conflicts and disasters as well as paths to recovery.
“Education has a vital role to play in this regard, as it can contribute strongly to building resilience to disasters and conflicts and enhancing capacities of the countries in the region to mitigate their effects,” he said.
Mr Kim was speaking at the “Regional Seminar on Integrating Conflict and Disaster Risk Reduction into Education Sector Plans, Curricula and Budgets” held in Bangkok from 19-23 October.
The seminar was attended by approximately 60 people, including representatives of education and related ministries from nine Asia-Pacific countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Thailand and the Philippines.
The seminar provided country representatives the opportunity to exchange ideas with experts and learn more about the practical implications of integrating C/DRR into education planning – such as costing, budgeting, etc – as well as to gain concrete tools and guidelines to make these changes in their national contexts.
Isiye Ndombi, Deputy Regional Director of UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (UNICEF EAPRO), noted that the benefits of C/DRR education could carry over for generations.
“We know that when disaster risk reduction is mainstreamed in learning and schools, it not only saves lives but the children grow to be adults who internalize the virtues of C/DRR in their daily lives,” he said. “The narrative of inter-connected risks that impact the lives of children and vulnerable groups should always be the centre of attention for the education sector.”
Mr Ndombi said the Bangkok meeting offered a chance to push forward the outcomes of the November 2014 Regional Consultation on Education and Resilience which took place in Manila, hosted by SEAMEO-INNOTECH.
“Our joint agreements and recommendations during the November 2014 Regional Consultation can now be put into action and applied to your respective policies, plans and programmes,” he said. “Actualization of the commitments set forth in the regional consultation, can now be shared with all – forming a community of practice and benchmarks, for all of us to adapt in our respective contexts.”
All representatives of organizing agencies stressed their commitment to improving C/DRR education in the region, with Mr Kim saying that UNESCO is keen to offer technical assistance to countries making this change.
Gatot Hari Priowirjanto, Director of the Southeast Asia Ministers of Education Organization Secretariat (SEAMES), outlined how “resiliency in the face of emergencies (conflicts, extreme weather and natural disasters) was on the list of his organization’s seven priority areas for 2015-2035.
“This is a reflection of how crucial we believe it is to prepare schools’ leaders, teachers and students as well as local communities in managing and maintaining the delivery of education services pertaining to [resiliency in the face of emergencies],” he said.
The workshop was organized by UNESCO Bangkok and partners UNICEF EAPRO, SEAMES, the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (UNESCO-IIEP), SEAMEO’s Regional Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology (SEAMEO INNOTECH), and PEIC (Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict), a programme of the Education Above All Foundation based in Qatar.
Snapshot 28 October – 3 November 2015
Syria: 1 million more people are in need of humanitarian assistance than a year ago, as the total is now at 13.5 million. 6.6 million people are internally displaced, with 120,000 newly displaced in Aleppo, Hama, and Idleb governorates. Shelter, food, and WASH are reported as priority needs for the newly displaced.
CAR: After four members of the UPC political party were killed in an attack in Bangui, three other people were killed in reprisals. Communal violence escalated in the following days. The increase in violence in the country since September has affected food security.
Iraq: 26 residents of Camp Hurriya were killed as Al Mukhtar Army, an Iraqi Shia militia, launched 15 rockets on the camp near Baghdad, which houses Iranian exiles. Violence has caused over 18,000 civilian casualties in 2015, according to the UN, and displaced nearly 3.2 million. Heavy rains in late October have compounded the humanitarian situation, flooding areas of Baghdad, Anbar, Salah al Din, and Diyala.
Updated: 03/11/2015. Next update: 10/11/2015
[Nay Pyi Taw – November 2] More than 51,000 solar lamps that will light up 25,649 polling stations with no or unreliable electricity supply, were handed over to the Union Electoral Commission (UEC) in Nay Pyi Taw last week.
The purchase of the solar lamps was facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with funding support from Japan.
The Ambassador of Japan H.E. Mr. Tateshi Higuchi handed over 51,298 solar lamps to the UEC Chairman U Tin Aye last Friday. These lamps are to provide suitable lighting in the 25,649 polling stations that the UEC estimate do not have access to electricity for the upcoming elections.
