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Myanmar: Measurement of attacks and interferences with health care in conflict: validation of an incident reporting tool for attacks on and interferences with health care in eastern Burma

3 November 2014 - 2:30pm
Source: BioMed Central Country: Myanmar

Conflict and Health 2014, 8:23 doi:10.1186/1752-1505-8-23

Published: 3 November 2014

Abstract (provisional)

Background

Attacks on health care in armed conflict and other civil disturbances, including those on health workers, health facilities, patients and health transports, represent a critical yet often overlooked violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. Reporting has been limited yet local health workers working on the frontline in conflict are often the victims of chronic abuse and interferences with their care-giving. This paper reports on the validation and revision of an instrument designed to capture incidents via a qualitative and quantitative evaluation method.

Methods

Based on previous research and interviews with experts, investigators developed a 33-question instrument to report on attacks on healthcare. These items would provide information about who, what, where, when, and the impact of each incident of attack on or interference with health. The questions are grouped into 4 domains: health facilities, health workers, patients, and health transports. 38 health workers who work in eastern Burma participated in detailed discussion groups in August 2013 to review the face and content validity of the instrument and then tested the instrument based on two simulated scenarios. Completed forms were graded to test the inter-rater reliability of the instrument.

Results

Face and content validity were confirmed with participants expressing that the instrument would assist in better reporting of attacks on health in the setting of eastern Burma where they work. Participants were able to give an accurate account of relevant incidents (86% and 82% on Scenarios 1 and 2 respectively). Item-by-item review of the instrument revealed that greater than 95% of participants completed the correct sections. Errors primarily occurred in quantifying the impact of the incident on patient care. Revisions to the translated instrument based on the results consisted primarily of design improvements and simplification of some numerical fields.

Conclusion

This instrument was validated for use in eastern Burma and could be used as a model for reporting violence towards health care in other conflict settings.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.

World: Communications with Communities Asia-Pacific Newsletter October 2014

3 November 2014 - 3:25am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar, Philippines, World

This update seeks to support growth in innovative policy, practice and partnerships in humanitarian action to better communicate with disaster-affected communities. Readers are encouraged to forward this email through their own networks.

Regional

--Experiences from Asia-- - Recent disasters show that humanitarian actors are increasingly using communication tools - radio, mobile phones, social media and crisis-mapping - to access, communicate and disseminate information that may save lives or improve conditions for the most vulnerable. Take a look at the infographic below, or individually for Myanmar, Βangladesh and the Philippines.

Bangladesh

Radio - The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), hosted a Radio Red Crescent Training Camp from October 13-16, 2014. The purpose of the training camp was to equip a team with the skills necessary to produce a weekly humanitarian radio prorgramme – Radio Red Crescent.

Once a week, Radio Red Crescent will provide communities with the opportunity to listen and ask questions to experts in the humanitarian field about issues related to their own development or recovery. True to the show’s tagline, We Listen to You, the content of the programme will be developed based on the needs and interests of local communities and will be driven by the network of volunteers from various districts in the country. Radio Red Crescent will air on Radio Betar weekly and is expected to be launched in mid-November.

Philippines

Report - As the one year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan approaches, the IOM report ‘Starting the Conversation’ provides a detailed assessment of the communications preferences of communities in and around Tacloban during the emergency and recovery phase. It also reviews communications tools used following the typhoon and provides recommendations for future communications campaigns to support the growing body of CwC evidence-based research.

Zamboanga City, Minandao - The Communications Working Group conducted the first joint Communications with Communities (CwC) and Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) community feedback consultations in Masepla temporary relocation site (the largest in Zamboanga), the Grandstand evacuation center and the Buggoc transitory site. The consolidated and analyzed feedback was shared for the first time during the inter-cluster coordination (ICC) meeting. Community voices especially on issues of movement in the permanent relocation sites and assistance to vulnerable groups such as people with disability, indigenous and women are now part of the standing agenda of the Zamboanga ICC meeting.

Central Mindanao Region – The OCHA AAP Field Report on mainstreaming AAP in Central Mindanao helped informed the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao to prioritize the training of people’s organization on livelihood projects such as Tilapia food processing and hatchery management.

Typhoon Haiyan response – The AAP and CwC groups established feedback mechanisms and referral pathways in order that information related to needs and assistance is able to flow to and from affected communities across affected areas. The flow of information from communities has increased the quality of programming and cluster decision-making in some key areas, but closing the loop and providing information back to communities effectively is still a challenge. Read more on page 32 of the Final Periodic Monitoring Report, November 2013 – August 2014.

For more on the Philippines, check out these IOM blog posts: Communications Working Group active in Zamboanga l Guiuan’s Tent City holds community meeting l How access to information empowered women in Barangay Looy to fight gender-based violence.

Myanmar

Clusters develop preparedness messaging for communities - BBC Media Action and OCHA held a message development training workshop for cluster and sector focal points, as a first step in the development of a library of technical messages in the event of an earthquake or cyclone.

These will be integrated with those of Myanmar Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, the Government and other stakeholders. This draws on the lessons learned during the OCHA simulation exercise in Yangon in September.

Conflict Sensitive Journalism: Special Edition Myanmar - International Media Support (IMS) is working to help improve in Myanmar’s media environment for many years. This month they published Conflict Sensitive Journalism: Special Edition Myanmar. This handbook is designed to serve as a practical, everyday guide for Myanmar journalists covering conflict. It is an adaptation of similar country-specific handbooks published by IMS for different countries.

Myanmar News Lab - Internews build media capacity through the Myanmar News Lab. It is a 10-week intensive expert-led training in a simulated newsroom environment. Media pieces produced by participating journalists during the workshop are sent back to the outlets, in which they work, for publication or broadcast.

Launch Event, Bangkok – Regional launch of the CDAC Network Typhoon Haiyan Learning Review. Join humanitarian partners in an informal discussed of the results and recommendations from the Network’s review of information sharing with affected communities as well as how information coordination manifested in the response.

Time/date: 2.00 – 3.00pm on Tuesday 25 November 2014, with afternoon refreshments following. RSVP to Stewart Davies at davies1@un.org by Friday 14 November 2014.

Venue: DoubleTree by Hilton Sukhumvit (Theatre Room), 18/1 Sukhumvit Soi 26, Sukhumvit Road, Khlong Toei, Bangkok, Thailand l BTS Phrom Phong l Click here for the Google Map l www.sukhumvitbangkok.hilton.com.

Guidance for Establishing an Affected Persons Information Center - This guidance is intended for in-country responding entities that seek to share information in a way to empower the affected community. It is broken into three parts: 1) Understanding Affected Persons Information Centres (APIC), 2) Identifying and Addressing Limitations, and 3) Guidance for Construction of and operating APIC.

