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Myanmar: Curbing Myanmar’s spread of drug-resistant malaria*

30 March 2014 - 1:07am
Source: IRIN Country: Myanmar

YANGON, 28 March 2014 (IRIN) - Efforts to halt the spread of drug-resistant malaria in Myanmar have delivered encouraging results through the private health sector, but health experts warn the disease cannot be won outside the public health system - and that the country is still a potential “gateway” for the spread of drug resistance.

“Myanmar is now an important frontier to contain artemisinin-resistant malaria from spreading to other parts of the world. This is for two reasons: the past history of [indoor residual spraying with the insecticide] DDT and [anti-malaria drug] Chloroquine resistance tells the same route of spreading to Africa, and because it is an essential strategic area, especially in border areas with migrant populations,” deputy director at Myanmar’s Department of Health (DOH), Thaung Hlaing, told IRIN.

Pockets of resistance were discovered in Myanmar in recent years and include southeastern Tanntharyi Region near the Thai-Myanmar border, neighbouring Kayin State and the highlands of eastern Shan State.

Several plasmodium parasites cause malaria, the most serious being plasmodium falciparum, which is responsible for most deaths worldwide caused by malaria. This parasite subset has in recent years increasingly become resistant to the most effective form of known treatment, a combination of drugs known as artemisinin, said Chris White, the senior malaria technical adviser for the Asia-Pacific for Population Services International (PSI), which treats some 250,000 people in Myanmar for malaria annually.

Parasites that are resistant to anti-malarial drugs are more likely to result in severe illness and death, as common drugs do not work to control them.

Malaria migrates

“Migration is one of the big challenges in controlling drug-resistant malaria, both in terms of internal migration from one malaria-endemic township to another or to a state or region where malaria is not endemic - or migration [from] outside Myanmar where there is also drug-resistant malaria,” said Adelaida Degregorio, Save the Children’s deputy programme director in Myanmar.

Myanmar is “under the global spotlight” with efforts increasing to prevent the drug-resistant malaria spreading to India, Bangladesh, and eventually, sub-Saharan Africa, said White, who described Myanmar as a “gateway.”

“The reason why there was a growing population of resistant [plasmodium falciparum] parasites over time relative to other parasites [that cause malaria] is because they increase in number as weaker parasites diminish,” he said, calling it a “survival of the fittest”.

Private sector

As a result of extremely low spending on public health during half a century of military rule, some 80 percent of health services are provided through the private sector, according to a report published in 2013 by the London School of Tropical Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

In 2000, the World Health Report ranked the country 190 out of 191 member states on overall health system performance. During the following decade prior to the current government’s election to power in 2011, social service investment continuously shrank until the public health sector was only 10 percent of the health system (which has since gone up somewhat), according to a November 2013 report on rehabilitating health in the Myanmar transition from the US think tank, Centre for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).

As a result, anti-malaria medications are typically obtained from untrained vendors at privately-operated village kiosks.

“The private sector largely sells what it knows it can sell - and what it can sell is often driven by poverty. In a typical interaction, a provider doesn’t say ‘Tell me your symptoms.’ Instead they ask, ‘How much money do you have?’” White said.

He added that many rural communities can only afford a partial course of medication, which increases resistance because the parasite is more likely to survive in the bloodstream.

Studies have also found that the markets have historically been flooded with low-quality, mono-therapy anti-malaria drugs, as well as counterfeit medications, according to the representative of the Malaria Consortium in Myanmar, Yasmin Padamsee Forbes.

A key driver of malaria resisting treatment in Myanmar was the widespread availability of oral artemisinin monotherapy (AMT), as opposed to combination therapies that decrease the chance that mosquitoes can genetically mutate and dodge treatment.

“If you keep bombarding the parasite with one ingredient the probability of genetic mutation increases,” said White.

In mid-2012, PSI signed a contract with AA Medical, which has an 80 percent market share of anti-malarial medication in Myanmar. Now AA Medical only sells combination therapies supplied by PSI. Myanmar’s Ministry of Health has since banned importation of AMTs.

Although combination therapies are far more costly than mono-therapies, donor subsidies have reduced the cost for a full course of the combination therapies to 50 US cents - the same price as a partial course of the most widely available mono-therapies. The medication is made in India, but repackaged in Myanmar to include picture descriptions of how to administer the drug day and night, and co-formulated to ensure both components are taken.

An audit conducted by PSI in June 2013 at 3,500 kiosks in the priority resistance containment region of eastern Myanmar found that the volume of combination therapy sold there, relative to monotherapy, increased from 3 percent in mid-2012 to 73 percent in mid-2013.

**Public investments **

However, the battle against drug-resistant malaria will not be won unless the public sector is involved, said David Bell, a malaria diagnostics expert, public health physician and scientist at the Seattle-based Intellectual Ventures Laboratory. The private-sector initiative funded by the US philanthropist Bill Gates is pursuing inventions that can be adapted for low-resource settings, such as optical TB and malaria diagnostics, an improved milk transportation system and passive vaccine storage.

“The private sector makes money by selling drugs, rather than through diagnosis... or through follow-up,” added Bell.

He said public health workers can train private health vendors to carry out blood tests for malaria, citing Senegal and Zambia as successful case studies.

"If remote people with limited health training can successfully perform malaria diagnosis with RDTs [rapid diagnostic tests], private sector vendors with similar backgrounds can also. Good diagnosis can be done remotely now, so there is no technical reason why remote private vendors cannot do it. "

However, he noted that getting trained health professionals into remote areas to collaborate with private sector health workers requires both sides to work with each other in new ways -- and good management.

Most areas where drug-resistant malaria has been lab-confirmed in Myanmar are remote, with little access to public health services, and/or have transient populations in border areas.

Bell suggested donors support schemes that provide the private sector with financial incentives for good disease management, along with training in diagnostics and treatment adherence follow-up.

But most donors’ health funds still flow through agencies and international NGOs, and “how Myanmar will move beyond the parallel [health] system remains unclear,” noted CSIS.

"Everyone acknowledges the need to scale up good quality public services, to ensure patients receive care from qualified providers and to ensure price isn't a barrier to access,” said White.

“However, this will take time. In the context of an emergency response to drug resistance, one must recognize that the pervasive and dominant private sector is a serious threat if ignored, but a powerful ally if utilized, even if only in the short term.”

jm/pt/cb

  • This report was amended on 28 March.

Myanmar: Making Sense of Myanmar's Census

30 March 2014 - 12:04am
Source: UN Population Fund Country: Myanmar

UNITED NATIONS, New York – Starting tomorrow evening, Myanmar will conduct its first census in more than 30 years.

The country has changed dramatically since the last census was held in 1983, with some areas seeing significant progress and others going underserved, yet it has been challenging for the Government or civil society to gauge or respond to the changing needs of the population.

Those issues will soon be tackled. Hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers have been trained as enumerators. From 29 March through 10 April, they will be sent to urban and rural areas to count every person in the country.

It is an enormous undertaking, but the exercise – by the Government with support from UNFPA – will help policymakers become better informed, promote the country’s development, and help ensure people’s rights and needs are met.

Q: Why does Myanmar need a census?

A: The census is a critical planning tool, informing authorities about where services and infrastructure – such as schools, roads and hospitals – are most needed. Without reliable census data, development planning takes place in a vacuum.

Myanmar currently ranks among the least-developed countries in Asia. Censuses can contribute to poverty reduction by helping to monitor progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and other development targets. They can empower local communities by giving them access to local data. This information also helps the Government manage public finances transparently. It helps citizens and civil society, including in ethnic areas, hold authorities accountable for public expenditure and services.

The data will also underpin private investment and job creation. By knowing where people live, and what education and skills they have, investments and training can be targeted at the right places at the right time.

Q: What is UNFPA’s role in Myanmar’s 2014 census?

A: UNFPA supports the Government’s Ministry of Immigration and Population by providing technical support to the census. UNFPA also helps the ministry mobilize resources and ensure that the census is credible and conducted according to international principles and standards. In addition, UNFPA is working with the Government to ensure that the census is correctly understood by leaders and the public so that, when they take part, they know what it is and what benefits it brings to individuals, communities and the country.

UNFPA has posted an international Census Chief Technical Adviser at the Government’s Department of Population, and a number of international consultants will also support the department. The census is also supported by national ministries, the United Nations, civil society, religious leaders, ethnic groups, youth groups, disability groups, women’s organizations and others.

Q: This project is massive. How will it all come together?

A: Censuses are among the most complex and massive exercises a nation undertakes. Ideally held every 10 years, they require the collection, compilation, evaluation, analysis and dissemination of a huge amount of data. Myanmar’s 2014 census is no different; it will involve every single person in the country, giving each household a chance to speak about their housing conditions and needs.

About 120,000 primary and secondary school teachers have been recruited from different localities across the country to act as enumerators. There are about 490 master trainers and 7,140 district trainers.

The Department of Population also has a team of more than 300 people responsible for mapping the country, handling logistics and data processing, and analysing and disseminating the results. The census building was constructed last year to host all the staff and instruments needed for this colossal nationwide exercise.

Q: Some members of ethnic sub-groups have been urged by community leaders to identify as members of a major ethnicity. Why might this be a policy? What is UNFPA’s view?

A: Myanmar’s 2014 census will consist of 41 questions. Among these is a question about what ethnicity the participants belong to. Participants can choose from the 135 ethnicities listed – which are from the current official list of ethnicities – or they can write in their own designation.

The question on ethnicity will capture the diversity of the nation, providing an opportunity to start a new, inclusive and consultative dialogue on ethnicity in a country of remarkable diversity. Such a dialogue is already being planned. However, there are a lot of sensitive social and political factors in play, which require monitoring by international observers to ensure that the results are credible and widely accepted.

One of the fundamental principles of a census is that everyone has the right to be counted. This includes the right of each person to decide what ethnicity they belong to, and this should be respected by all involved in the process. This applies also for those who wish to record their identity as of mixed ethnicity.

Everyone also has the right to have the census explained fully to them beforehand. Understanding and respecting these rights will enable the questions in the census to be answered correctly and without bias, fear or coercion.

Everyone who is present in Myanmar on the night of 29 March 2014 will be counted, regardless of citizenship, ethnicity, religion, gender or age. All new entries under the provision for ‘other’ ethnicity will be coded separately during data processing.

Q: The Government has said that ethnic political and armed groups are ready and willing to work with them on the census project. How did this happen?

A: Over the last four months, a Government team, led by the Minister for Immigration and Population, U Khin Yi, held discussions with leaders – including ethnic, political, and armed leaders – in different parts of the country, including self-administered areas like Loukang, Shan East, Tachileik, Kyaintone, Mong La and Pan Seng, Chin, Karen and Mon states. Visits have also been undertaken in Kachin and Bago, and a special meeting on the census was held with representatives of almost all non-State armed groups in Chiang Mai at the end of 2013.

UNFPA took part in most of the visits, with the UNFPA Representative in Myanmar, Janet Jackson, explaining the importance of the census for the country’s development, reform and transition processes. These meetings helped dispel mistrust and misunderstanding of the census, and helped to secure the engagement of local leaders.

In meetings with ethnic leaders, the Government has acknowledged that the categories being used in the census are imperfect, and it has committed to engaging in a dialogue with them after the census to develop categorizations that better reflect the country’s diversity. On 2 March, 126 ethnic political party leaders and representatives in the peace process from self-administered areas voiced their support and readiness to take part in the census.

Myanmar leaders, including of ethnic groups and non-state groups, have shown that they are willing to work for a successful census. The only negotiation that is still on-going is with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

Q: Will there be any reluctance from minority groups, particularly minority religions, to provide correct data on the census form?

A: Enumerators have been trained to complete the questionnaires accurately according to the responses given by participants, and they must strictly protect the confidentiality of the responses. Responses about religion will be recorded as they are given. Respondents can even ask the enumerator to show them how their answers were recorded.

In our interactions with many different groups, the main concerns have been on ethnicity, particularly people’s freedom to state their ethnic identity as they wish. They have been assured that the information they give will remain confidential, and that this exercise is totally separate from national registration, citizenship, election voter registration and taxation. Census data are not meant for any such purposes. No one will be able to access information about individual people, households or institutions.

This is a commitment and an assurance that has been repeatedly given to us by the Government. Indeed, it is also part of a written and signed commitment made with the United Nations in April 2012, when the Government decided to undertake the census.

Q: Some critics fear the census will exacerbate ethnic tensions. Will it?