“Holding a free and fair election is very important not only for the Myanmar people but also for the international community. I sincerely wish that the solar lamps provided by the Government of Japan can contribute to this goal,” said HE Mr. Higuchi.
Mr Kurbanov thanked Ambassador Higuchi for the continued support of Japan for the development of elections in Myanmar.
“After a difficult monsoon season, the need for solar lamps is even clearer. These lamps will ensure that the counting can take place as planned across Myanmar regardless of local electricity supply and weather conditions,” said UNDP Country Director Toily Kurbanov.
The solar lamps provide up to 12 hours of light, which will enable the Union Electoral Commission to meet an important goal of electoral administration – to count ballot papers swiftly and accurately at a local level. Being able to count locally, in the presence of local observers and candidate’s agents, will help build confidence in the integrity of the results as they are compiled and collated by the Commission.
UNDP supports the development of democratic governance in Myanmar. For the upcoming elections, UNDP has supported the Union Electoral Commission with the purchase of the solar lamps and indelible ink for use in the polling stations. UNDP has also conducted candidate information sessions and workshops on electoral security coordination.
Contact Information Shobhna Decloitre Communications Specialist UNDP Myanmar firstname.lastname@example.org
This MOP presents a detailed implementation plan to be implemented with FY 2016 funds in the Greater Mekong Subregion. This document reviews the current status of malaria control policies and interventions, describes progress to date, identifies challenges and unmet needs, and describes planned activities under PMI.
By Amy Sawitta Lefevre
MAE SOT, Thailand, Nov 3 (Reuters) - For refugees from Myanmar living in camps just across the border in Thailand, a landmark election in their homeland triggers mixed emotions - hope that a hated government will be defeated, and fear of the uncertain future such an upheaval might bring.
October 2015 – Trends
Central African Republic, Israel/Palestine, Macedonia, Republic of Congo, South China Sea, Turkey
November 2015 – Watchlist
- Conflict risk alerts
- Conflict resolution opportunities
On 15 October, the heads of eight Burmese armed groups signed a ceasefire with the Myanmar Government. Although this agreement, which was signed after more than two years of intense negotiations, is historical, it is also an admission of defeat for President U Thein Sein, who wanted a nationwide ceasefire to be agreed with all armed ethnic groups before the general elections that are scheduled for 8 November. The elections also constitute a significant event for Myanmar as they mark a key stage in its political, social, and economic transition. They are also the first elections that can be classed as transparent and inclusive since the country gained its independence in 1948.
If these two events, inextricably linked, seem set to permanently mark Myanmar’s future, they also give rise to great challenges. This edition enables us to learn more about the main issues faced by the international community involved in this context and presents some of the actions undertaken by the Swiss administration and civil society to address these challenges.
MYITKYINA, Myanmar, Oct 28 (UNHCR) – Htoi Pan vividly recalls the moment when the fighter jets streaked across the sky over her village in northern Myanmar, piercing the calm of that late June morning.
A former resident of Sumprabum in Kachin state, Htoi Pan, in her 20s, and her neighbours were aware what the sights and sounds of war meant -- their village had become the latest frontline in the country's renewed internal conflict.
"If there had been just one explosion, we wouldn't have been so shocked. It happens sometimes [when landmines go off]," she said. "But as soon as we heard a series of explosions and then the rattling of gunfire, we knew that something was wrong."
Since a 17-year-old ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar armed forces fell apart in 2011, the two sides have clashed frequently across Kachin State in the country's northeast. Among those displaced by the fighting are around 1,200 villagers whose wellbeing is of particular concern to UNHCR.
To escape the fighting, Htoi Pan*, her husband and their young children fled into the jungle with their neighbours. They returned a few days later after assurances that the fighting had stopped, only to take off again after gun battles and airstrikes resumed two weeks later.
Their flight coincided with the wet season in Myanmar. Constant downpours made it hard for Htoi Pan's young family to stay warm and dry. "We had to chop trees to make flooring to sleep on, and then put a tarpaulin on top to cover ourselves," she explained.