Although the author, Andrej Verity is an employee of OCHA, this guidance is not a product of and does not reflect any ongoing or planned projects of OCHA. Read more >>>

Myanmar: Out of Step: Deadly Implementation Gaps in the TB Response

2 November 2014 - 11:55pm
Source: Médecins Sans Frontières Country: Brazil, India, Kenya, Myanmar, Russian Federation, South Africa, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe

A survey of TB diagnostic and treatment practices in eight countries

This is a pivotal time in the fight against tuberculosis (TB), a curable disease that continues to kill more than a million people a year. Amid an emerging drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) crisis, new tools are emerging that offer the potential to strengthen and accelerate the global TB response. How quickly and effectively these will be leveraged to impact the overall TB response is largely dependent upon three factors: effective policies at the national level; full implementation of current WHO guidelines; and access to new drugs and diagnostics.

Based on a survey of eight high TB burden countries, MSF’s research reveals that efforts to control the epidemic are dangerously out of step with international recommendations and proven best practices, leaving drug resistant forms of TB to spread unabated. MSF warns that governments, donors and industry must act now, using every means available, to step-up the response to the crisis, or face a further growth in resistance.

Myanmar: WFP cuts aid to Meikhtila IDPs

1 November 2014 - 1:36am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By SHWE AUNG

The World Food Programme (WFP) says it has cut its humanitarian aid assistance to displaced persons in Meikhtila, central Burma.

“From March 2013 to August 2014, WFP provided food assistance to over 10,000 displaced people in Meikhtila camps,” the agency’s Rangoon office told DVB by email on Thursday. “WFP monitoring and evaluation missions to the camps concluded that the assisted population had adequate access to livelihood and income generating opportunities. They possessed other coping mechanisms and were able to resume their normal pre-March 2013 activities.

“In the light of increasing needs for food assistance in Myanmar [Burma], WFP was urged to prioritise emergencies and support to the most vulnerable communities in the country. Meikhtila population no longer fell under these categories.”

Displaced residents of Meikhtila, mostly Muslims who lost their homes in communal riots last year, say they have been facing food shortages since the WFP announced the cuts.

Tin Ko, an IDP at one of the three remaining displacement camps in Meikhtila, said some 3,500 inhabitants in the camps have not been receiving any food rations from the WFP for two months.

“The WFP was previously providing us with rice, cooking oil, salt and beans, but they stopped in August,” he said, adding that many people in the camp are now taking up manual labour jobs to make ends meet, while others have resorted to begging in the streets.

Tin Ko said several private philanthropists used to bring donations to the IDPs in the past, but nowadays they receive little.

Abbot Batdanda Seintita of the Asia Light Foundation, a charity group that donated aid to the Meikhtila IDPs last year, said, “I have not been told about any food shortages. If I had been made aware, I would have sought donations for them.”

Around 10,000 people were displaced in communal violence that broke out in the central Burmese town in late March 2013, sparked by a quarrel between a Muslim and a Buddhist in a gold shop.

Meanwhile, BBC Burmese reported on Thursday night that WFP plans to cut its entire ration across the country by 20 percent in November.

WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella is quoted saying that the WFP “plans to cut rice rations to IDP camps in Burma by up to 20 percent due to a budget shortage”. The report said around 70,000 IDPs in Shan and Kachin states and tens of thousands in Arakan State will be affected.

Ms Casella reportedly said the WFP has a US$8 million shortfall in budget between now and February. It would therefore cut rice rations across the board. However, other essential supplies would not be affected, she said, pointing to cooking oil, beans and special food supplements for mothers and children.

Ms Casella said the WFP has requested assistance from donors to provide more food aid in Burma, and that if such funds become available then the 20 percent ration cut will only be temporary.

Myanmar: World Food Programme Myanmar October 2014 Operational Report

1 November 2014 - 1:30am
Source: World Food Programme Country: Myanmar

Letter of Agreement Signed Between the Department of Rural Development and WFP

On 17 September, a Letter of Agreement (LoA) between WFP and the Department of Rural Development under the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development (MLFRD) was signed in Naypyitaw. WFP Country Director Mr Dom Scalpelli attended the signing ceremony, where he reconfirmed WFP’s commitment to cooperating on the institutionalization of MLFRD’s technical capacities related to food security and poverty vulnerability assessment and enhancement of the ministry’s programmatic coordination on poverty reduction and rural development. WFP is cooperating with MLFRD to carry out food security surveys across the country. The technical and analytical capacities of MLFRD staff development will be supported through the establishment of a central information office in Naypyitaw and resource centres across the country. WFP will provide technical equipment and trainings. A series of food security surveys has already been conducted in Chin, Kachin, Shan States, Sagaing, Bago, Ayeyarwaddy and Yangon Regions as well as the Dry Zone in collaboration with MLFRD.

In the same afternoon, WFP presented the main findings of the Delta zone - Bago, Ayeyarwaddy and Yangon Regions - food security and poverty survey to the participants from MLFRD and several ministries in Naypyitaw. The survey was jointly conducted with MLFRD in January 2014. One thousand and eight hundred households from the Delta zone were interviewed on their food consumption, dietary diversity, hunger scale, food provisioning, coping mechanisms, income, assets and expenditures.
The findings have shown that 26 percent of the households from Ayeyarwaddy, 23 percent from Bago and 21 percent from Yangon regions are living below the national poverty line.

World: Disaster Vulnerability and Donor Opportunity in South and Southeast Asia

31 October 2014 - 8:59pm
Source: Give2Asia Country: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Viet Nam, World

Disaster Vulnerability and Donor Opportunity in South and Southeast Asia outlines opportunities for donors of all kinds to support disaster preparedness and risk reduction programs in six of the world's most at-risk countries. It offers strategic advice for donors to make the most impact with each investment, and how to integrate resilience into current strategies. The paper comes as a part of the Give2Asia and International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) NGO Disaster Preparedness Program, which aims to catalyze philanthropic investment in disaster preparedness and resilience in Asia. Over the course of this program, Give2Asia and IIRR will build upon these donor opportunities and strategic advice to improve the quality of disaster philanthropy in Asia.

Learn more about Give2Asia's disaster preparedness work by clicking here.

Myanmar: Myanmar information managers learn about social media, big data and the crisis response

31 October 2014 - 11:17am
Source: UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Country: Myanmar

The ability to get and disseminate good, reliable data, especially in conflict or crisis-prone areas, is crucial for informed decision-making in development cooperation and aid efficiency, saving many lives. However, this is becoming increasingly challenging. In fast-developing Myanmar, for example, online and mobile media and information dissemination platforms are constantly evolving, producing increasing amounts of content.

Access to content and connectivity is also burgeoning, with new telcos entering the country promising upwards of 80% countrywide coverage in the next couple of years.

In light of these developments, an information management workshop was held in Yangon, Myanmar on 2 and 3 October for information management experts working in humanitarian operations, crisis management and development planning, management, monitoring and evaluation in Myanmar.

Organized by UNESCO, together with the Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU) and the ICT4Peace Foundation, and within the framework of the joint UNESCO-UNDP peace-building project in Myanmar, the workshop, led by ICT4Peace’s Sanjana Hattotuwa, gave participants a chance to learn about social media and data trends, the platforms available, their characteristics, and how to effectively leverage these for crisis information management. This included knowing how to use the tools in the collection, verification, and dissemination of information to improve situational awareness.

During the workshop, participants also discussed topics like the use of social media for voter education and election violence monitoring for the elections next year. The issue of hate speech – and verification of information – also received substantial interest from participants, given the nascent revolution in communications.