A: It should not. Those involved in the process have spent more than 18 months working on the format of the census and engaging with the population. The process has been overseen by an international technical advisory board made up census experts from around the world.

Ethnicity always presents a challenge to census administrators. Over time, throughout the world, ethnic groups branch out and merge. It is understood that accurate census data is a moving target.

But people are free to self-identify which ethnic and religious group they belong to. And UNFPA is committed to working with any and all political, religious and ethnic leaders to ensure the census is well-run and accurate.

UNFPA and the Myanmar Government conducted a pilot census in April 2013 across a wide cross-section of Myanmar’s diverse geographic and ethnic mix. That pilot was successful, without major complaints from any ethnic group. A number of countries include ethnicity in the questionnaire because it is associated with a progressive move to give visibility and recognition to minority groups. This question is expected to provide the information to guide social policies to reach groups that may not be properly covered by public services, and to promote social equity and better integration.

Q: What if the census needs to be postponed, or if some groups call for a boycott?

A: The Myanmar census is long overdue. Postponing it now could delay by several years the availability of this data to planners, undermining development efforts and the reform process. Large-scale non-participation would be detrimental to social and economic development in all areas of the country. Myanmar’s development needs cannot wait.

Myanmar: Myanmar says 'Rohingya' term banned from census

29 March 2014 - 6:02am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

03/29/2014 09:50 GMT

SITTWE, March 29, 2014 (AFP) - Myanmar said Saturday that Muslims would not be allowed to register as "Rohingya" in its first census in three decades despite UN assurances, on the eve of a survey that has fanned sectarian tensions.

The move came as Buddhists in an unrest-hit western state vowed to boycott the census over fears it could lead to official recognition for the Rohingya, viewed by the United Nations as among the world's most persecuted minorities.

"If a household wants to identify themselves as 'Rohingya', we will not register it," government spokesman Ye Htut told reporters in Yangon.

He said people could call themselves "Bengali", a term used by the authorities who view most Rohingya as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Foreign aid workers fled the restive western state of Rakhine this week after Buddhist mobs attacked their offices as tensions escalated in the run up to the census.

An 11-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet after police fired warning shots to disperse angry crowds in the state capital Sittwe.

Humanitarian workers in the region have come under increasing pressure from Buddhist nationalists who accuse them of bias in favour of local Muslims.

The United Nations is pulling some 50 international and Myanmar staff from the region, while other major humanitarian groups are also removing their workers temporarily.

Households across Sittwe were seen Saturday bearing signs declaring: "This house is protesting against the census. Do not register".

Myanmar's first census since 1983, which is set to begin on Sunday and last for 12 days, is backed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and is aimed at plugging an information deficit in the former junta-run country.

The population tally has come under fire for its inclusion of ethnic and religious questions, which critics say will further fan the flames of unrest and threaten fragile peace talks with minority rebel groups.

Buddhist nationalists have reacted with fury to the fact that the questionnaire includes a section for people to self-identify their ethnicity, theoretically allowing the Rohingya to be registered as such and raising fears it could lead to political rights for the group.

But government officials in the state have sought to assure them that the term will not be counted, according to local MP Aung Mya Kyaw.

"They will only write down 'Bengali' because Rohingya doesn't exist," he told AFP.

Long-standing animosity between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine erupted into bloodshed in 2012, leaving dozens dead in clashes and around 140,000 people displaced.

Muslims in remote parts of Rakhine have reported that the authorities have threatened local people with harsh penalties if they try to identify as Rohingya.

The Rohingya are subject to a web of restrictions on travel, work and even marriage.

hla/klm/dr/pdh

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: Resettlement of Meikhtila IDPs Stalled by Funding Shortage

29 March 2014 - 4:17am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By SAMANTHA MICHAELS / THE IRRAWADDY

MEIKHTILA, Mandalay Division — A funding shortage has slowed efforts to rebuild homes for thousands of people who remain displaced in Meikhtila one year after communal violence hit the central Burma city.

A project began in late December to build 403 new homes in the Chan Aye Tharyar Quarter, one of three quarters wrecked by anti-Muslim riots in the city in March 2013. Foundations have been laid for 273 one-story homes, and brick walls have been erected for some of them, but construction supervisors say they lack the resources to finish these buildings or to begin constructing the remaining 130 homes.

“The office has no more money,” Myint Htway, chief of the administrative office that manages the budget and supplies for the project, told The Irrawaddy last week on Saturday, exactly one year after Buddhist mobs set fire to homes in the quarter.

He said the rebuilding effort was funded by donations from Muslims around the country, with MM mosque (also known as Youn Net) in Rangoon as the main sponsor. Construction is moving forward with permission from the Ministry of Construction, he added, but the government has not contributed any funding. “Because the government is very poor,” he said.

He said 5 billion kyats (US$5 million) would be needed to finish the entire project, but that the construction team had only received about 250 million kyats thus far.

In Chan Aye Tharyar, located outside the main downtown area, none of the original homes are still standing, though a Buddhist pagoda and a mosque remain from before the violence. Construction workers—including some who once lived in the quarter and are now staying in temporary shelters—hammer away at half-finished homes, while goats wander on empty plots where new buildings will go up.

“There is space for houses here, but we cannot build yet because we have no money,” said Myat Pai Soe, an engineer from Rangoon who is volunteering at the project site for one year. He said the construction team would not be able to finish the project in April, as planned, and that he doubted the homes would be completed by the end of this year.

“Now the supervisors are very disappointed because they do not have money, so we are building very slowly. If we had money, we could build much faster,” he said, adding that 273 homes would not be enough for the “many, many refugees.”

More than 4,000 people are still living in five camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Meikhtila, while others are staying at a shelter in Yin Daw. People from four of the five camps in Meikhtila will return to Chan Aye Tharyar Quarter, according to construction supervisors.

The new quarter will include 403 one-story homes for residents, including Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians, as well as 23 three-story structures that may be used as apartment blocks. It will also include a school, a park, a police station and a fire station, according to Thant Zin, the chief engineer and site manager. He said all the homes would need to be finished before any families could move back.

Other IDPs are from Thiri Mingalar and Mingalar Zayone quarters, both predominately Muslim quarters in the downtown area. Due to the funding shortage, plans have not yet been drafted to build new homes in either quarter, the construction supervisors said.

For the most part, downtown Meikhtila shows little sign that it was hit by riots one year ago, with busy traffic and shops open for business, but Thiri Mingalar Quarter appeared as a largely barren dirt expanse during a visit by The Irrawaddy recently. The quarter is located near a main road behind a mosque, which locals say has been closed since the violence.

Nearby Mingalar Zayone Quarter is where an Islamic boarding school was attacked during the riots last year, leaving dozens of students dead. The quarter now consists of an empty square plot of grass, surrounded on three sides by Buddhist homes that were left standing after the fighting. This quarter’s mosque also remains closed.

According to local residents, there were about 1,200 homes in Thiri Mingalar and about 800 homes in Mingalar Zayone that were destroyed.

Still displaced

In total, more than 40 people were killed during the riots, which were initially sparked by an argument on March 20, 2013, between the Muslim owners of a gold shop and Buddhist customers. A crowd of Buddhists arrived at the shop and started throwing rocks, destroying the building and surrounding businesses. Later that day, a group of Muslim men killed a Buddhist monk, and mobs of Buddhists responded with anti-Muslim riots. The Islamic boarding school was attacked on March 21, and Chan Aye Tharyar Quarter on March 22, while the violence continued to spread to more than 10 townships.

Among the displaced in Meikhtila was Min Soe, a 45-year-old Muslim who now lives with about 1,700 others at a camp run by the Ministry of Transport. He said water and electricity supplies were adequate at the camp but poor nutrition was a problem.

“We’re hungry,” he told The Irrawaddy, adding that IDPs received donations of cooking oil and white rice but no meat or vegetables.

Moe Kyaw, a 25-year-old living at another camp run by the Water Resources Utilization Department, said his family earned money to buy extra food by selling betel nut, but added that sometimes they and others at the camp did not have enough to eat.

Hundreds of schoolchildren in the camps continued to attend classes over the past year, according to Myint Lwin, a 55-year-old who serves as a supervisor at the Ministry of Transport’s camp. He added, however, that most of the IDPs wanted to return home as soon as possible.

“There is no tension. The Buddhists and Muslims don’t want to fight, they want to live peacefully together,” he told The Irrawaddy, while standing on the plot of land in Chan Aye Tharyar where his former home was located before it was burned to the ground.

He said he believed the riots were the work of instigators outside Meikhtila.

“Here they lived in peace. Outsiders came and burned this quarter,” he said, adding that he believed fighting would not break out again. “The Rakhine case was reflected here, it came here.”

Since 2012, communal violence in Arakan State, also known as Rakhine, has left scores dead and over 140,000 people displaced. A majority of these victims are Rohingya, a Muslim minority that is accused of illegally immigrating to the country from Bangladesh, although many trace their family roots in Burma back for generations. Unlike Muslims who were displaced in Meikhtila, the Rohingya are largely denied citizenship by the government.

Police officers guarding the IDP camps in Meikhtila did not allow The Irrawaddy to enter during a visit last weekend. Htay Aung Zaw, a district immigration officer in the city, said all of the camps were restricted areas.

Like other residents in the town, he agreed that relations were friendly between local Buddhists and Muslims today. “There is no problem between different races, they have lived together peacefully up until now,” he said. “This was not a religious problem, just a personal argument that escalated. All together we need to stay peaceful and cooperate.”

Myanmar: Hundreds of villages in central Burma suffer acute water shortage

29 March 2014 - 3:42am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

Nearly 200 villages in central Burma are suffering from acute water shortages, according to the Civil Society Network, an NGO that has begun an emergency import of potable water to village tracts in the area around Mount Popa in Mandalay Division where wells have yielded water contaminated by disease.

The wells themselves were a local government initiative to relieve water shortages, which have grown ever more severe as the long dry season has carried on.

Ko Phyo of Civil Society Network said the number of affected villages is much higher than previously thought: “We heard that nearly ten villages were suffering from water shortages. The main problem was a shortage of drinking water. There are 150 villages lacking drinking water shortage because the water from pump wells is not fit to drink due to diseases.”

Kyaukpadaung resident Aye Myint Yee confirmed that the government pumps are not working.

“The pump well cannot produce enough and the taste of water is bitter,” she said.

However the government has declined to truck water into towns that have been supplied with the pumps.

Aung Pyi, who heads the Kyaukpadaung Township Development Committee, said that the 65 pump wells, dug in conjunction with the Mandalay government, were sufficient sources of water.

“There is no problem with drinking water in most of the places where we have dug the wells,” he said.

Regulations on the digging of private wells has also added to the water shortage problem, say villagers from Taungthar Township, also in Mandalay Division.

This has forced the Civil Society Network, which last year distributed water only to villages in Kyaukpadaung Township, to extend their water deliveries into Nyaung Oo Township in Mandalay Division and Chauk Township in Magwe Division.

Water shortages are not unusual in central Burma during the dry season.

Myanmar: Protect Rohingya Rights - Before It's Too Late

29 March 2014 - 3:05am
Source: Refugees International Country: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

By Sarnata Reynolds

On Thursday, members of the Rakhine Buddhist community in Myanmar attacked aid workers because they were providing food, water, and basic healthcare to their stateless Rohingya neighbors.

The affected organizations have since been evacuated to the capital, Yangon. Now the roughly 140,000 Rohingya who have been forced into displacement camps during months of violence will have no access to lifesaving interventions. This follows a decision earlier this month by Myanmar's central government to bar Médecines Sans Frontières from providing any medical care to the Rohingya - the only such assistance that most Rohingyas received.

The situation for these Rohingyas may well get worse in the coming days. Myanmar’s nationwide census begins this weekend, and some in Rakhine State want to stop the Rohingyas from participating by any means necessary. But now that humanitarians are being forced to leave, the international community’s ability to monitor events in the camps – and to respond – will decrease.

For the 800,000 Rohingya outside the camps, the situation is harder to ascertain but likely even worse. The United Nations and NGOs have been barred from giving these Rohingyas humanitarian assistance for almost two years. And before that, the population was largely reliant on the international community for food because the Myanmar government did not allow them to move from their homes to worksites or other villages without prior permission.

These Rohingyas live in de facto prison, but their warden – the government – will not take responsibility for their sustenance. Many have surely died of malnutrition and related illnesses during their years of isolation; no one knows how many because no one is allowed to count.