The young family were able to leave the area and reach the safety of a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in the Kachin capital of Myitkyina. But almost four months after the June clashes, many have been less fortunate and are now facing an increasingly desperate situation.
Unable to leave the jungle area where they have sought safety, they are in dire need of emergency shelter, food and medicine. Initial reports suggest that some 40 per cent of the trapped population are children under the age of 15.
Ma Naw *, a young man who spoke to UNHCR, described having to flee through "the jungle route" in order to avoid detection by combatants. He was the only person in his immediate family to have been able to undertake the difficult journey, which involved a long trek through the jungle as well as boat and bus rides. His parents and relatives remain in the area.
"We are extremely concerned for the civilians displaced by the fighting in Sumprabum, particularly as they include vulnerable individuals such as women, children, the elderly and those with medical conditions and disabilities. They urgently need humanitarian assistance," said Giuseppe de Vincentiis, UNHCR Representative in Myanmar.
"As sporadic clashes continue, we urge all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and renew our appeal for humanitarian access to be granted so that these displaced people can be provided with life-saving assistance and basic services," de Vincentiis added. UNHCR and fellow humanitarian organisations, both local and international, have yet to be officially given permission to access the population and deliver emergency aid.
By Kasita Rochanakorn in Myitkyina, Myanmar
*Names have been changed for protection reasons.
Nearly 714,000 people remain displaced across Regions I, II, III and the Cordillera Administrative Region, two weeks after Typhoon Koppu (known locally as Lando) made landfall in the Philippines. Around 80 per cent of those displaced are in Regions I and III where damage to houses was most severe.
According to the Government, 9,100 people (2,400 families) are in 37 evacuation centres. An additional 704,000 people (164,000 families) are staying with relatives and friends or in the open nearby their damaged homes. As of 1 Nov, there were 48 confirmed deaths, mainly from drowning and landslides. Another 83 people were injured and 4 are missing. The Philippines Humanitarian Country Team, in consultation with line departments, is planning targeted and coordinated assistance in health, agriculture and emergency shelter.
48 people dead
714,000 people displaced
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Assessment reports confirm the occurrence of frost in July and August. Coupled with the drought, the frost has impacted economic and agricultural activities, as well as access to education and health services. According to the Government, the current situation will become devastating if the drought continues for another three to four months.
Key needs include the provision of drinking water and purification tablets, as well as food. According to the Government, about 2.4 million people are affected by drought, of which 1 million people live in the most severely affected regions.
2.4 million people affected
Fighting that broke out between the Myanmar Military and Shan State Army North (SSA-N) forces in Mongshu Township, Shan State has continued, causing further displacement. According to local organisations and INGOs, up to 6,000 people remain displaced staying in monasteries and IDP camps. Assessments undertaken by INGOs and local CSOs identified immediate needs in hygiene kits, clothing, blankets, food, health, shelter and WASH. INGOs and local organisations are providing assistance to those displaced, including food, hygiene kits and other non-food items, but further assistance is needed.
6,000 people displaced
Rationing and water deliveries are underway to the worst hit parts of the Solomon Islands with predictions that below average rainfall will continue until February next year. Some schools, police stations and hospitals are already facing closure because of water shortages. Some villagers are walking 2-3 hours to get clean drinking water and work is being suspended for half-days in the worst hit areas to allow for water collection.
Nepali police have cleared protesters from the Nepal/India border crossing at Birgunj which was closed for over 40 days. This raises hopes that fuel shortages which have been hampering humanitarian relief, will ease. Nevertheless it is expected that it will take at least several weeks before the situation returns to normal. In the meantime the CERF has allocated US$1.2 million for strengthened UNHAS air lift capacity which will move much needed supplies to communities living above 1,500m before the onset of winter.
Myitkyina, Kachin State - UNFPA is conducting extensive training for civil society organizations (CSOs) and their networks to build capacity on how to interpret the census data and use it for local development and planning. Underpinning these efforts is that the success of the census is measured by how broadly and effectively the results are used for planning and programming, not just by Government but by the people of Myanmar. UNFPA and the Myanmar government are rolling out an ambitious training programme, with teams made up of both government staff and civil society representatives, who will cascade the training through States to Districts, reaching an estimated 5,460 local stakeholders across the country between October and December 2015.