The learning objectives for this training were:

  • to be able to use new media tools to collect, analyse, present, verify and disseminate information;
  • to understand the impact new and web-based social media have on information management and situational awareness;
  • to be aware of the added complexities that have arisen and are arising through the increased use of new media; and
  • to understand the nature of big and open data on the web and Internet, and how this information can be useful in crisis response and mitigation.

The effectiveness of the training was clearly reflected in the positive feedback received from participants, who not only found the workshop valuable, but also hoped that more of such sessions could be held in the future, demonstrating the importance placed on equipping information managers with the skills they need to deal with the ever-changing online media and information landscape.

Myanmar: The worst thing at IDP camp is lack of education

31 October 2014 - 8:39am
Source: Finn Church Aid Country: Myanmar

Ethnic violence forced Dan Nyo Nyo to flee her home. She is now living at IDP camp in Rakhine state in Myanmar with her family. Her biggest concern is the suspension of her children’s education.

Ohn Taw Gyi South is one of 60 IDP camps in Rakhine state, North-West Myanmar. Many came to the camps from the town of Sittwe, where the hostilities between Muslims and Buddhists erupted into fully-fledged violence in June and October of 2012. 200 people were killed and several houses burnt. The entire state entered into full crisis.

Tens of thousands were forced to leave their homes, their work and schools behind. Dan Nyo Nyo, 42, travelled for nine hours by boat with her family to reach the Ohn Taw Gyi South camp.

“We were utterly hopeless. We had to flee. The boat carried over 60 people. Thankfully we didn’t have to pay as the owner of the boat was my cousin”, says Dan Nyo Nyo, a mother of five.

She lives in the camp with her husband and three children. At the beginning the family settled to a small village with population from the same ethnic group. After seven months the government officials decided to move them to the Ohn Taw Gyi South camp, a short distance away. This was in July 2013.

Bamboo walls keep nothing private

Now Dan Nyo Nyo works hard to help the residents of the camp. She’s in charge of a team of semi-volunteers, leader of a women’s group and a member of education work group.

“I want to help here, and I no longer feel homeless.”

The living conditions at the camp are far from ideal, and life is stressful. Ohn Taw Giy South is closed from the rest of the world, and the residents can’t leave to visit the town, school or health service facilities. People are frustrated.

Dan Nyo Nyo and her family live in a bamboo house, shared with seven other families. Each family gets a hallway and one room.

“Neighbours are just behind the bamboo walls. You can hear everything, fights and despair. A lot of the men have a drinking problem and are violent. Women’s situation is the hardest in the camp.”

“As a leader of a women’s group, I listen to them and try to solve their problems. Sometimes that means divorces.”

Two hours of schooling each day

Izali Thet Mon, 9, a daughter of Dan Nyo Nyo, is on the 3rd grade at primary school. The temporary school is being supported by Finn Church Aid. School starts at 1 pm and lasts for two hours.

“The schools here are completely different from home. Here the teachers only have middle school qualifications, whereas in our village they had teacher’s qualifications”, Dan Nyo Nyo says.

Only few get to go to the temporary schools. Teachers are camp’s residents who have received one week’s training. Three teachers are teaching two separate classes in three shifts during weekdays. The students are noisy, but the teachers are well liked. At least everyone gets to learn how to read and write.

There are no middle schools or upper secondary schools at the camp. One can only dream of going to a university. Moving to go study in one would require an ID card, which none of the camp residents have.

“My youngest son can’t continue his studies here. If he doesn’t get to go to university, it would be a terrible loss”, Dan Nyo Nyo says.

To continue his studies, the whole family would have to move to Yangoon, the largest city of Myanmar.

“We cannot afford to bribe the officials, we just have to wait for things to change”, she says.

My salary goes to those most in need

In the meantime, Dan Nyo Nyo does her best to help people living at the camp.

“I am good at mobilising people. My husband and my oldest daughter are also helping the people. If we were to go, everyone would be unhappy.”

Her monthly salary is 40 euros.

“I give it to others at the camp. For medicine and other necessities. We have two sons working in Malaysia, who send us money for living, so we are ok”, she says.

“I want to help people here and live here. But, for the sake of our children, we have to move.”

Rakhine state in Myanmar has long suffered from ethnic tensions between different ethnic groups in the region. Dividing the groups bluntly; between Muslims and Buddhists. There are approximately 140 000 internally displaced people (IDP) in the region. Lutheran World Federation is coordinating Finn Church Aid’ Education in Emergencies – programme which is funded by ECHO. The primary schooling of children and youth of both communities are being supported at their IDP camps.

Text: Eeva Suhonen Photos: Ville Asikainen

Myanmar: Myanmar: Peace Monitoring Dashboard: Oct 2014

31 October 2014 - 4:26am
Source: Myanmar Peace Monitor Country: Japan, Myanmar

Myanmar: Stitch by stitch towards greater protection in northern Myanmar

31 October 2014 - 12:25am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Myanmar

LAIZA, Myanmar, October 29 (UNHCR) – With colourful fabrics spread around tables and the rhythmic sound of sewing machines, interrupted by laughter and conversation, there is great camaraderie among a group of women in one of Laiza's camps for internally displaced people (IDP). But these resilient students have all lost their homes and belongings.

"In this training I mainly learned how to make children's clothes. We started learning with children's clothes, then shirts, trousers, coats and some longyis (a traditional skirt for men and women) and blouses," says 24-year-old trainee Maran Ja* enthusiastically.

Women of all ages diligently follow the instructions of the trainer and sew together pieces to form a tartan-patterned men's shirt. They are part of a pilot project run by UNHCR to foster cohesion among IDP women in Hpun Lum Yang camp and to help them find solutions for the practical problems that they and their community face.

Kachin state in north-eastern Myanmar is the scene of a conflict that resumed in June 2011, breaking a 17-year-long ceasefire agreement between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Organization. The fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people so far.

UNHCR has been responding to the humanitarian crisis by providing shelter and emergency relief items in the IDP camps as well as closely monitoring the protection situation.

"I lost my husband, my youngest child is three years old and altogether I have six children," says Bawk Mai, one of the tailoring trainees. "I have almost no time to go out and work. My mother is old and so I have another person to look after."

Many of the families in the IDP camps are headed by women. In some cases, husbands leave for extended periods of time in search of work, others have fallen victim to the conflict. Women carry the burden of looking after the family, making sure the children get enough food and adequate clothing, taking care of shelters and, when possible, trying to make a living.

Small projects and activities, like tailoring lessons, provide displaced women with a safe source of income and encourage them to get together, share their concerns and help others. Increasingly, UNHCR is supporting IDPs to initiate community-based protection activities to help the community help themselves. They identify, discuss and decide how to address protection issues.

Displaced people can be exposed to higher risks of exploitation, forced labour, extortion and other abuses. Women and girls especially face the risk of being trafficked.

In the camps where the pilot programmes started in late 2013, tailoring training was identified by women as one way to respond to the protection risks they face. The members of the women's committee then selected the trainees for tailoring. Participants included widows, women with many children, students who have dropped out of school and people living with disabilities. Survivors of trafficking are expected to join in the future.