The information blackout imposed by the Myanmar government and anti-Rohingya extremists in Rakhine State is growing by the day. But here's what we do know:

  • All of the one million Rohingya people in Myanmar are being persecuted by their government on account of their religion and ethnicity. They have been rendered stateless and deprived of the most basic human rights.

  • In less than two years, hundreds of Rohingya people have been killed by Rakhine mobs, local police, and other government actors with impunity. Myanmar’s central authorities tolerate both this violence and the thuggish, anti-Rohingya behavior of local politicians.

  • Rohingyas across the state have been forced into camps or had their villages turned into ghettos. Kaman Muslims, who are Myanmar citizens, are now being isolated and persecuted as well. Neither community can move freely, find work, or support their families.

  • Even when they flee the country, Rohingyas are not being protected. More than 60,000 Rohingyas have fled by boat to neighboring countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Widespread trafficking of the Rohingyas for sex and labor has been well documented. Hundreds have drowned. Neighboring countries are pushing their boats back out to sea and detaining them on land.

You can call this campaign against the Rohingyas anything you want, but it is not – as the government claims – a marginal problem. Nor can Myanmar’s international partners ignore this crisis or exclude it from their broader dialogue with the government.

The Rohingya people are facing a deliberate and systematic assault. So right now, at every opportunity, European nations and the United States must demand that the central government establish impartial and credible authority in Rakhine State, restore freedom of movement to the Rohingya, allow full humanitarian assistance, and put a stop to persecution and hate speech. To do otherwise would be akin to acquiescence.

-

Syrian Arab Republic: Human Rights Council extends mandates on Syria, Iran, Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Myanmar

29 March 2014 - 12:24am
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Syrian Arab Republic

Human Rights Council MORNING

Also Extends Mandates on Adequate Housing and on Human Rights Defenders

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted 10 texts in which it extended the mandate of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on the human rights situations in Iran, in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and in Myanmar. The Council also decided to extend the mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and on human rights defenders. Other texts adopted by the Council this morning related to the promotion of the enjoyment of the cultural rights of everyone and respect for cultural diversity, the right to education of persons with disabilities, human rights and the environment, and the use of unarmed drones in counter-terrorism.

In resolutions, the Council extended, for a period of three years, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and called upon States to give due consideration to this human right in the elaboration of the post-2105 development agenda.

The Council also extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for a period of three years and requested the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to provide the Special Rapporteur with all the assistance necessary for the effective fulfilment of his/her mandate.

The Council extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria through to the twenty-eighth session and strongly condemned the use by the Syrian authorities of starvation of civilians as a method of combat, the besiegement of civilians and all acts of violence directed against humanitarian actors.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran was extended for a further period of one year, and the Council called upon Iran to permit access to the country to the Special Rapporteur.

With regard to the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of one year. The Council was deeply troubled by the finding of the Commission of Inquiry that crimes against humanity were being committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

In a resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the Council extended for one year the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. It also reiterated serious concern about the situation of the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State and requested an independent investigation be taken into all reported incidences of violence and abuses.

On the enjoyment of cultural rights of everyone, the Council decided to organize a panel discussion on history teaching and memorialization processes at its twenty-seventh session. With regard to the rights of persons with disabilities, the Council invited States to consider the possibility of establishing a special procedure on the issue and decided to focus its next annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities on living independently and being included in the community.

On human rights and the environment, the Council urged States to comply with their human rights obligations when developing and implementing their environmental policies and recognized the important role played by human rights defenders working on environmental issues. Concerning the use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones in counter-terrorism operations, the Council called upon States to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations into violations of international law caused by these and decided to organize an interactive panel discussion of experts at its twenty-seventh session on the issues raised in the report of the Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

Introducing the texts were Germany, Finland, Norway, Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica (on behalf of a group of countries), Pakistan (on behalf of a group of countries), Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Sweden (on behalf of a group of countries), Greece (on behalf of the European Union), and Japan.

Speaking in general comments, explanations of the vote before or after the vote and proposing amendments were South Africa, United States, Russia, Ireland, Mexico, France, Cuba, United Kingdom, Maldives, Venezuela, Germany (also on behalf of the Czech Republic), India, Algeria, Italy (on behalf of the European Union), China, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Korea, Japan, Viet Nam, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, and Republic of Korea.,

Syria, Iran, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Myanmar spoke as concerned countries.

The Human Rights Council will resume its work this afternoon at 3 p.m., to continue to take action on draft resolutions and decisions before closing its twenty-fifth session.

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

Action on Resolution on Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing

In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.18/Rev.1) on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decides to extend, for a period of three years, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to adequate standard of living. It expresses concern that more than 860 million people are still living in unserviced and unplanned urban poor settlements and that rental options for the poor are still insufficient and inadequate; and calls upon States to give due consideration to the human right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and to issues related to universal access to decent and sustainable housing in the elaboration of the post-2105 development agenda.

Germany, introducing draft resolution L.18/Rev.1 on adequate housing, said the text extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing for three years. The right to housing should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity. At least 100 million people around the world did not have any form of shelter. In Germany, it was estimated that more than a quarter of a million people were homeless, more than a third of whom were women and children, which was a shame. Legal security of tenure was an important aspect of the right. Germany introduced oral amendments, expressing certainty it had found a compromise that was acceptable to all, while keeping the resolution strong and focused on the right to adequate housing.

Finland, co-introducing draft resolution L.18/Rev.1, said deep concern was expressed in the resolution about how any worsening of the housing situation disproportionally affected vulnerable groups. Particular importance was attached to women’s equal rights with regards to adequate housing. Finland also underlined the fundamental role played by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in providing independent expert guidance with regard to the right to adequate housing.

South Africa, introducing oral amendments, thanked the main sponsors for their consultations and appreciated their spirit of cooperation and flexibility in incorporating most of its tabled amendments into the text; in that regard the outstanding amendments had been withdrawn. The tabled amendments were intended to strengthen the text of the resolution, taking into account the development priorities of countries of the south and vulnerable groups. The mobilization of domestic resources from all relevant sectors in the implementation and realization of the right to adequate housing was imperative. Goal 8 of the Millennium Development Goals was important to build on through effective international cooperation and effective global partnerships based on mutual respect and equality.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it was pleased to join the consensus on the resolution. It welcomed the openness of the co-sponsors during negotiations, and regretted that some delegations proposed amendments at the very last minute. The United States joined the consensus with the view that the resolution did not imply that States had the obligation to implement provisions of treaties to which they were not party.

Action on Resolution on Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.24) on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for a period of three years; urges all States to cooperate with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his/her tasks; requests the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to provide the Special Rapporteur with all the assistance necessary for the effective fulfilment of his/her mandate.

The Council rejected amendment L.46 by a vote of 15 in favour, 27 against and 5 abstentions.

The Council rejected amendment L.47 by a vote of 15 in favour, 28 against and 4 abstentions.

The Council rejected oral amendment PP3bis by a vote of 18 in favour, 25 against and 4 abstentions.

The Council rejected oral amendment PP3ter by a vote of 18 in favour, 25 against and 4 abstentions.

Norway, introducing draft resolution L.24 on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said that in 2013 the Human Rights Council had adopted its resolution 22/6 expressing grave concern about threats, attacks and acts of intimidation against human rights defenders. This and other resolutions had clearly stated that reprisals were unacceptable. The draft resolution’s main objective was to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Norway strongly urged all States to take concrete steps to create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders. Norway introduced oral amendments. The changes had been made in the spirit of compromise. The Council was invited to adopt the resolution by consensus.

Russian Federation, in a general comment, regretted that the authors of the draft resolution were attempting to change the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in a non-constructive manner and introduced amendments L.46 and L.47 as well as two oral amendments to draft resolution L.24. These amendments would strengthen the legal framework for the work of the Special Rapporteur in the future.

Ireland said that the main objective of the draft resolution was to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. This was particularly needed considering the resurgence of human rights violations and abuses against defenders, including the adoption and misuse of legislative norms that had the effect of criminalizing their activities. The main sponsor thought to reflect those concerns in the draft resolution, and reaffirmed that States had the primary responsibility to protect and respect human rights defenders’ activities in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international human rights law. It called on all States to refrain from adopting national legislation that limited the work of defenders or justified restrictions on their activities. The draft resolution reflected the consensus reached last year. Ireland therefore did not accept the amendments presented by the Russian Federation and called on all Members of the Council to reject them.

Mexico, in a general comment, said that it was one of the co-sponsors of the draft resolution and as such, it had actively taken part in the negotiations. During the negotiations, an inclusive and transparent environment had been noted, with full openness to other points of view. Despite this, some delegations had submitted amendments to the text. Mexico would be voting against amendments L.46 and L.47 and would also vote against the oral amendments. For the reasons Ireland had mentioned, Members of the Council were urged to do likewise.

Russia, in a general comment, said that it had requested that the amendments be considered separately. It was surprising to hear that the main sponsor of the draft text was prepared to vote and called upon other Members to vote for the amendments.

France, speaking in a general comment, said it could not support the amendments proposed by the Russian Federation, and underlined the importance of ensuring that human rights defenders could act without interference or harassment.

Cuba, speaking in a general comment, supported the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. However, Cuba considered the draft resolution to be extremely unbalanced and selective, which was why amendments proposed by the Russian Federation were highly appropriate. Cuba therefore called on all Member States of the Council to support these amendments as well.

United Kingdom, speaking in a general comment, said that it rejected amendments proposed by Russia. The oral amendments were selective quotations from the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. They were therefore unnecessary and inappropriate. The United Kingdom would vote against all proposed amendments and all other delegations were urged to do the same.

Maldives, in a general comment, said that this was an important resolution. Maldives supported the arguments put forth by Ireland. The draft was achieved through a long and constructive discussion and several concerns had been met. The Maldives would reject the oral amendments proposed.

Ireland called for a vote on amendment L.46 presented by the Russian Federation.

The Council rejected amendment L.46 by a vote of 15 in favour, 27 against and 5 abstentions.

Ireland called for a vote on amendment L.47 presented by the Russian Federation.

The Council rejected amendment L.47 by a vote of 15 in favour, 28 against and 4 abstentions.

Ireland called for a vote on the oral amendment PP3Bis.

The Council rejected oral amendment PP3bis by a vote of 18 in favour, 25 against and 4 abstentions.

Ireland called for a vote on oral amendment PP3ter.

The Council rejected oral amendment PP3ter by a vote of 18 in favour, 25 against and 4 abstentions.

Action on Resolution on the Promotion of the Enjoyment of the Cultural Rights of Everyone and Respect for Cultural Diversity

In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.29/Rev.1) on the promotion of the enjoyment of the cultural rights of everyone and respect for cultural diversity, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council requests the Office of the High Commissioner to provide all necessary resources for the fulfilment of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; decides to organize, at its twenty-seventh session, a panel discussion on history teaching and memorialization processes which will, inter alia, contribute to the sharing of good practices in this area; requests the office of the High Commissioner to prepare and submit a summary report on the panel discussion to the Council at its twenty-eighth session; and also requests the Special Rapporteur to present her next report at its twenty-eighth session.

Cuba, introducing draft resolution L.29/Rev.1 on the promotion and enjoyment of the cultural rights of everyone and respect of cultural diversity, said that the promotion and protection of cultural diversity were fundamental for the enjoyment of human rights. The text before the Council was the outcome of broad and open consultations. The convening of a panel on the teaching of history was important to face the resurgence of racism and fascism in the world. Cuba hoped this resolution would be adopted without a vote.

United States, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, was concerned that the concept of cultural diversity could be misunderstood; it should not be interpreted as a justification to violate human rights or to create unclear rights that should fall under the scope of intellectual property rights. The United States would however join the consensus on this resolution.

Action on Resolution on the Right to Education of Persons with Disabilities

In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.30) on the right to education of persons with disabilities, adopted without a vote, the Council urges States to take effective measures to address and prevent violence and discrimination against persons with disabilities, including women and girls with disabilities, and to take measures to eliminate accessibility barriers to education, including in remote, isolated and rural areas; decides to continue to integrate the rights of persons with disabilities into its work and invites States to consider the possibility of establishing a special procedure on the rights of persons with disabilities; also decides that its next annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities will be held at its twenty-eighth session and will focus on living independently and being included in the community; and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare its annual study on the rights of persons with disabilities on the same topic.