In Myitkyina, Kachin State, a three day workshop at the District level took place from 12th October - 14th October 2015. The workshop was led by at a team of three facilitators; one from the immigration office at the district level, an immigration officer from the Department of Population and a facilitator from a CSO. The workshop provided a conducive atmosphere for open dialogue about the census data and initiated discussions on how census data clarified specific development issues and challenges in Kachin State.
A total of 57 participants attended the training in Myitkyina. Ma Myint Myint Toe, an English teacher at the University of Computer Studies in Myitkyina said: “The census data will help develop our Nation and can improve conditions in Kachin State, particularly in remote areas such as Putao where many children cannot attend school regularly due to poverty, a lack of transportation and accommodation for teachers.”
Increasingly through these trainings, people are beginning to understand the value of the census data and are more aware that the census was not simply a headcount of the population. Further trainings will be conducted for CSOs next years.
As Ma Thin Thin Myat, a volunteer with the Red Cross in Myitkyina said: “When delivering first aid kits we need to know the size of the population in a specific area, therefore this information will help us.” This truly illustrates the importance of Myanmar having accurate data for the first time in more than three decades. Policy, planning and services improvement in areas such as education, job creation, amenities, and health services can now be developed based on hard data which will increase the impact of programmes and ensure that resources are directed to those areas that need them most.
Date: October 2015
July 2015 Myanmar was strike by the worst flood in the past forty years, affecting twelve of the fourteen states of the country. Unusually heavy monsoon rain coupled with a cyclone led to severe flooding in Myanmar for months, displacing one million seven hundred thousand people and inundated thousands of paddy fields. Government officials in Yangon worked with local Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers to provide rice seeds to 5,106 farmers in the townships of Hmawbi and Taikyi covering 28,906 acres of rice paddies.
Rice paddies, home to Myanmar’s most crucial agriculture commodity, have been severely damaged by recent floods. Although the government has halted rice experts, rice prices continue to rise. Rice farming is predominant in the townships of Hmawbi and Takikyi, which sit 80 miles away from Yangon. More than 10,000 farmers had been out of work due to the severe flood, and most of them are poor farmers who have loaned twice for the rice seeds but all wiped out by the flood one after another.
“We inspected the fields after the water receded, then we realized that it would be helpful to have rice seeds so farmers could replant and farm. That is the way to help them,” said Daw San San Myint, Manager of Department of Agriculture in Taikyi. The Department of Agriculture provided Tzu Chi with related information so Tzu Chi volunteers could distribute rice seeds in Taikyi and Hmawbi. Tzu Chi volunteers distributed a total of 604,135 kilograms of rice seeds helping 5,106 farmers covering 28,906 acres of paddy fields from September to October.
It is not a one-time off relief distribution to Myanmar; Tzu Chi’s relief history in the country went back to 2008, the unprecedented disaster by Cyclone Nargis causing catastrophic destruction to more then 100,000 deaths in the country. Thanlyin township, a village helped by Tzu Chi since 2010 now is giving back by joining the relief mission donating rice seeds to their own people with 1,277 farmers donating 5,144 packs of rice seeds to Tzu Chi for the relief mission this year. “Thanks to the help we received then, we were able to restart our lives. Now other areas are in the same situation we were before, so we are taking this opportunity to send them our love and assistance,” said U Myint Aung, resident of Bayet Village. Tzu Chi Foundation not only helped disaster victims but also drive the virtuous circle among people helping each other in the relief mission.
On top of the relief in 2010 distribution, Tzu Chi also built three schools in Yangon and 12 small schools in the rural villages and offering scholarship assistance. Master Cheng Yen believes that education is hope for the country, and through building school we are able to groom future leaders.
Looking into the next planting season, long-term relief is on the way. As more than 70,000 ha of farmland were destroyed in the two towns, Tzu Chi Foundation has planned on the next phase to distribute 3,500 tons of rice seeds starting this December until April 2016. Working with the Burmese government, local Tzu Chi volunteers continue to do their best to help farmers replant their fields, while delivering love and care in the process.