Since the skills-training courses were launched, classes have been replicated in 11 camps throughout Kachin benefitting some 340 women. Training is also provided in knitting, weaving and soap-making, though tailoring remains the most sought-after skill. The trainees learn basic tailoring skills in three months and are able to produce a broad range of clothes.

Together with skills training there are sessions on awareness-raising on protection issues such as domestic violence, sexual and gender-based violence, trafficking and the needs of older people in the camp. Increased awareness on the risks they face is a first step towards prevention.

The training is also protection: "By attending this training, the girls can learn some skills and make a small income. But more than anything it keeps them busy. They don't have time to get bored and think of the option to go to China and run into risks of abuse and exploitation. This is already protection!" comments one of the women.

The activity is also helping them to look ahead. "This tailoring skill can be useful even when we move from the camp back to our village," says participant, Lashi Lu Shawng. "I believe we can earn money and find a sewing machine and use the skill as a livelihood to support our families."

In the future, the trainees would like to receive training in advanced skills in order to sew more elaborate traditional clothes. They believe that once they have these skills, they will feel more independent and confident in their lives.

*All names changed for protection reasons

By Medea Savary in Laiza, Myanmar

Myanmar: Myanmar moots changing constitution barring Suu Kyi from presidency

30 October 2014 - 11:28pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

Naypyidaw, Myanmar | AFP | Friday 10/31/2014 - 11:36 GMT

by Hla-Hla HTAY

Myanmar's parliament will consider amending the country's constitution -- which currently bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president -- ahead of crucial elections next year, an official said Friday.

Suu Kyi is trying to change key sections of Myanmar's charter ahead of 2015 polls that are widely expected to be won by her National League for Democracy (NLD), if they are free and fair, after decades of disastrous military rule.

The move to moot constitutional reform was discussed during unprecedented talks between President Thein Sein and his political rivals, including Suu Kyi, as well as top army brass and election officials.

"They agreed to discuss the issue of amending the constitution in parliament, according to the law," presidential spokesman Ye Htut told reporters after the meeting in the capital Naypyidaw.

The NLD has focused on altering a provision in the constitution that ensures the military in the former junta-ruled nation has a veto on any amendment to the charter.

It believes revising the clause will open the way for further changes to other constitutional provisions, including the ring-fenced proportion of soldiers in parliament and the effective bar on Suu Kyi leading the country.

Ye Htut did not elaborate on which elements of the constitution were up for debate.

As it stands, Suu Kyi is ineligible to become president because of a clause in the 2008 charter blocking anyone whose spouse or children are overseas citizens from leading the country. The Nobel laureate's late husband was British, as are her two sons.

To alter the constitution there needs to be support from a 75 percent majority in parliament, and as unelected soldiers make up a quarter of the legislature they have the last say on any changes.

  • Obama calls -

The extraordinary talks Friday -- the first of its kind as the nation emerges from decades of outright military rule -- saw Thein Sein and Suu Kyi walk into the meeting together.

The discussions, which lasted for more than two hours, came a day after the White House said US President Barack Obama spoke to Thein Sein and Suu Kyi about the elections, which are seen as a key test of democratic reforms under the quasi-civilian government.

Obama "underscored the need for an inclusive and credible process for conducting the 2015 elections" during telephone talks with the Myanmar president, said the White House statement Thursday.

The US leader also spoke to Suu Kyi about how Washington can "support efforts to promote tolerance, respect for diversity, and a more inclusive political environment", it said.

The US leader will visit Myanmar in a fortnight's time for a major regional conference.

Last week Myanmar authorities announced the landmark polls would be held in the final week of October or the first week of November 2015.

Myanmar's previous general election in 2010 was marred by widespread accusations of cheating and was held without Suu Kyi, who was kept under lock and key until days after the vote, or her NLD party.

The polls came as the military relinquished its outright control of the government, after decades of misrule in which they turned Myanmar into a diplomatic pariah and drove the economy into the ground.

  • 'Carefully timed' -

Under Thein Sein, a former general, Myanmar is now at a crossroads as it grapples with thorny political and constitutional questions and the search for a nationwide ceasefire to several rebellions.

Trevor Wilson, a former Australian ambassador to Myanmar and visiting fellow at the Australian National University, said the timing of Friday's meeting, before Obama's visit, was highly significant.

"Without a doubt this is carefully timed. Even if (the outcome of) this meeting wasn't positive he (Thein Sein) could certainly say to Obama I've tried and made an effort to listen to people."

In 2012 by-elections Suu Kyi's party won almost every seat available and the 69-year-old, who spent more than a decade under house arrest during the junta years, became an MP for the first time.

The NLD is now expected to win a major slice of the legislature next year after which parliament will select a president.

Myanmar has promised the vote will be the freest in the country's modern history after the military ceded direct power to a quasi-civilian government three years ago.

In recent years Thein Sein has surprised the international community with a number of dramatic reforms that have seen international sanctions removed as the country opens up to the world.

Most political prisoners have been released, Suu Kyi moves freely as a political player, and the government has set its sights on ending multiple civil wars with armed ethnic minority rebels.

But the country still faces a myriad of challenges -- including an opaque legal system, creaking infrastructure and significant poverty levels -- that will need to be tackled by any new government after next year's election.

hla/pj/as

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: Myanmar President opens unprecedented talks with Suu Kyi, army: AFP

30 October 2014 - 11:28pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

Naypyidaw, Birmanie | AFP | Friday 10/31/2014 - 03:22 GMT

Myanmar President Thein Sein opened unprecedented talks with army top brass and political rivals including Aung San Suu Kyi in the capital Naypyidaw Friday ahead of crucial elections next year.

Thein Sein and Suu Kyi walked into the meeting together to begin talks that are the first of their kind in the country as it moves to emerge from decades of outright military rule.

The talks come a day after the White House said US President Barack Obama spoke to both Thein Sein and Suu Kyi about the upcoming polls, less than a fortnight before the US leader visits Myanmar.

Obama called for "inclusive and credible" elections during telephone talks with Thein Sein, said the White House in a statement.

Last week Myanmar election authorities announced the country's landmark elections would be held in the last week of October or the first week of November 2015.

Obama also spoke with Suu Kyi about how Washington can "support efforts to promote tolerance, respect for diversity, and a more inclusive political environment", the White House said.

The talks in Myanmar on Friday come as the fast-changing nation grapples with thorny political and constitutional questions and the search for a nationwide ceasefire to several rebellions.

hla/pj/jah

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

Thailand: Bang Saphan Medical Update: October 2014

30 October 2014 - 11:24pm
Source: Jungle Aid Country: Myanmar, Thailand

After nearly a year of trying, we have managed to get access to our most remote village Ta Yai in Bang Saphan. The village is a widely scattered group of houses with its majority of houses and population on the Burmese side of the border.

It was a very demanding and challenging trek through rivers (six crossings through waist-high water with strong current), mountains and jungle. We were able to take 7 volunteers including our Doctor who was able to offer medical care to people who have no access to health care and regular supply of medicines.