Mexico, introducing draft resolution L.30 on the right to education of persons with disabilities, said that the inclusion of persons with disabilities, who made up 15 per cent of the world’s population, was key when it came to promoting growth, progress and social inclusion. One of the challenges was avoiding discrimination in education. Students and pupils with disabilities were stigmatized as persons that could not learn in traditional schools or were incapable of learning at all. This resolution restated the rights of persons with disabilities to education, without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunities for all. At the same time, it identified measures to adopt inclusive education systems, offering quality education and integration for these persons. All Council Members were urged to take a positive view of this draft resolution and move for its adoption.

Action on Resolution on Human Rights and the Environment

In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.31) on human rights and the environment, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council urges States to comply with their human rights obligations when developing and implementing their environmental policies; recognizes the important role played by human rights defenders working on environmental issues and urges States to create a safe and enabling environment in which these human rights defenders can operate free from hindrance and insecurity; stresses the particular relevance of international cooperation in addressing the threats to the enjoyment of human rights that result from transboundary environmental harm; requests the High Commissioner to continue to ensure that the Independent Expert receives the resources necessary to enable him to discharge his mandate fully.

Costa Rica, introducing draft resolution L.31 on human rights and the environment, said that this resolution’s aim was to draw the attention on the links between the protection of the environment and the enjoyment of human rights. The draft resolution focused on human rights obligations and on international cooperation, and included views of the Special Rapporteur. Costa Rica underlined that broad consultations had been conducted and welcome the consensual spirit by all who took part in the negotiations.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it continued to agree with other members of the Council that the protection of the environment and its contribution to sustainable development, human well-being and the enjoyment of human rights were vitally important. In this spirit, it joined consensus on the resolution. However, it remained concerned regarding the general approach of placing environmental concerns in a human rights context and about addressing them in fora that did not have the necessary expertise. For related reasons, while recognizing the efforts of the Independent Expert and United Nations bodies in this area, it did not agree with a number of aspects of their work. The United States was also concerned about certain elements in the final text. For example, while sustainable development was a goal all aimed to achieve, the concerns of the United States about the existence of a right to development were long-standing and well known. The right to development did not have an agreed international meaning.

Action on Resolution on Ensuring Use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft or Armed Drones in Counter-terrorism and Military Operations

In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.32) on ensuring use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones in counter-terrorism and military operations in accordance with international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, 6 against and 14 abstentions, the Council urges all States to ensure that any measures employed to counter terrorism, including the use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones, comply with their obligations under international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, in particular the principles of precaution, distinction and proportionality; calls upon States to ensure transparency in their records on the use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones and to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of a violation to international law caused by their use; decides to organize an interactive panel discussion of experts at its twenty-seventh session on the issues raised in the report of the Special Rapporteurs on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, from within existing resources; and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to present a summary of the deliberations of the panel discussion at its twenty-eighth session.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (27): Algeria, Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Gabon, Indonesia, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

Against (6): France, Japan, Republic of Korea, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, and United States of America.

Abstentions (14): Austria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Italy, Montenegro, Namibia, Romania, and United Arab Emirates.

Pakistan, introducing draft resolution L.32 on ensuring use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones in counter-terrorism and military operations in accordance with international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law, said that the objective of this resolution was to operationalize and implement the recommendations by the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism. The resolution did not refer to any specific country, and did not intend to name or shame anyone. This resolution was about supporting a principle and upholding the United Nations protection of human rights. Pakistan recalled that the European Union Parliament had also recently adopted a resolution on this same matter. Pakistan hoped this resolution could be adopted by consensus.

Venezuela, speaking in a general comment, welcomed this resolution, which had been drafted after broad consultations. Venezuela considered this issue to be highly relevant for the work of the Council. Drones were lethal weapons and had to be used in full compliance with international human rights and international humanitarian law. Those responsible for the killings of civilians with such weapons had to be held accountable.

Germany, speaking also on behalf of the Czech Republic in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that they welcomed and supported the work of the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of human rights by countering terrorism, and on extrajudicial or summary executions. Both had contributed to the issues currently debated and referred to in the draft resolution. They welcomed the transparent and open negotiation process on the draft resolution and believed that an appropriate framework was already in place. They had therefore argued in favour of avoiding any duplication of work. Germany and the Czech Republic had therefore decided to abstain.

United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it had long held that counter terrorism measures could only be effective if they used an approach that supported the rule of law. It believed that existing international law sufficiently covered the use of remotely piloted aircrafts. The Special Rapporteur’s conclusions in the October 2013 report that remotely controlled aircraft could reduce the civilian casualties when used in compliance with international humanitarian law, was welcome. When used in the context of armed conflict, the appropriate law was international humanitarian law and the Human Rights Council did not have a mandate to consider this. The United Kingdom called for a vote on the resolution, to which it would vote no.

United States, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it did not believe that the examination of specific weapon systems fell under the mandate of the Council. The United States was committed to ensure that its actions were conducted in compliance with international law and with transparency. There were other matters relating to counter-terrorism measures that deserved much more the Council’s attention, such as the prohibition of peace protests.

Ireland, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, believed that the Council was an appropriate forum to discuss all issues that could lead to human rights violations, including the use of drones. Ireland would vote in favour of this draft resolution, which addressed some important questions that deserved further consideration.

India, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, agreed that actions by countries had to be in accordance with international law and agreements to which they were party. The draft resolution related to the use of one weapon system in situations of both counter terrorism and military operations. At this stage, India felt that the scope of the resolution was too broad and many of the aspects included needed to be appropriately deliberated upon at different fora. The international community should join hands in eliminating the scourge of terrorism itself. There was a proliferation of open panel discussions during the Council sessions and intersessionally and funds had to be requested. India would abstain from the vote.

France, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the draft resolution gave rise to a number of concerns. This resolution was outside the competence of the Human Rights Council. France did not see why the use of drones should be singled out as compared to other means used to fight terrorism. It was not advisable to launch such a process within the Council. However, France was not opposed to a more comprehensive debate on counter terrorism, as held in the past. France would oppose the draft resolution.

Action on Resolutions under Agenda Item on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

Action on Resolution on the Continuing Grave Deterioration of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.7) on the continuing grave deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 4 against and 11 abstentions, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry through to the twenty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council, and requests the Commission to present a written report during an interactive dialogue at the twenty-seventh and the twenty-eighth sessions of the Council and to provide an oral update during an interactive dialogue at the twenty-sixth session; demands that the Syrian authorities grant the Commission of Inquiry immediate, full and unfettered access throughout the Syrian Arab Republic; strongly condemns the continued gross, systematic and widespread violations of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and affiliated militias that may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity; demands that all parties demilitarize medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities; strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons and all indiscriminate methods of warfare in the Syrian Arab Republic; expresses its support for the efforts of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States to find a negotiated political solution to the Syrian crisis; encourages the full participation of women in political talks; strongly condemns the intentional denial of humanitarian assistance to civilians and deplores the deteriorating humanitarian situation; strongly condemns the use by the Syrian authorities of starvation of civilians as a method of combat, and further condemns the besiegement of civilians; further strongly condemns all acts of violence directed against humanitarian actors; and urges the international community to provide urgent financial support to enable the host countries to respond to the growing humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (32): Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Gabon, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Maldives, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and United States of America.

Against (4): China, Cuba, Russian Federation, and Venezuela.

Abstentions (11): Algeria, Congo, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Namibia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, and Viet Nam.

Saudi Arabia, introducing draft resolution L.7 on the continuing grave human rights violations in Syria, said that it was gravely concerned at the continuing grave violations and horrific humanitarian situation in Syria for the past three years. Saudi Arabia supported the continuation of the investigation mechanisms on the situation in Syria. Failure to adopt this resolution would send the wrong message to Syria and would encourage the continuing violations there. Saudi Arabia hoped that this draft resolution would therefore be adopted by consensus.

United Kingdom, also presenting draft resolution L.7, regretted that this resolution had to be passed again, three years after the beginning of the conflict. The United Kingdom remained gravely concerned about the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. The text was balanced and called on all parties to respect international law. The resolution renewed the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, condemned international humanitarian and human rights law violations and abuses and supported current and future efforts on accountability.

Russia, in a general comment, noted that the resolution was more balanced than previous resolutions on Syria but still contained unacceptable provisions. In the list of human rights violations on the side of the Government, there were no provisions relating to the violence committed by the fighters described in detail by the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which included groups which made up the Free Syrian Army. Russia regretted that partners had refused to accept its amendment to condemn terrorism in Syria and to urge all parties to fight against this evil. The Council would be going far beyond its mandate in appealing to Damascus to accelerate its chemical disarmament programme. Russia requested that the draft be put to a vote and it would vote against it.

United States, in a general comment, said that it strongly supported the resolution on the continuing grave deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria. In addition to the extension of the Commission of Inquiry, the resolution called attention to the desperate humanitarian situation in the country. Reliable access for humanitarian actors was urgent. There had been no significant progress in the implementation of Security Council resolution in 21/39. Since its adoption, 200 people had been killed daily. The resolution called for the release of all arbitrarily detained persons. The United States reiterated its call for an immediate end to all human rights and humanitarian law violations committed by the Assad regime.

Algeria, in a general comment, said that the draft resolution was unbalanced and lacked clarity. Algeria was of course concerned about the situation in Syria and condemned violations there. Algeria was also concerned about the situation of Syrian refugees and displaced persons. In analysing the conflict, Algeria was convinced that a solution could only be political and inclusive of all parties, and in full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. Algeria would abstain in the vote.

Italy, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, deeply regretted that violations continued after three years. The European Union remained concerned about continuing bloodshed among civilians, as well as about killings, torture, sexual violence, and abuses against children that occurred every day in Syria. The European Union reiterated that the regime had the primary responsibility for the conflict and its actions on the ground, such as sieges against civilians and the deliberate starvation of civilians. The European Union called for immediate access for humanitarian workers and the Commission of Inquiry on Syria. The European Union insisted on the importance of accountability and on the role of the International Criminal Court in this regard.

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that the draft resolution was one of many sterile resolutions emerging from the Council since the beginning of the crisis. It was doomed to failure as it contained paragraphs that fell outside the mandate of the Council. The co-sponsors had not consulted with the concerned State and had not welcomed many of the positive suggestions made by other delegations. They intended to keep the text a unilateral one. The draft extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry which had already proven its failure and weakness. Amongst co-sponsors, there were countries that were involved up to the necks in the killings in Syria.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia were two regimes that had chosen to build towers and sports arenas on the emaciated bodies of migrant workers, who had died from exhaustion without respect for their human rights. Instead of opting for moderation and policies of exchange of ideas, they had opted for takfiri extremist views that had led to the intensification of the religious strife. Qatar and Saudi Arabia said they were concerned about the fate of the Syrian people, while sending out assassins, kidnapping religious leaders and destroying mosques and churches. The draft did not have a single paragraph that dealt with the crisis in a positive manner. Syria today rejected the draft resolution as a whole and appealed to all States that truly wanted to help the Syrian people come out of this crisis, to vote against the draft resolution which was both politicized and partial.

Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that this resolution was unbalanced and did not reflect the situation in Syria. It was politicized and backed by imperialist powers that continued to commit human rights violations on a large scale. There was, however, no action by the Council against these States. Venezuela insisted on the need to respect the sovereignty of Syria.

China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, was deeply concerned about the situation in Syria, and called on all parties to put an end to violence and violations. It was regrettable that the content of the draft resolution was incompatible with the basic norms of international relations, including the need to respect the sovereignty of Syria.

Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, condemned the deaths of innocent civilians under any circumstance. At the same time it rejected selectivity and the focusing and blaming of the deaths on just one party to the conflict. This fostered foreign intervention and adventures of war. The role of the international community was to lend assistance for peacekeeping and not to provoke actions that would lead to deaths. The principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference had to be defended in all cases. Cuba would be voting against the draft resolution.

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

In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.9) on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, adopted by a vote of 21 in favour, 9 against and 16 abstentions, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran for a further period of one year, and requests the Special Rapporteur to submit a report on the implementation of his mandate to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-eighth session and to the General Assembly at its sixty-ninth session; calls upon the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to permit access to visit the country as well as all information necessary to allow the fulfilment of the mandate; and requests the Secretary-General to provide the Special Rapporteur with the resources necessary to fulfil the mandate.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (21): Argentina, Austria, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, and United States of America.

Against (9): China, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

Abstentions (16): Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Kuwait, Morocco, Namibia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and United Arab Emirates.