We diagnosed a young boy of 8 having asthma. We will be supporting him with inhalers.

Our assessment team worked hard to get an update of the current situation, as they have had to move location several times to ensure they are safe. They have a huge problem with a regular food supply and clean water. With the assessment team working closely with the leader of the village, we identified the top five needs of the villagers.

Even with no access to basic needs, the villagers understand the value of investing in the future of the children and their education. Four of the five needs are to support children with access to a rented house, nearly two hours away from the village, so that they can go to school. We distributed much-needed rice, mosquito nets and clothes to the villagers, particularly needed during the rainy season. We also left a box of medicines with the village nurse. We repaired petrol operated generator set and trained villagers on how to operate it. We also helped them with money to buy fuel for it.

Without your support we cannot offer the help that is needed.

After an amazing day with the incredible volunteers and incredible people we work with we headed home.

Thank you for supporting the work we do!

Myanmar: Myanmar President Calls For High-Level Meeting to Discuss Political Problems

29 October 2014 - 11:30pm
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Myanmar

Myanmar President Thein Sein has called for a surprise meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s powerful military chief, leaders of other political parties and ethnic groups on Friday to discuss the country’s political problems, according to some of those invited and news reports.

They said the meeting in the capital Naypyidaw could grapple with long running efforts to forge a nationwide cease-fire agreement between armed ethnic groups and the government, as well as proposed constitutional amendments aimed at ending the military’s veto power in parliament.

“It’s ceasefire and peace. These two issues will be the main topics,” Nyan Win, spokesman of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“It’s easy to understand why the meeting is being arranged…because there are difficulties, obstacles along the way,” in bringing about peace after decades of fighting between ethnic rebels and the government, he said.

Since the end of last year, Aung San Suu Kyi has been pushing for talks on Myanmar’s political reform process with the president, Speaker of the Lower House Shwe Mann, and military commander-in-chief General Min Aung Hlaing, all of whom are to attend Friday’s meeting.

She had wanted the meeting to focus on amendments to the country’s constitution which was written in 2008 when the country was under military rule. But Thein Sein did not want to convene the talks, saying he had wanted to wait for a parliamentary panel to complete its review of the charter. The panel said recently that the military lawmakers refused to give up their parliamentary powers.

The NLD has been calling for a number of amendments to articles in the constitution it views as undemocratic, including to Article 436 which effectively gives the military a veto over any constitutional amendments and Article 59(F) which prohibits Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president because her two sons are not citizens of Myanmar. The country faces crucial general elections next year.

Invitees

Among the others invited to the meeting at Thein Sein’s residence are the chairman of the Election Commission, Tin Aye, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) vice-chairman, Htay Oo and Speaker of the upper house of parliament, Khin Aung Myint.

The leaders of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) party and the National Democratic Force (NDF) party have also been invited.

“We presume that this meeting was arranged to breathe life into the nationwide cease-fire negotiations,” said Sai Nyunt Lwin, the SNLD general secretary.

“Since we achieved independence, there have been armed insurrections among the people of the union,” said Sai Aik Paung of the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation (NBF), an alliance of 20 ethnic political parties, who has also been invited to the talks.

‘Positive’ results

Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the Federal Democratic Alliance (FDA), a coalition of nine political and ethnic parties and a leading NDF official, noted that the meeting would be the first of its kind among top leaders and said those participating in the talks must push for “positive” results.

“Those of us on the side of the political parties must negotiate to come up with the best outcome,” he told RFA. “We have plans to make demands and requests, as we will be getting an opportunity to meet with the president, chief of the military and the Hluttaw [parliament] leaders.”

The meeting takes place before visits by U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders to Myanmar next month to attend the annual East Asia Summit.

In light of this, some political party leaders have questioned whether Thein Sein has arranged the meeting to demonstrate to world leaders that he was serious in his reform efforts considering recent criticism over the delay in forging a nationwide ceasefire with armed rebel groups and the refusal by the military to give up its veto power in parliament.

“If this meeting is just to appease the world leaders who will be visiting, then it is up to the people who will be attending the meeting [to do something],” Khin Maung Swe said. “From our side, we do not have to worry about that.”

Myanmar is the outgoing chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which holds the East Asia Summit annually.

Unhappy

Some ethnic parties were unhappy that they had not been invited to the talks.

Aye Maung, deputy chairman of the Rakhine National Party, which rules the communal violence-hit western states of Rakhine, felt his party had been excluded from the talks because the government thought it was not a key force in the county.

Representatives from two ethnic Shan parties were invited but other groups, including the Mon, Chin and Kachin, were excluded, he said.

“The president should clarify this,” he said.

Reported by Ma Thin Thiri for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Soe Thinn. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

occupied Palestinian territory: United Nations Expert Relays ‘Loud and Clear’ Message from Palestinians: End Impunity, Blockade, Occupation, Third Committee Hears

29 October 2014 - 7:57pm
Source: UN General Assembly Country: Colombia, Myanmar, occupied Palestinian territory

GA/SHC/4113

Sixty-ninth session, 33rd & 34th Meetings (AM & PM)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETINGS COVERAGE

Speakers Also Discuss Myanmar, Deliver National, Regional Updates on Human Rights Efforts, Highlighting Concerns   

With thousands of unexploded ordnances still littering neighbourhoods and winter fast approaching, accelerated efforts were needed to swiftly deliver humanitarian relief and reconstruction materials to Gaza, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today during interactive dialogues with experts, as it continued its debate on human rights.

“I am shocked by the devastating impact of the 50-day war in Gaza on Palestinian civilians, but particularly on children, who continued to live with injuries and the trauma of witnessing the deaths of family, friends and neighbours,” said Makarim Wibisono, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967. More than 500 Palestinian children were killed, and over 200 schools had been damaged, he told the delegates.

The war in Gaza lasting from July through August had ravaged civilian life, he added, while in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces and settlement construction continued to cause serious concerns. Aware of Israel’s concerns relating to the one-sided wording and open-ended nature of the mandate, he said it was in Israel’s own interest to grant his mandate full and unhindered access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

For his part, he told delegates that he was responsible for giving a voice to the victims of human rights violations, offering an objective assessment and making recommendations that might improve the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “Voices from across the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory] were loud and clear on three demands: the need for accountability, an end to the blockade and an end to the occupation,” he said.

Echoing that sentiment were several delegates who took the floor in the ensuing interactive dialogue. They called for an immediate end to the occupation and a resumption of peace talks based on a two-State solution. Other speakers urged Israel to allow the Special Rapporteur’s country visits, while acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself.

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine called on the Special Rapporteur not to use flexibility while dealing with the occupying Power, especially in light of its aggression against the people of Gaza during the summer. He then called on the Special Rapporteur to be vigilant and strong in dealing with Israel and its aggressive and illegal behaviour. He also asked the international community to address Israel’s violation of related laws.

A representative of Israel underlined his country’s efforts to end the fighting, as well as to minimize casualties, underscoring that the Israeli Defense Forces had done their “utmost”, unlike other military forces, to prevent civilian casualties. The reason why the fighting did not end and casualties persisted was that rocket launchers were placed in schools and hospitals were used as headquarters by Hamas. He regretted every loss of life, both Palestinian and Israeli.