Sweden, introducing the draft resolution L.9 on behalf of a group of States, said the resolution was a short procedural text aimed at extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. Apart from technical updates, no changes had been made to the text since it was adopted a year ago. Sweden and the co-sponsors welcomed the tireless attempts by the Special Rapporteur to seek cooperation from Iran. Cooperation with the mandate holder offered an opportunity for the Government of Iran to engage with the Human Rights Council on the grave concerns that persisted about its human rights situation.

Russia, speaking in a general comment, said the draft resolution was unconstructive and did not have the support of Russia. Russia welcomed Iran’s efforts to improve its human rights situation, especially in the area of economic, social and cultural rights areas. This year Iran would once again undergo its Universal Periodic Review, which was the appropriate mechanism for discussing country subjects.

Pakistan, in a general comment, said that country specific mandates were against the spirit of cooperation of the United Nations. The Universal Periodic Review was the right mechanism to discuss human rights concerns in a non-politicized manner. Treaty bodies also played an important role. Iran’s second Universal Periodic Review would take place this year. Any effort leading away from the principle of equal treatment would not serve the cause of human rights and would undermine the principle of non-selectivity. Pakistan would call for a vote on this resolution and would vote against it.

Italy, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the openness shown by some Iranian authorities, but remained concerned about continuing grave human rights violations in Iran, including the high number of prisoners of conscience, the lack of an independent judiciary and the arbitrary detention of individuals peacefully exercising their rights. The European Union urged Iran to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.

The United States, in a general comment, welcomed this resolution and urged all Council Members to support it. While there had been some changes in rhetoric by some Iranian leaders, the situation on the ground had not evolved. The use of the death penalty in public or against individuals after they had been subjected to torture was of great concern. Iran’s minority populations still faced discrimination and violence. The United States hoped this resolution would encourage the Iranian authorities to cooperate with the international community to uphold human rights in the country.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, speaking in a general comment, regretted Iran’s continued refusal to grant the Special Rapporteur access to the country. It expressed concern about several human rights issues, including the increased application of the death penalty, in particular the execution of juvenile offenders, as well as the lack of juvenile justice and discrimination against minorities. The Human Rights Council was called upon to uphold the values upon which it was founded and support the resolution.

France, speaking in a general comment, expressed concern at the alarming level of human rights violations in Iran, despite recent signs of openness from the Iranian Government. The use of arbitrary detention in prisons, the lack of freedom of expression, including on the internet, and the lack of freedom of religion and belief, were just some of the reasons for which France joined the large amount of countries who supported the resolution.

Iran, speaking as the concerned country, said that this resolution was an illustration of the division, double standard and polarization in the Human Rights Council. The drafters of this resolution were just trying to use human rights to implement their political agenda. This approach of competition, rather than of cooperation, contradicted the spirit of the United Nations Charter. The draft resolution justified a redundant mandate and duplicated the work of United Nations human rights mechanisms. On the substance, the draft had totally ignored the efforts by Iran in the field of human rights, including Iran’s constructive engagement with the Universal Periodic Review and treaty bodies. Iran was also constructively cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The last presidential elections illustrated Iran’s realisation of democracy consistent with religious values. The sponsors of this resolution were violating human rights, including under the pretext of the so-called fight against terrorism, and supported gross human rights violations against the Palestinian people.

Algeria, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it denounced the selectivity in the choice of countries, the politicization of objects and treatment based on double standards. Some countries and non-governmental organizations resorted to those three parameters and targeted and blamed single countries, which created an atmosphere of confrontation. Algeria could not support the draft resolution and would abstain.

China, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it was opposed to the practice of applying pressure on some countries by use of country-specific resolutions. The draft resolution violated the objectivity and neutrality of the Council and politicized human rights. China therefore would not support it.

Republic of Korea, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted with appreciation the number of achievements made by Iran in the field of human rights, as mentioned by the Special Rapporteur in his report, including legal and institutional reform and especially the draft Charter of Citizen’s Rights which lay a framework for economic, social and cultural rights. However, there was still room for improvement. In order to tackle the remaining challenges Iran must further cooperate with the international community, especially human rights mechanisms, in a constructive manner. The Republic of Korea therefore supported the draft resolution.

Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated its principled position against country specific resolutions against countries of the south. There was no reason why Iran should be singled out by the Council. This approach was counterproductive. The Universal Periodic Review was the mechanism where human rights situations should be discussed. Cuba would vote against this draft resolution.

Japan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, welcomed the new moderate approach by the authorities of Iran. Japan was holding bilateral dialogues with Iran and would continue to engage with Iran for promoting and protecting human rights. Japan supported the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, which aimed at supporting Iran’s efforts in the field of human rights, and called on Iran to fully cooperate with it.

Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, considered that such initiatives could harm the credibility of the Council. This practice was undesirable and inappropriate. It was a violation of the principle of sovereignty and non-selectivity. Iran had been collaborating with the United Nations system. The new President of Iran had been democratically elected and should not be stigmatized in the Council. Venezuela would vote against this draft resolution.

Action on Resolution on Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.17), on the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, adopted by a vote of 30 in favour, 6 against and 11 abstentions, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for a period of one year; requests the Special Rapporteur to submit regular reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on the implementation of his mandate; condemns in the strongest terms the widespread and gross human rights violations and other human rights abuses in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and expresses its grave concern regarding the detailed findings in the report of the Commission of Inquiry; acknowledges and is deeply troubled by the Commission’s finding that the body of testimony gathered and the information received provided reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State for decades; strongly urges all States to respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement and to treat humanely those who seek refuge; calls upon all concerned parties, including United Nations bodies, to consider implementation of the recommendations in the report in order to address the dire human rights situation; and decides to transmit all reports of the Special Rapporteur to all relevant bodies of the United Nations and the Secretary-General for appropriate action.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (30): Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sierra Leone, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and United States of America.

Against (6): China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

Abstentions (11): Algeria, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.

Greece, speaking on behalf of the European Union and Japan, introduced draft resolution L.17, which was co-sponsored by more than 50 countries. The report of the Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was welcomed, as well as its methodology of conducting public hearings with witnesses, to whom the European Union paid tribute for their testimony. The refusal of the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the Commission was strongly regretted. The European Union was gravely concerned by the findings of the Commission of on-going, systematic and widespread human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea which may amount to crimes against humanity. The draft resolution aimed to follow up on the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Commission’s report. It urged all States to adhere to the fundamental principle of ‘non-refoulement’. The draft resolution listed all of the crimes against humanity as identified by the Commission and recommended that its report be submitted through the General Assembly to the Security Council, for referral to international criminal justice mechanisms. The draft resolution tasked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a field-based follow-up structure to continue to monitor the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It also extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for another year.

Japan, also presenting draft resolution L.17, said it remained deeply concerned about continuing gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The report of the Commission of Inquiry underlined that those violations amounted to crimes against humanity. It was the duty of the international community to respond to this report and address the situation. Japan urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to engage in a dialogue with the international community and to implement the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry.

Cuba, speaking in a general comment, regretted this selective mandate against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Cuba was by principle against country specific mandates against countries of the South without the agreement of the concerned countries. The imposition of measures that prejudged the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review and the work of the Security Council were unacceptable. Cuba would vote against this selective and politicized mandate.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking as the concerned country, said it categorically and resolutely rejected the draft resolution submitted by the European Union and Japan. It was widely known that the United States had not recognized the sovereignty of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since its inception and continued to pursue anachronistic hostile policies towards it. The European Union had enforced the adoption of resolutions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea every year since 2003 by siding with the United States, which labelled the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as part of its “axis of evil”. Japan had participated in those futile attempts and played cheap tricks in order to cover up its past crimes against humanity. The United States, Japan and the European Union were not qualified to speak about the human rights situations of other countries, because they in the past had committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide; a bloody history which they were now trying to cover up. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had a proverb - ‘mind your own business’ - which meant that one needed to see his or her face in the mirror to check how nasty it was before talking about others. The continuing adoption of country-specific resolutions made a mockery of the Human Rights Council and was an insult to the international community. The people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were proud of having the world’s best socialist system that considered human beings to be the most precious resource in the world and placed everything in their service. It would continue to safeguard its ideology and socialist system and make every effort to faithfully fulfil its obligations in the international human rights area.

China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the Council’s initiatives regarding the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should be carried out in cooperation of that country and should not fuel tension in the Korean peninsula. China was ready to work with all parties and play a constructive role to promote peace and stability in this region. China would vote against this draft resolution.

Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that this approach was a policy to stigmatize the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The treatment of human rights should involve the country concerned to ensure improvement of the situation and promote peace and security in the region. The Universal Periodic Review was the most appropriate forum to tackle human rights all over the world. Venezuela would vote against this draft resolution.

Indonesia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that the international community had attempted to obtain answers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea regarding human rights. Indonesia regretted that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea never responded to those concerns and opposed dialogue and cooperation. Indonesia nonetheless was not convinced about some elements of the draft resolution, that could possibly lead to excessive positions beyond human rights concerns. This could then possibly not play in the advantage of the human rights situation in this country. Indonesia would therefore abstain.

Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.21/Rev.1) on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend for one year the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and invites the Special Rapporteur to include in its next report, inter alia, further recommendations on the needs of Myanmar; calls upon Myanmar to continue its cooperation with the next Special Rapporteur in the exercise of his/her mandate; reiterates its serious concern about the situation of the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State and requests an independent investigation be taken into all reported incidences of violence and abuses; and requests the Special Rapporteur to submit a progress report to the General Assembly at its sixty-ninth session, and to the Council in accordance with its programme of work.

Greece, speaking on behalf of the European Union and 46 co-sponsors, presented draft resolution L21 on Myanmar with oral revisions. The last year had witnessed dramatic progress in Myanmar, including democratization and some improvements to the human rights situation, efforts acknowledged by the Special Rapporteur in his most recent report. The European Union commended and welcomed those positive steps, including the release of political prisoners, peace process efforts, expansion of political space for civil society and opposition and engagement with those groups by the Government. However, challenges remained. It was appropriate that the resolution expressed concern about human rights violations, including torture, violence, and arbitrary removal of property, including land. The European Union expressed serious concern about the situation of the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State. The resolution extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for one more year and urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to open a country office. The European Union was working closely with the Government of Myanmar and appreciated its constructive cooperation with the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, as well as its support for this draft resolution.

India, speaking in a general comment, said that Myanmar’s cooperation with the United Nations mechanisms had been exemplary. India believed that the international community should continue engaging constructively with Myanmar. The opening of a local office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should be on the basis of terms agreed by all sides, and should focus on technical assistance. India was not in favour of keeping Myanmar at the agenda of the Council, but would join consensus on this resolution.

Venezuela, speaking in a general comment, said that this resolution was another demonstration of politicization; this mandate had not contributed to improve the situation in the country. Myanmar had cooperated with the Special Rapporteur. Venezuela was in principle against political resolutions against specific countries, and would disassociate itself from the consensus.

United States, speaking in a general comment, said it was pleased to co-sponsor the resolution and reaffirmed its support for the significant positive developments in Myanmar and its Government’s commitment to political and economic reform, democratization, national reconciliation and the promotion and protection of human rights. However, the United States expressed deep concern about the situation in Rakhine State, including recent mob violence in Sittwe targeting United Nations and international non-governmental organization offices, which resulted in the emergency relocation of international aid workers, including American citizens, to safe havens. It was long overdue for the Government to take decisive action to address the core problems in Rakhine state, including the lack of adequate security forces and rule of law on the ground.

Russia, speaking in a general comment, said that the resolution on Myanmar should have been addressed under agenda item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building, not agenda item 4 on human rights situations that required the attention of the Council; this was a sign of the politicization of the Human Rights Council.

Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, reiterated its principled opposition to country-specific countries. Despite that fact, Myanmar had cooperated with the Special Rapporteur as part of its cooperation policy. Myanmar believed that the Universal Periodic Review was the right mechanism to discuss human rights. The draft resolution still contained wrong and misleading allegations. Various human rights complaint mechanisms existed in Myanmar today. Myanmar expressed its strong reservation against the use of the world “Rohingya” in the draft resolution, which was non-existent in Myanmar’s ethnological history. The opening of a local office of the Office of the High Commissioner had to be funded by the regular budget to ensure its independence, and had to be based on technical assistance. Myanmar believed that, due to the progress achieved, it should no longer be on the agenda of the Council. Myanmar welcomed nonetheless the spirit of openness by the co-sponsors of the draft resolution.

China, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the Universal Periodic Review and technical assistance were the appropriate agenda items to discuss human rights situations in countries. Therefore China would dissociate itself from the consensus on the resolution. China appreciated the progress made by Myanmar, as well as its cooperation with United Nations mechanisms. It called on the Council to provide constructive assistance on the basis of full consultation with the Government of Myanmar.

Viet Nam, speaking in explanation of the vote before the vote, said country-specific resolutions could not effectively contribute to improving human rights situations, especially without the support of the relevant country. The draft resolution on Myanmar was not balanced. Myanmar’s remarkable progress and close cooperation with the Council deserved more commendation and Myanmar should no longer remain on the Council’s agenda item 4 on human rights situation that require the Council’s attention.

Japan, speaking in a general comment, welcomed the consensus on this resolution. Japan welcomed the release of political prisoners and the signing of a ceasefire agreement with ethnic minorities. Japan was concerned however that human rights violations remained. Japan stood ready to continue to provide economic and technical assistance to support progress in the field of human rights. Japan believed also that Myanmar would greatly benefit from the presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Cuba, speaking in a general comment, reiterated its position against country specific mandates, and regretted that this resolution was kept under item 4 of the Human Rights Council on country situations that require the Council’s attention. Respectful cooperation and dialogue should be the way to address human rights situations in the Council. Cuba disassociated itself from the consensus.

Explanation of the Vote after the Vote before the Closing of Agenda Item 4 on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

Brazil, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said it voted for the resolution on Iran because it focused on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur who must fulfil his functions in an objective way. Brazil recognized that significant progress had been made since mid-2013 under the Government of President Rouhani, including on the release of prisoners, the rights of women and the draft Charter of Citizen’s Rights. Challenges persisted with regard to the situation of women and some minorities, including the Baha’i community. Brazil encouraged Iran to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights in order to overcome difficulties still faced by the country.

Argentina, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, speaking about the resolution on Syria, said it had expressed serious concern about the spiral of violence gripping Syria, the use of force against the civilian population and the sad rising death toll. Argentina rejected all acts of violence against civilians in Syria and called on all parties to abide by international humanitarian law. It called for access for humanitarian aid and appealed to all arms providers to stop providing warfare equipment to both sides which only made the conflict worse.

Indonesia, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said it voted against the draft resolution L.9 on human rights in Iran based on its strong belief that the Council should commend the progress made in Iran and address its approach towards Iran to reflect Iran’s changing needs and national priorities. Indonesia recently established a bilateral human rights dialogue with Iran in which the two countries could exchange best practices and lessons learned.

Viet Nam, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that only with dialogue and constructive engagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea could mutual trust be achieved. Vet Nam was of the view that peace and security in the Korean peninsula had to set the criteria for dialogues on human rights matters.

Republic of Korea, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, welcomed the progress made by Myanmar in the field of human rights, and welcomed Myanmar’s engagement with United Nations mechanisms. The Republic of Korea believed that Myanmar was on the right track, and encouraged Myanmar to implement the resolution in order to achieve further progress. This could eventually lead to the withdrawal of this resolution from item 4 of the agenda.

For use of the information media; not an official record

Myanmar: UNFPA Statement on Myanmar Census and Violence in Rakhine State

28 March 2014 - 10:54pm
Source: UN Population Fund Country: Myanmar

YANGON—UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is very concerned about the mob attacks on international NGO and UN offices in Sittwe yesterday, and supports the call by the UN Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator (a.i.) on the Government to ensure the protection of the humanitarian and development community in Rakhine State.

  • All UNFPA staff are accounted for and safe. UNFPA will retain essential staff, and will continue to assess the need for any further action as the situation develops.

  • UNFPA is concerned by reports linking the riots to mounting tensions in Rakhine State in relation to the Myanmar census, which is due to begin on March 30.

  • In accordance with international standards and human rights principles, and as part of its agreement with the UN and donors, the Government has made a commitment that everyone who is in the country will be counted in the census, and all respondents will have the option to self-identify their ethnicity. This commitment cannot be honoured selectively in the face of intimidation or threats of violence. -

  • Reliable census data can only come from an enumeration in which the safety and security of enumerators and respondents is assured. Respondents must feel safe to answer all questions freely, and enumerators must be able to record the answers faithfully, without fear or intimidation.

  • Official actions to address security concerns during the census must not compromise the commitment to uphold international standards and human rights principles. Any measure adopted must guarantee the right of all people to participate in a census that is conducted in a fair, inclusive and uniform manner in every state and for every community.

For more information, please contact:

William A. Ryan, ryanw @ unfpa.org, mobile +66 89 897 6984; or Malene Arboe-Rasmussen, arboe-rasmussen @ unfpa.org, tel. +95 1 5429 109 ext. 146, mobile +95 9 2500 26961

Myanmar: International observers prepare for Myanmar census

28 March 2014 - 10:51pm
Source: UN Population Fund Country: Myanmar

YANGON-UNFPA, A team of 23 international independent observers, together with 23 national observers, will bear witness to Myanmar's first census in over thirty years, which will be held from 30 March -10 April 2014, to ensure international standards are met as well as comply with Myanmar's census law. The mission comes as the result of an agreement between UNFPA and the Myanmar Government.

UNFPA and the Government of Myanmar agreed in late January on an observation mission after the International Technical Advisory Board (ITAB) approved the Government's census preparation efforts. However, the body recommended that in order to increase the credibility and transparency of the census process the Government of Myanmar should allow for neutral observers to witness and monitor the data collection. The International Technical Advisory Board (ITAB) consists of a group of 15 global experts in the field of statistics, demography and census taking.

Under the UNFPA and Myanmar Government plan on the census, observers will passively document the census process and the way the data is collected. They will also provide regular feedback to the Government during and after the census activities, neutrally observe the census against international standards and the census law to increase the credibility and transparency of the census process. The observers will also document lessons learned and best practices and contribute to building capacity and ensuring the quality of data collection for future censuses.

"The observers have been given a rare opportunity to watch and witness what happens within the households of Myanmar's diverse community. We hope that by having a team of 46 international and national observers silently note the enumeration process." said Ms. Janet Jackson, UNFPA Myanmar Representative.

Observers already in Myanmar

The team of international observers consists of members of the International Technical Advisory Board and other census experts whom all have previous experience in data collection and data analysis. The observers participated in a one day workshop held in Yangon on 28 March 2014 where they were given an overview on the main objectives of their monitoring mission such as the importance of the census to the peace and development in Myanmar, the role of a census in any national context and the duties including many other issues relating to the start of the enumeration on Sunday 30th March.

The observers will be divided into pairs of one international and one national monitor. One team of observers will be posted in each of the 15 states and regions. The census exercise will cover 40 districts out of 74 (54%) including 120 townships out of Myanmar's 330 townships (36%). Out of the 80464 Enumeration Areas also known as "EAs" 960 EAs or %1.2 will be covered. Each team will cover 4 EAs a day. For each enumeration interview, the observers must first ask the consent of the enumerator and the main respondent to observe the census enumeration in the household.

Observers are recruited for the time of the monitoring mission, trained on the monitoring tools and allocated to specific regions/states to cover randomly selected several districts and enumeration areas across the country. Both the international as well as national observers are recruited by UNFPA and the National Coordination for observation. All national observers consists of Myanmar experts in the field of research and survey who work for private companies such as the Myanmar Development Research (MDR), Myanmar Development Resource Institute (MDRI) and Myanmar Marketing Research and Development (MMRD).

A widely accepted and accurate census will enable evidence-driven planning and policy making for the first time in Myanmar's history and help push forward its ongoing socio-economic and political reform process. Furthermore, reliable data is a fundamental requirement for a variety of social, economic and political reforms.

For more information, please contact:

William A. Ryan, ryanw @ unfpa.org, mobile +66 89 897 6984; or Malene Arboe-Rasmussen, arboe-rasmussen @ unfpa.org, tel. +95 1 5429 109 ext. 146, mobile +95 9 2500 26961

Myanmar: Postpone Flawed Census to Avert Violence

28 March 2014 - 8:22pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Myanmar

Stop Further Attacks on Aid Workers in Arakan State

(New York, March 29, 2014) – Burma’s national government should postpone the planned nationwide census to prevent growing communal violence and attacks on the aid community, Human Rights Watch said today. At greatest risk are vulnerable Muslim communities and aid workers from international organizations.

On March 26, 2014, mobs in Arakan State began attacking international aid organizations, damaging or destroying 14 properties, including offices, residences, and food storage facilities. The organizations quickly evacuated 32 international and 39 Burmese staff from the Arakan provincial capital, Sittwe, on March 28.

“The mob attacks in Arakan State illustrate the risks of proceeding with the census in such a volatile atmosphere,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should suspend the census until it can ensure adequate security and a fair process for everyone involved.”

Burma’s long-awaited census is slated to begin nationwide on March 29, with census surveyors working from March 30 until April 10 to collect basic demographic data on the country’s estimated population of 60 million. Several non-state armed groups have announced they will not permit census-takers access to their territory, including the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), which controls significant swathes of territory along the Burma-China border and is hosting over 40,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the recent conflict. Other ethnic groups, such as the Wa, Pa-O, and Mon, have also expressed concerns over the impact of the census on their areas. Many ethnic minorities have rejected the census as potentially weakening their local political representation or claims to ethnicity if the process undercounts their group.

The census questionnaire includes 41 questions ranging from number of persons in the household to specifics about age, gender, education level, birth rates, and members of households living overseas. Major controversy has surrounded two categories of questions related to ethnicity and religion: since the initial days of the census planning, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and several key international donors have accepted the Burmese government’s deeply flawed and highly contested classification of its population into “135 national races,” even though listing just the eight main ethnic groups would have given flexibility to a process being conducted in the multi-ethnic country. These ethnic classifications risk exacerbating already vexing identity issues as part of the fragile nationwide ceasefire process, and within very diverse communities in ethnic areas such as Shan State, Human Rights Watch said.

Ethnic community groups have also expressed concerns that both the government’s Ministry of Immigration and Population and the UN Population Fund have failed to adequately consult with a broad range of ethnic groups and have conducted the census preparation in a nontransparent, largely unaccountable manner that has discounted critical voices seeking improvements in the process. UNFPA didn’t hold its first consultation with ethnic groups without the presence of government officials until March 17.

“The census is a technical project that has taken on major political overtones and risks inflaming an already tense environment, with particular potential to spark violence against Rohingya Muslims and the foreign aid workers trying to help people in desperate need,” Adams said. “The government and the UN should listen to the concerns of ethnic minorities and go back to the drawing board to make sure they get this process right.”

The national government should act proactively to prevent any renewed violence against the Rohingya Muslim population in Burma’s western Arakan State and against the broader Muslim population throughout Burma, who have been targets of mob attacks since 2012, Human Rights Watch said. Many of Burma’s estimated 800,000 Rohingya are stateless because the 1982 citizenship law effectively denies them access to citizenship.

In Sittwe in Arakan State, demonstrations against the census and the government’s agreement to permit the classification “Rohingya” to be put in the ethnic classification box on the census form have been ongoing for several weeks. Community leaders have called on ethnic Arakanese Buddhists to boycott the census, and this call has been spread further by a tour of anti-Muslim extremist Buddhist monks led by U Wirathu, the Mandalay-based leader of the nationalist 969 movement. Demonstrations against Rohingya Muslims being counted in the census have also been held in the commercial capital Rangoon.

Pressures on aid agencies grow

In February, the national government announced the suspension of the international humanitarian aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders), the primary health provider to the Rohingya population since 1992, for alleged breaches of their operating agreement. Human Rights Watch believes the government acted in response to local Arakanese Buddhist pressure to end MSF’s operations providing assistance to Rohingya.

MSF and other humanitarian organizations had been under pressure from Arakanese nationalist groups since the violence in Arakan State in 2012. However, there was an intensifying of criticism following an incident in Du Chee Yar Tan village in Arakan State’s Maungdaw township in January when state security forces killed an unknown number of Rohingya villagers. Despite vociferous denials by Burma’s presidential spokesman, Ye Htut, that the incident took place, MSF publicly stated that their clinic nearby had treated Rohingya with wounds sustained in a violent incident, lending credibility to international media reports. The late March attacks in Sittwe come just days after MSF President Joanne Liu held what she termed an “encouraging dialogue” with national authorities for MSF to resume activities in Arakan State.

“Burma’s government should suspend the census, reformulate its design so that it does no harm, and try again later in a way that won’t fuel communal violence,” Adams said. “Donors have long been privately worried that the census could backfire. They should now be at the forefront of calling for the process to be suspended and then substantially redesigned to assist Burma’s development, not imperil it.”