Also addressing the Committee was Vijay Nambiar, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar. Part of his mandate was to assist the country’s transition to democracy and its national reconciliation process and to help further the situation of human rights. The 2015 elections would be a crucial future test of the reform process. “Public attention, both inside the country and outside, is focused on how far the election bodies will go to ensure a smooth and successful electoral process,” he said.

Also speaking today were representatives from Myanmar, United Kingdom, Norway, Suriname (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Tonga (national capacity and on behalf of Pacific Small Island Developing States), Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), United States, Costa Rica (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Russian Federation, Iran, Maldives, Indonesia, Egypt, Germany, Cuba, Venezuela, United Kingdom, Syria, Brazil, South Africa, Cuba, Australia, India, Japan, Switzerland, Mexico, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Peru, China, Singapore, Liechtenstein, United Arab Emirates, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Norway, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Serbia, Ethiopia and Qatar, as well as the Holy See and the European Union.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Thailand, Israel, Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Third Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 30 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee met this morning to continue its consideration of the protection and promotion of human rights, with two experts expected to present reports and engage in interactive dialogues. For background, see Press Releases GA/SHC/4108 of 22 October.

Also before the Committee were letters to the Secretary-General from representatives of Iran (document A/C.3/69/2), Myanmar (document A/C.3/69/4) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/C.3/69/5).

Interactive Debate

VIJAY NAMBIAR, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar, said his mandate was to assist the country’s transition to democracy, as well as in its national reconciliation process and to help further the situation of human rights. The democratic reforms affecting the political process, he continued, had moved smoothly with an actively functioning Parliament, enactment of new laws guaranteeing human rights and political freedoms, the release of political prisoners and incremental steps to establish a free and robust media environment. However, the reform and opening-up had unleashed negative forces, encouraged narrowed prejudices and caused communal polarization across the country.

Turning to economic reforms, he noted that measures had been initiated to strengthen region-based planning and management to provide for more inclusive growth. Technical assistance was also being sought to address issues regarding the graduation of Myanmar from its least developed country status. A crucial future test of the reform process would be the 2015 election, he added, and there were strong expectations for a credible, inclusive and transparent process. “Public attention, both inside the country and outside, is focused on how far the election bodies will go to ensure a smooth and successful electoral process,” he said. It would be critical for authorities to uphold equal rights for all citizens, without discrimination, to be able to participate in and run for any political office, including the highest in the land.

He said his report provided details of key developments in the spheres of political reforms, human rights, national reconciliation, socio-economic development and the evolving situation in Rakhine State. Meanwhile, authorities were undertaking a verification exercise in Rakhine to process the granting of citizenship to persons who had so far been denied that status. While the question of citizenship would take time to be resolved, he called on the international community to continue its effective advocacy on humanitarian issues while also helping authorities tackle the abysmal poverty in Rakhine. Myanmar must engage more constructively with the international community, he said, and foster greater confidence in the political and developmental measures.

In the interactive debate that followed, delegates asked about progress in political and economic reforms, the constitutional review process, the peace process, communal violence, cooperation with the United Nations, prospects for a nationwide ceasefire and Myanmar’s transition strategy.

A representative of Myanmar said, in dealing with human rights issues, his country had always opted for engagement, dialogue and cooperation rather than confrontation. Despite his country’s strong opposition to country-specific resolutions, Myanmar had consistently cooperated with the United Nations Secretary-General and his good offices.

Responding to a volley of questions, Mr. NAMBIAR said that transformation was taking place in Myanmar, contributing to inclusive, transparent and sustainable changes. Diverse communities needed to meet for national harmony and to discuss problems. While polarization and emotions were still sharp, the Government’s policies should be supported as they contributed to harmony between communities. On the transition strategy, he said, there were many promising signs across the country.

A crucial future test of the reform process would be the upcoming election in 2015, for which there were strong expectations for a credible, inclusive and transparent process. Accordingly, it would be for the authorities to uphold equal rights for all citizens of the country to participate in and run for any political office. The campaigning process must be hassle-free, open and transparent, he continued, noting that the international donor community, Member States and the United Nations country team were ready to help.

On the peace process, he said efforts for a nationwide ceasefire and a political dialogue between the Government and armed groups continued to gain momentum. While there was an inadequate amount of assurance, it was important to continue high-level informal dialogues.

Participating in the interactive debate were the representatives of Myanmar, United Kingdom, and Norway, as well as the European Union.

Statements

HENRY LEONARD MAC-DONALD (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community, said the enjoyment of human rights was under severe pressure, hampered by pervasive poverty, increased inequalities, infectious diseases, armed conflicts, intolerance, terrorism, environmental degradation and natural disasters. It was, therefore, crucial that everyone was entitled to a social and international order in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms could be realized. At the regional level, leaders adopted a specific plan to devise strategies to secure sustained economic growth and a better quality of life for the people of the region, and to achieve sustainable development.

Sustainable development would not be achieved, he said, without adequate attention to ensuring the right to education and the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food. Political leaders of the region, conscious of the critical role of health in the economic development of their people, had committed themselves to pursuing initiatives in order to improve the health status of their population, as “the health of the region is the wealth of the region”. In addition, he noted that vulnerability, climate change, together with food security and nutrition were priority areas for the region.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga), speaking on behalf of the 12 Pacific Small Island Developing States, said that a decent standard of living and protection against calamities were not simply development goals, but also human rights. All members of his group had sent submissions to the Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review process. Noting recent gains in gender equality within the education sector, he added that some trends had persisted, including a low political participation of women and high levels of violence.

Labour migration, he added, had a long history in his region. His group supported appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks to protect migrant workers and their families from exploitation. Environmentally forced migration was one facet of the problem of climate change, which was the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific. Climate change was a human rights issue for his group and he called on those with historical responsibility for climate change to make more ambitious targets to guarantee a sustainable future.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reaffirmed the group’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. Welcoming ongoing efforts to fulfil its commitments, he said that the group was implementing the 2013 Priority Programmes and Activities of the Intergovernmental Commission. In 2009, ASEAN had established the Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights to promote human rights in the 10 ASEAN countries, which unanimously adopted the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in 2012. Accordingly, the Commission was a commitment to strengthen regional cooperation on human rights and peace, which were referenced in the ASEAN charter. The group had also been conducting capacity-building activities and workshops to share experiences and best practices with Governments and civil society.

CAROL HAMILTON (United States) said the global situation of the promotion and protection of human rights was worsening. In Syria, the atrocities that were being committed demanded a response. Regarding Iran, she called for allowing the Special Rapporteur for that country to visit. She voiced her concerns about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, notably the imprisonment of political opponents. Turning to the expanded aerial bombardment in the area of the Blue Nile and limited humanitarian access in Sudan, she called on the Government to respect the universal human rights of its citizens, including freedom of speech. She noted forced disappearances in China. Regarding violent and arbitrary detention in Cuba, she called for the immediate release of Alan Gross, who was detained in that country for facilitating access to the Internet. She also expressed concerns over the human rights situation in Crimea, Egypt and Venezuela, among others.