Background

Burma’s first nationwide census since 1983 is scheduled to be conducted in conjunction with the Ministry of Immigration and Population and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) between March 29 and April 10, 2014. The process will be conducted by approximately 140,000 enumerators and 20,000 supervisors, mostly schoolteachers, throughout Burma in a process that UNFPA has claimed will achieve a “100 percent headcount.”

However, UNFPA and other census supporters have not addressed concerns that after decades of military rule, many people, especially in areas controlled by ethnic minority groups, are highly distrustful of state employees. The Population and Housing Census Act of 2013 makes it illegal to refuse participation in the census or in any way obstruct the process.

The census will ask 41 questions covering basic information about members of each household, and most controversially, questions on ethnicity and religion. Other elements of the census to be collected other than basic headcounts and demographics include: literacy rates, employment levels, disabilities, housing units and conditions, access to clean water, electricity and social amenities, fertility and mortality rates, and internal and international migration. Some critics of the process assert that obtaining data on many of these sensitive subjects should be postponed because of their potential for misuse. More controversial questions could be surveyed at a later date or using different methodology.

Administrators in some parts of the country – such as rebel-controlled areas of Kachin State and special administrative zones controlled by the United Wa State Party – have announced they will not permit census-takers into their zones of control.

The results of the census are scheduled to be released in three stages, with preliminary results being issued in August 2014, the main results being reported in the first quarter of 2015, and subsequent analytical reports being issued in November 2015, which is the planned date for the next nationwide parliamentary elections.

The census is estimated to cost US$74 million, an increase from the original estimate of US$58 million. The Burmese government has committed approximately US$15 million, UNFPA US$5 million, and a consortium of other main donors including the United Kingdom, Australia, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland making up the rest.

Human Rights Watch recommends that the Burmese government:

  • Take all necessary steps to prevent further attacks on aid agencies in Arakan State;

  • Ensure that local Arakan and national authorities are held accountable for abuses;

  • Ensure that security forces protect all communities impartially and ensure that abusive units and personnel are rotated out of the area and replaced with units and commanders who have a proven record of upholding the law and not taking sides in communal violence;

  • Take concrete steps to end the culture of impunity prevalent in the security forces, particularly the Myanmar Police Force and including members of the Defense Services, for abuses against Rohingya and other Muslims and other minority groups. Discipline or prosecute as appropriate commanders and security personnel who commit or condone such abuses; and

  • Should, if the census goes ahead, release results only if all appropriate action is taken to prevent ethnic or other violence sparked by the results.

Human Rights Watch recommends that donors and others in the international community:

  • Call for the suspension of the census until it can be carried out safely and fairly;

  • Reduce the number of census questions to avoid sensitive issues of ethnicity and religion that could generate violence and discrimination;

  • Call upon the government to only release results of the census if all appropriate action is taken to prevent ethnic or other violence sparked by the results;

  • Demand that the authorities take all necessary steps to ensure that humanitarian organizations can operate safely in Arakan State;

  • Press the Burmese authorities to immediately rescind local restrictions in Arakan State that limit the rights of Rohingya and other Muslims to movement, work, religion, number of children, and access to health and education; and

  • Support the formation of a UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights office in Burma with a full protection, promotion, and technical assistance mandate, and sub-offices in states around the country, including in Arakan State.

Myanmar: Burma: Postpone Flawed Census to Avert Violence

28 March 2014 - 8:22pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Myanmar

Stop Further Attacks on Aid Workers in Arakan State

(New York, March 29, 2014) – Burma’s national government should postpone the planned nationwide census to prevent growing communal violence and attacks on the aid community, Human Rights Watch said today. At greatest risk are vulnerable Muslim communities and aid workers from international organizations.

On March 26, 2014, mobs in Arakan State began attacking international aid organizations, damaging or destroying 14 properties, including offices, residences, and food storage facilities. The organizations quickly evacuated 32 international and 39 Burmese staff from the Arakan provincial capital, Sittwe, on March 28.

“The mob attacks in Arakan State illustrate the risks of proceeding with the census in such a volatile atmosphere,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should suspend the census until it can ensure adequate security and a fair process for everyone involved.”

Burma’s long-awaited census is slated to begin nationwide on March 29, with census surveyors working from March 30 until April 10 to collect basic demographic data on the country’s estimated population of 60 million. Several non-state armed groups have announced they will not permit census-takers access to their territory, including the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), which controls significant swathes of territory along the Burma-China border and is hosting over 40,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the recent conflict. Other ethnic groups, such as the Wa, Pa-O, and Mon, have also expressed concerns over the impact of the census on their areas. Many ethnic minorities have rejected the census as potentially weakening their local political representation or claims to ethnicity if the process undercounts their group.

The census questionnaire includes 41 questions ranging from number of persons in the household to specifics about age, gender, education level, birth rates, and members of households living overseas. Major controversy has surrounded two categories of questions related to ethnicity and religion: since the initial days of the census planning, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and several key international donors have accepted the Burmese government’s deeply flawed and highly contested classification of its population into “135 national races,” even though listing just the eight main ethnic groups would have given flexibility to a process being conducted in the multi-ethnic country. These ethnic classifications risk exacerbating already vexing identity issues as part of the fragile nationwide ceasefire process, and within very diverse communities in ethnic areas such as Shan State, Human Rights Watch said.

Ethnic community groups have also expressed concerns that both the government’s Ministry of Immigration and Population and the UN Population Fund have failed to adequately consult with a broad range of ethnic groups and have conducted the census preparation in a nontransparent, largely unaccountable manner that has discounted critical voices seeking improvements in the process. UNFPA didn’t hold its first consultation with ethnic groups without the presence of government officials until March 17.

“The census is a technical project that has taken on major political overtones and risks inflaming an already tense environment, with particular potential to spark violence against Rohingya Muslims and the foreign aid workers trying to help people in desperate need,” Adams said. “The government and the UN should listen to the concerns of ethnic minorities and go back to the drawing board to make sure they get this process right.”

The national government should act proactively to prevent any renewed violence against the Rohingya Muslim population in Burma’s western Arakan State and against the broader Muslim population throughout Burma, who have been targets of mob attacks since 2012, Human Rights Watch said. Many of Burma’s estimated 800,000 Rohingya are stateless because the 1982 citizenship law effectively denies them access to citizenship.

In Sittwe in Arakan State, demonstrations against the census and the government’s agreement to permit the classification “Rohingya” to be put in the ethnic classification box on the census form have been ongoing for several weeks. Community leaders have called on ethnic Arakanese Buddhists to boycott the census, and this call has been spread further by a tour of anti-Muslim extremist Buddhist monks led by U Wirathu, the Mandalay-based leader of the nationalist 969 movement. Demonstrations against Rohingya Muslims being counted in the census have also been held in the commercial capital Rangoon.

Pressures on aid agencies grow

In February, the national government announced the suspension of the international humanitarian aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders), the primary health provider to the Rohingya population since 1992, for alleged breaches of their operating agreement. Human Rights Watch believes the government acted in response to local Arakanese Buddhist pressure to end MSF’s operations providing assistance to Rohingya.

MSF and other humanitarian organizations had been under pressure from Arakanese nationalist groups since the violence in Arakan State in 2012. However, there was an intensifying of criticism following an incident in Du Chee Yar Tan village in Arakan State’s Maungdaw township in January when state security forces killed an unknown number of Rohingya villagers. Despite vociferous denials by Burma’s presidential spokesman, Ye Htut, that the incident took place, MSF publicly stated that their clinic nearby had treated Rohingya with wounds sustained in a violent incident, lending credibility to international media reports. The late March attacks in Sittwe come just days after MSF President Joanne Liu held what she termed an “encouraging dialogue” with national authorities for MSF to resume activities in Arakan State.

“Burma’s government should suspend the census, reformulate its design so that it does no harm, and try again later in a way that won’t fuel communal violence,” Adams said. “Donors have long been privately worried that the census could backfire. They should now be at the forefront of calling for the process to be suspended and then substantially redesigned to assist Burma’s development, not imperil it.”

Background

Burma’s first nationwide census since 1983 is scheduled to be conducted in conjunction with the Ministry of Immigration and Population and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) between March 29 and April 10, 2014. The process will be conducted by approximately 140,000 enumerators and 20,000 supervisors, mostly schoolteachers, throughout Burma in a process that UNFPA has claimed will achieve a “100 percent headcount.”

However, UNFPA and other census supporters have not addressed concerns that after decades of military rule, many people, especially in areas controlled by ethnic minority groups, are highly distrustful of state employees. The Population and Housing Census Act of 2013 makes it illegal to refuse participation in the census or in any way obstruct the process.

The census will ask 41 questions covering basic information about members of each household, and most controversially, questions on ethnicity and religion. Other elements of the census to be collected other than basic headcounts and demographics include: literacy rates, employment levels, disabilities, housing units and conditions, access to clean water, electricity and social amenities, fertility and mortality rates, and internal and international migration. Some critics of the process assert that obtaining data on many of these sensitive subjects should be postponed because of their potential for misuse. More controversial questions could be surveyed at a later date or using different methodology.

Administrators in some parts of the country – such as rebel-controlled areas of Kachin State and special administrative zones controlled by the United Wa State Party – have announced they will not permit census-takers into their zones of control.

The results of the census are scheduled to be released in three stages, with preliminary results being issued in August 2014, the main results being reported in the first quarter of 2015, and subsequent analytical reports being issued in November 2015, which is the planned date for the next nationwide parliamentary elections.

The census is estimated to cost US$74 million, an increase from the original estimate of US$58 million. The Burmese government has committed approximately US$15 million, UNFPA US$5 million, and a consortium of other main donors including the United Kingdom, Australia, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland making up the rest.

Human Rights Watch recommends that the Burmese government:

  • Take all necessary steps to prevent further attacks on aid agencies in Arakan State;

  • Ensure that local Arakan and national authorities are held accountable for abuses;

  • Ensure that security forces protect all communities impartially and ensure that abusive units and personnel are rotated out of the area and replaced with units and commanders who have a proven record of upholding the law and not taking sides in communal violence;

  • Take concrete steps to end the culture of impunity prevalent in the security forces, particularly the Myanmar Police Force and including members of the Defense Services, for abuses against Rohingya and other Muslims and other minority groups. Discipline or prosecute as appropriate commanders and security personnel who commit or condone such abuses; and

  • Should, if the census goes ahead, release results only if all appropriate action is taken to prevent ethnic or other violence sparked by the results.

Human Rights Watch recommends that donors and others in the international community:

  • Call for the suspension of the census until it can be carried out safely and fairly;

  • Reduce the number of census questions to avoid sensitive issues of ethnicity and religion that could generate violence and discrimination;

  • Call upon the government to only release results of the census if all appropriate action is taken to prevent ethnic or other violence sparked by the results;

  • Demand that the authorities take all necessary steps to ensure that humanitarian organizations can operate safely in Arakan State;

  • Press the Burmese authorities to immediately rescind local restrictions in Arakan State that limit the rights of Rohingya and other Muslims to movement, work, religion, number of children, and access to health and education; and

  • Support the formation of a UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights office in Burma with a full protection, promotion, and technical assistance mandate, and sub-offices in states around the country, including in Arakan State.

Myanmar: Myanmar: IDP Sites in Kachin and northern Shan States (31 Jan 2014)

28 March 2014 - 2:51pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar preview

Myanmar: Les humanitaires pris pour cible à Sittwe : Action contre la Faim suspend ses activités

28 March 2014 - 12:19pm
Source: Action Contre la Faim Country: Myanmar

Face à l’insécurité actuelle dans la zone, Action contre la Faim se voit contrainte de suspendre ses activités à Sittwe. L’ONG ainsi que les autres acteurs sur le terrain ne peuvent plus poursuivre leurs programmes.

Et ce alors que la situation humanitaire dans la zone est inquiétante. Les tensions intercommunautaires qui ont éclaté en juin et octobre 2012 ne se sont pas apaisées et se poursuivent encore.

Action contre la Faim souhaite revenir dans la région dès que les conditions de sécurité le permettront. Action contre la Faim dénonce toutes les formes de violence à l’encontre des humanitaires et souhaite rappeler que sa mission est de porter assistance aux populations.

Les incidents de sécurité visant des acteurs humanitaires augmentent dramatiquement à travers le monde. Malgré la reconnaissance de la nécessité et de l’utilité de la mission humanitaire, meurtres, kidnappings, intimidations et autres solutions radicales sont employées pour empêcher les humanitaires d’apporter une aide vitale aux victimes.

Aujourd’hui, il est essentiel que la communauté internationale se mobilise et agisse pour protéger les humanitaires ainsi que l’espace humanitaire. #ProtectAidWorkers Porte-parole disponible pour interview et réactions

Contacts presse

Karima Zanifi - 01 43 35 82 37 - kzanifi@actioncontrelafaim.org- Urgences et jours fériés : 06 70 01 58 43

Myanmar: UNFPA Statement on Myanmar Census and Violence in Rakhine State

28 March 2014 - 9:26am
Source: UN Population Fund Country: Myanmar

YANGON—UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is very concerned about the mob attacks on international NGO and UN offices in Sittwe yesterday, and supports the call by the UN Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator (a.i.) on the Government to ensure the protection of the humanitarian and development community in Rakhine State.

• All UNFPA staff are accounted for and safe. UNFPA will retain essential staff, and will continue to assess the need for any further action as the situation develops.

• UNFPA is concerned by reports linking the riots to mounting tensions in Rakhine State in relation to the Myanmar census, which is due to begin on March 30.

• In accordance with international standards and human rights principles, and as part of its agreement with the UN and donors, the Government has made a commitment that everyone who is in the country will be counted in the census, and all respondents will have the option to self-identify their ethnicity. This commitment cannot be honoured selectively in the face of intimidation or threats of violence.

• Reliable census data can only come from an enumeration in which the safety and security of enumerators and respondents is assured. Respondents must feel safe to answer all questions freely, and enumerators must be able to record the answers faithfully, without fear or intimidation.

• Official actions to address security concerns during the census must not compromise the commitment to uphold international standards and human rights principles. Any measure adopted must guarantee the right of all people to participate in a census that is conducted in a fair, inclusive and uniform manner in every state and for every community.

For more information, contact:

William A. Ryan, ryanw@unfpa.org, mobile +66 89 897 6984; or Malene Arboe-Rasmussen, arboe-rasmussen@unfpa.org, tel. +95 1 5429 109 ext. 149, mobile +95 9 2500 26961

Myanmar: Unrest in Sittwe/Rakhine State: Malteser International calls for reopening of humanitarian space

28 March 2014 - 7:21am
Source: Malteser Country: Myanmar

Cologne/Yangon. Malteser International is deeply concerned about the attacks having started on 26 March 2014 against the premises of international relief organisations and of the UN in Sittwe, Rakhine State, and calls all involved actors for a joint effort to reopen the humanitarian space in Sittwe again. “As of now, no aid services are functioning in the region. If humanitarian aid cannot be restarted quickly, this will have a severe impact on the humanitarian situation on the ground”, says Ingo Radtke, Secretary General of Malteser International. - Already since 2012, ethnic violence has been on-going in Rakhine State.

According to Malteser International staff on the ground, it is estimated that 90 per cent of all premises of international relief organisations and of the UN in Sittwe were attacked with stones by unidentified groups. Many offices – including the office of Malteser International - were entered and furniture and equipment destroyed. No casualties have been reported so far, but the situation can easily escalate into violence. “We are very concerned that the riots might also spread to neighbouring districts”, Radtke states.

Malteser International as well as further international relief organisations in Sittwe have temporarily suspended their relief activities in Sittwe. In cooperation with other international organisations and the respective embassies, the organization has temporarily relocated its international as well as parts of its national staff to Yangon. At present, Malteser International does not see any threat for its national resident staff members in Sittwe.

Malteser International has been working in Myanmar already since 2001 and in Rakhine State since 2003 and is currently active in Sittwe with three international staff members from America and Uruguay and 85 local staff members running health, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) as well as disaster risk reduction programmes for the population. In northern Rakhine where Malteser International’s projects are currently not affected so that the organization can continue its work in cooperation with the local communities.

For further background information about the situation in Sittwe, please see Malteser International’s statement dated March 27, 2014.

Attention editors: Ingo Radtke, Secretary General of Malteser International, is available for interviews.

About Malteser International:

Malteser International is the humanitarian relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta. With over 100 projects annually in some 25 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas, Malteser International has been standing by those affected by poverty, disease, conflict and disaster, helping them lead a healthy life with dignity – without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles build the foundation of its work. For more information: www.malteser-international.org and www.orderofmalta.int

Contact:

European/Asian media Petra Ipp-Zavazal, Communications Manager +49 (0) 221 98 22 155 petra.ipp@malteser-international.org

North, Central & South American media Joice Biazoto, Communications Manager +49 1511-462-9623 joice.biazoto@malteser-international.org

Thailand: Turkey Supports IOM Aid to Rohingya Migrants Detained in Southern Thailand

28 March 2014 - 7:15am
Source: International Organization for Migration Country: Myanmar, Thailand, Turkey

Thailand - IOM will to continue to help Rohingya migrants detained in southern Thailand over the next three months, following a new contribution of over USD 51,000 from the Government of Turkey.

The majority of Rohingya migrants in Thailand were detained en route from Myanmar’s North Rakhine state to Malaysia, where they hoped to find work.

Since May 2013, IOM and the Royal Thai Government have provided humanitarian support – health assistance, supplementary nutrition and hygiene items – in immigration detention centres and family shelters.

The number of Rohingya in the custody of the Thai authorities, assisted by IOM, reached a peak of over 2,000 a year ago, before declining by year end.

Following recent police raids on areas where people-smuggling takes place in the south of the country, a further 900 men, women and children are now being assisted by IOM and its partners, while the Thai government continues to explore viable solutions for them while they are under its care. The total now being assisted is just under 1,000.

“Our involvement is to improve the mental and physical health of migrants in detention centres and shelters and we are grateful to the Turkish government for this new support,” said Jeff Labovitz, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Thailand.

“As has been the case up to now, we will supply health assistance, supplementary nutrition, cleaning materials, and hygiene items to the affected groups, and ensure the care that these vulnerable migrants get is in accordance with international norms.”

For more information please contact

Jeff Labovitz IOM Bangkok Email: jlabovitz@iom.int

Myanmar: Girl killed by Myanmar forces as mobs target aid groups

28 March 2014 - 2:55am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

03/28/2014 05:14 GMT

YANGON, March 28, 2014 (AFP) - An 11-year-old girl was accidentally killed when Myanmar security forces fired warning shots to disperse mobs targeting international aid groups in a strife-hit western state, police said Friday.

The girl was shot Thursday at her home near a UN World Food Programme warehouse in the Rakhine state capital Sittwe that was targeted by rioters, Lieutenant Colonel Min Aung told AFP by telephone.

"She was hit when security forces fired warning shots to disperse people at the WFP warehouse," he said. "The situation in Sittwe is calm now after a curfew was imposed."

He said nobody else was wounded in the incident.

The unrest began late Wednesday when hundreds of Buddhists massed around the offices of Germany-based medical aid group Malteser International in Sittwe, accusing an American aid worker of handling a religious flag in a disrespectful manner.

Humanitarian workers in the restive region have come under increasing pressure from Buddhist nationalists who accuse them of bias in favour of local Muslims.

More than 70 aid workers, including about 30 foreigners, were given police protection in the wake of the violence.

The offices of the UN refugee agency were among those attacked, according to state media.

The UN's Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Toily Kurbanov said he was "deeply concerned" by the violence, adding that the organisation was "determined" to continue operating in the region.

The US embassy in Yangon issued a statement condemning the "mob violence" and confirmed that at least three of its citizens were among the aid workers given "emergency relocation".

Long-standing animosity between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine erupted into bloodshed in 2012, leaving dozens dead in clashes and around 140,000 people displaced.

Buddhist flags have been hung across the city as part of protests against Muslims in the run-up to a nationwide census that many fear could further inflame the situation in Rakhine.

hla/dr/kjl

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: Vocational training courses for youth in Myanmar

27 March 2014 - 9:03pm
Source: Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development Country: Myanmar

LOIKAW [27/03/2014] - While the demand for skilled labour is high in Myanmar, there are not enough trained workers to meet the job market needs. And yet youth and young adults want skill training and employment opportunities. In close collaboration with the Department of Technical and Vocational Education under the Ministry of Science and Technology , the ACTED has launched a project which aims to support the delivery of short vocational training courses in Kayah through the Loikaw Government Technical High School.

Within the framework of this project, on 27th and 28th March 2014, an exchange has been organized in Loikaw between the local Loikaw Government Technical High School and the Nawamintrachine Industrial and Community Education College from Mae Hong Son, Thailand. The Thai college will support the Loikaw high school to develop relevant and quality short courses adapted to the needs of the youth in Kayah and the private sector. With the support of the European Union and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, ACTED will provide the Loikaw Government Technical High School with equipment, materials and teaching aids to start-up the short vocational training courses. This is in addition to teacher training and capacity building.

This comes as the first step of a larger cooperation in the field of technical vocational education and training between Thailand and Myanmar which will provide an opportunity to support greater ASEAN integration, especially for within border areas.

For more information, please contact:

ACTED Myanmar

661 (A), Mya Kanthar 1, Kamayut Township, Yangon
E-mail: kyphong.nguyen@acted.org

ACTED South/South-East Asia Regional Office

Paso Tower, 11th Floor, 88 Silom Road, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
E-mail: andre.krummacher@acted.org

Myanmar: Joint Statement by Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, and Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development - European Commission - Statement/14/87

27 March 2014 - 4:49pm
Source: European Commission, European Commission Humanitarian Aid department Country: Myanmar

Joint Statement by Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, and Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development We are very concerned by the wave of hostilities targeting international organisations which provide essential assistance to local communities and the most vulnerable in the Rakhine State of Myanmar.

We call upon the people of Sittwe, and the Rakhine State, to co-operate fully with the competent authorities in order to restore the safety of relief workers and the security of international assistance operations.

For more information:

The European Commission's humanitarian work in Myanmar:

http://ec.europa.eu/echo/files/aid/countries/factsheets/myanmar_en.pdf

Website of DG Development and Cooperation - EuropeAid – cooperation with Myanmar:

http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/where/asia/country-cooperation/myanmar/mya...

EU-Myanmar relations:

http://eeas.europa.eu/myanmar/

IP/13/1071: Commissioner Piebalgs in Myanmar to reinforce development cooperation

Contacts :
Alexandre Polack (+32 2 299 06 77)
Maria Sanchez Aponte (+32 2 298 10 35)
David Sharrock (+32 2 296 89 09)
Irina Novakova (+32 2 295 75 17)
For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e­mail

Myanmar: Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust Visit to Burma 11-18 February 2014

27 March 2014 - 1:01pm
Source: HART Country: Myanmar, Thailand preview

The HART team have recently returned from a visit to Thailand and Burma, where we met with some of the people whose lives are still severely affected by the long-standing persecution of ethnic national peoples, and the failure to reach an inclusive political solution.

This report from our visit contains summaries of the information we were given during our visit, the stories we were told, and the reports we received.

It tells a very different story from the prevailing international narrative on Burma – which is a largely positive account of a country opening up, lifting the veil of secrecy, fear and oppression which characterised much of its recent history. Instead, we heard reports of growing military offensives accompanied by severe human rights abuses, of widespread fear and deeply entrenched poverty. We were reminded that: “if there was really a political solution, no-one would need to be afraid”.

We met Shan women living a precarious existence as undocumented migrants in Thailand, where they are isolated and highly vulnerable to exploitation, and IDPs living in camps just inside Burma, which are overcrowded and where access to healthcare and education is severely limited. We also spent time with some of the community organisations who are drawing attention to human rights abuses, working for peace and a better quality of life for Burma’s ethnic national peoples.

We saw the transformational work being done by HART’s partners, the Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN). They train women as health workers who can provide curative and preventative care to communities deep inside Shan state, in remote areas with little other access to health care. They are having a dramatic impact on maternal and infant health. They are also speaking out about the needs of their communities and the continuing human rights violations. In the process, they are showing the ability of women to be leaders and change-makers in their communities. They are also working with displaced persons living as undocumented migrants in Thailand, ensuring they have information about their rights and an avenue for support if crisis strikes. We were deeply impressed and humbled by the scale of their work, its transformative potential and the support it brings to vulnerable and isolated people.

You can download the full report below. For a hard copy or emailed version, or to find out what you can do to support Burma’s ethnic national peoples, please contact alice.robinson@hart-uk.org.