MARITZA CHAN (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that the human rights of migrants was of particular concern. States of origin, transit and destination must work together to find solutions to the challenges posed by migration. Migrant children and adolescents were being exposed to grave abuses along the way due, in part, to a lack of human rights safeguards when migration was viewed as a threat to national security.

Deploring the current tendency of exploiting of migrants, she added that measures must be taken to protect migrants from activities of criminal groups. CELAC members were committed to intensifying measures to prevent trafficking in all its forms. The group also recognized the importance of the right of migrants to a safe, voluntary return to their countries of origin and the need to create opportunities for them. Countries of origin must implement national policies and strategies that would discourage unsafe migration.

ALEXEY GOLTYAEV (Russian Federation) said the protection and promotion of human rights was a priority for his country, which was fully committed to fostering human rights and dignity. Real progress in improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms could be made through constructive dialogue and cooperation. However, he continued, some States thought human rights problems existed only in other countries and ignored their own problems, which were harmful to their societies. Accordingly, human rights should not be seen as an instrument of foreign policy, he concluded.

MAKARIM WIBISONO, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said he approached his mandate with independence, integrity and impartiality, and noted that all Member States should cooperate with human rights mechanisms. Engagement was a manifestation of the responsibility of Member States to respect and protect human rights. While he was aware of Israel’s concerns relating to the one-sided wording and open-ended nature of the mandate, he said it was in Israel’s own interest to grant his mandate full and unhindered access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. However, he was denied access to that Territory during his first official mission to the region last month.

The current report had been drafted prior to that mission, he said, before he had been able to directly question Palestinian victims and various witnesses. He would present his first substantive report to the Human Rights Council in March 2015. Sharing some key preliminary impressions from his first mission, he said he was shocked by the devastating impact of the 50-day war in Gaza on Palestinian civilians, but particularly on children, who continued to live with injuries and the trauma of witnessing the deaths of family, friends and neighbours. During that war, more than 500 Palestinian children were killed. He had been informed that over 200 schools were damaged and thousands of unexploded ordnances continued to litter neighbourhoods in Gaza.

He stressed the importance of accelerating humanitarian relief and reconstruction efforts in Gaza with the imminent approach of winter and urged Israel to implement in good faith the Gaza reconstruction mechanism brokered by the United Nations. In the West Bank and Jerusalem, there were areas of serious concern, including the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces against Palestinians, including during demonstrations and search operations within refugee camps, the detention and ill-treatment of children, the thousands of Bedouin and herder communities at risk of forcible transfer, continuing settlement construction and expansion and repeated provocations at holy sites in Jerusalem. “Voices from across the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory] were loud and clear on three demands: the need for accountability, an end to the blockade and an end to the occupation,” he said.

Following the presentation, delegates took the floor to make comments and ask questions. Some delegates said the international community had witnessed Israeli bombardments in Gaza during the summer, urging Israel to respect human rights law. The recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people was necessary to begin peace talks, a number of delegates said, calling for an immediate end to the occupation and a resumption of peace talks based on a two-State solution.

Some delegates applauded Israel’s resumption of talks with the Special Rapporteur and condemned the bombardment done by Hamas and their use of civilians as human shields. Acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself, some speakers urged Israel to allow the Special Rapporteur’s country visits.

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine called on the Special Rapporteur not to use flexibility while dealing with the occupying Power, especially in light of its aggression against the people of Gaza during the summer. He then called on the Special Rapporteur to be vigilant and strong in dealing with Israel and its aggressive and illegal behaviour. He also asked the international community to address Israel’s violation of related laws.

A representative of Israel noted that the same delegates that were against the use of country-specific mandates had supported that measure when it related to his country. He then underlined his country’s efforts to end the fighting, as well as to minimize casualties, underscoring that the Israeli Defense Forces had done their “utmost”, unlike other military forces, to prevent civil casualties. The reason why the fighting did not end and casualties persisted was that rocket launchers were placed in schools and hospitals were used as headquarters by Hamas. He regretted every loss of life, both Palestinian and Israeli.

Questions posed to the Special Rapporteur related to his future plans on country visits, his vision for the implementation of the mandate, his plan of action to deal with obstacles to visiting Israel and his contact with the Commission of Inquiry and their division of labour. Other questions related to the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons and the use of force by the Israeli Defense Forces in the West Bank.

Responding to a range of questions, Mr. WIBISONO said he would like to visit the region before he completed his report, which would be submitted during the first week of January 2015. Human beings were born equally without any distinction. Accordingly, all United Nations Member States should cooperate with human rights mechanisms, whether with the Human Rights Committee, Commissions of Inquiry or independent mandate holders of the Human Rights Council. For his part, he was responsible for giving a voice to the victims of human rights violations, offering an objective assessment and making recommendations that might improve the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. With regard to the situation in the region, he noted that combatants and civilians needed to be separated. Concluding, he was worried that Palestinian civilians, and particularly women, elderly people and children, were living with injuries and the trauma of witnessing the deaths of their families.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives from Iran, Maldives, Indonesia, Egypt, Germany, Cuba, Venezuela, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Syria, Brazil, South Africa and Norway, as well as the European Union Delegation.

JAIRO RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ (Cuba) said the Government of the United States should act responsibly and respect his country’s desires, specifically with regard to Cuban citizens imprisoned in the United States. Reaffirming Cuba’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, he said the international community should focus on human beings. Accordingly, the Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review was an appropriate instrument to address human rights problems. Concluding, he said that respect for diversity and the right to self-determination should be a cornerstone of human rights values and major obstacles and challenges needed to be addressed with transparent dialogues.

MOHAMMAD GHAEBI (Iran) said that ensuring cultural diversity was only possible when cultural rights were protected and guaranteed for everyone. Dangerous trends emanating from cultural superiority and religious sanctions had in recent years harmed conceptual aspects of human rights. Certain States imposing unilateralism would ultimately lead to the erosion of the noble goals and principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and international human rights law. His Government welcomed the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights.

TANISHA HEWANPOLA (Australia) said respect for human rights was a cornerstone of Australian values. Her country had a proud history of promoting and protecting human rights as inherent, universal and indivisible. In its region, Australia remained deeply concerned by the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Accordingly, her country urged the Government of that country to heed the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations and to take immediate steps to provide its people with the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. Every human being was born free and equal and in dignity, she said, adding that preserving and protecting human rights was essential not only to defend the individual but also to safeguard societies and economies.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said that the social dimension of sustainable development needed to be strengthened in an inclusive manner. The post-2015 development strategy must continue to prioritize the eradication of poverty as its central objective. India’s developmental strategy over the last two decades had produced positive results; policies and programmes envisaged the engendering of development planning and giving priority to women and children from the poorest and weakest communities. The Government had also launched initiatives to extend the reach of banking to those outside the formal financial system. The Right to Education Act of 2009 had led to education in India becoming “more or less” universalized, with most children in school, he concluded.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan) said his country attached great importance to human rights, democracy and the rule of law as universal values. The special procedures for country-specific mandates and Commission of Inquiry were indispensable tools for tackling human rights violations around the world in a strong and timely manner. He was concerned about the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The report of the Commission on that country revealed numerous human rights violations, including political prison camps and abductions. Accordingly, Japan and the European Union had co-tabled a draft resolution on the issue. His country hoped that the draft text would be adopted and would gain broad support from Member States. Also criticizing the human rights violations in Syria, Iran, Myanmar and Cambodia, he said all Governments should make continuous efforts for the realization of human rights for all.

CHRISTINE ELISABETH LOEW (Switzerland) said that human rights defenders faced many obstacles in carrying out their work, and these abuses constituted serious violations of the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Opposing the use of the death penalty anywhere and in any circumstances, her Government had in 2013 submitted a resolution to the Human Rights Council asking, among other things, for the Secretary-General to present a report on human rights violations arising from the imposition of the death penalty. Sustainable development and economic growth could only be achieved if women and girls enjoyed the same rights as men and boys, so the economic and political empowerment of women, as well as several specific problems suffered by women, had to be explicitly included as goals in the post-2015 agenda.

ELISA DIAZ GRAS (Mexico) said that her country attached great importance to the international human rights system. Mexico maintained close relations with the United Nations system, including its entities, which provided invaluable technical assistance and recommendations. The Government had introduced constitutional reforms in the area of human rights. In that regard, programmes had been developed to eliminate discrimination against women and people with disabilities. For its part, Mexico would continue to work to address human rights challenges and to ensure that the rights were enjoyed by all citizens in her country.

CHAYAPAN BAMRUNGPHONG (Thailand) said, as a nation was judged on the basis of how it treated its weakest members, welfare-oriented measures were being implemented through comprehensive plans and mechanisms to protect the rights of vulnerable groups, namely children, women, persons with disabilities and the elderly. The social security system, he continued, provided free education for all children, as well as universal health coverage. Recognizing that human rights required a supportive environment cushioned by the rule of law, good governance and sustainable development, the Government had adopted a comprehensive reform initiative that aimed at strengthening democratic governance to ensure the realization of human rights and the well-being of all its citizens.

RANIA TALAL ABDULBAQI (Saudi Arabia) said that the United Nations fact-finding mission should be given entry to investigate violations and crimes that Israel had committed on Palestinian land. She urged swift action to end the Syrian people’s suffering. Muslims around the world were experiencing persecution, she said, and the development of a legally binding instrument to prevent intolerance, discrimination and hatred based on religion should be accelerated. Her Government reaffirmed its rejection of use of the principle of “universality of human rights” as a pretext to intervene in matters that belonged to the internal jurisdiction of States. Nationally, her Government was keen to establish a fair and effective justice system based on solid foundations derived from Islamic Sharia, as the rule of law was crucial to the maintenance of peace and security and the promotion and protection of human rights.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said his country was dedicated to pursuing the promotion and protection of human rights, all fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law. All its citizens had equal rights. To guarantee the upholding of human rights, Peru had ensured that national legislation was consistent with international standards. However, extreme poverty continued to be a major challenge in the country. Accordingly, he said, States had a responsibility to implement social protection measures to combat extreme poverty. Concluding, he said, more work needed to be done, especially to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, including women and children.

WANG MIN (China) said that as the right to life was the basis of all other rights, world peace had to be safeguarded. International cooperation against terrorism had to be strengthened and interfaith dialogue and exchanges must be improved to achieve harmonious coexistence. As civil and political rights, and economic and development rights were two sides of the same coin, both must be promoted. Autonomous choice must be respected and peoples of various countries must choose their own priorities in the field of human rights. Constructive dialogue represented the future direction of human rights. On a basis of mutual respect, countries should learn from each other. The international community should oppose the politicization of human rights. Strongly opposing attacks against China made by the United States delegate in her statement, he said his delegation rejected those fabrications. The United States had unsolvable human rights problems, but wanted only to criticize others, which was, indeed, ridiculous, he concluded.

YASMIN ALI (Singapore) said her country was committed to promoting and protecting the rights of each individual. However, since individuals lived in societies and communities, their rights and freedoms could not be unbridled. As a small, young city-State with a multiracial and multireligious population, she said Singapore sought to balance the exercise of individual rights with the shouldering of responsibilities of societal rights. That “formula” was not imposed on anyone else, underscoring the belief that no country or grouping had the right to impose their views on human rights, as it could result in polarized societies, with damaging consequences.

STEFAN BARRIGA (Liechtenstein) said human rights had been under attack on many different fronts, including violent conflicts and extremism, authoritarian regimes, discrimination and xenophobia, poverty and exclusion, disease and climate change. However, his country was concerned particularly about the rise of religious intolerance, including the persecution of religious groups and rise of anti-Semitism. In addition, violence committed in the name of religion had taken on new proportions, mostly due to the ill-named “Islamic State” [also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS)], which was “neither Islamic, nor a State”. The state of human rights worldwide today did not require “alternative approaches” to the effective enjoyment of human rights. What it required was an application of the core values of past commitments, as exemplified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially since human rights challenges were growing ever more complex.

SUOOD RASHED ALI ALWALI ALMAZROUEI (United Arab Emirates) said his Government had made significant progress in the area of human rights, including signing a number of international conventions such as the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. On gender equality, his Government had promoted initiatives for girls in education. Legislative reform in all areas had also been undertaken, he said. His Government was considering withdrawing its reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was in the process of acceding to the Optional Protocol. He underscored his Government’s commitment to guaranteeing human rights and fundamental freedoms.

CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said there must be a strict respect for “sovereignty”, which was the lifeline for every nation. However, the United States and other western countries had engaged in interference in other countries’ internal affairs. With regards to the politicization of double standards in human rights, he said western countries behaved as human rights judges in developing countries, trying to impose collective action on others. Despite economic sanctions imposed by hostile forces, his country had been implementing measures to ensure that human rights were fully enjoyed. Concluding, he said western countries needed to mind their own business rather than singling out his country.

MOHAMAD ZAMRI (Malaysia) said that human rights were interdependent and interrelated. The promotion of human rights had to be undertaken by all countries and every State had an inalienable right to choose its own system without any other State’s interference. As the international community moved towards a globalized world, there was an obligation to ensure the promotion and protection of social, political and economic rights. His Government was convinced that a mutually beneficial relationship with the Human Rights Council promoted the advancement of human rights in Malaysia. Dialogue with Member States during the universal periodic review was appreciated, as that had afforded an opportunity to take stock of challenges in ensuring human rights for the whole population. The right to development was another significant aspect of human rights. He reaffirmed the importance his Government attached to the promotion and protection of human rights at national, regional and international levels.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) said Governments had the primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights. However, many States had failed to meet their obligation to build inclusive and open societies. The prevention of grave human rights violations and emergencies must be an immediate and urgent priority for the international community. In that regard, the United Nations had a key role to play, she stressed. Despite efforts to protect and promote human rights, Norway was deeply concerned that journalists were being harassed, rape was being used as a weapon of war, religious minorities were facing discrimination and people were being politically oppressed. Concluding, she called upon the United Nations system, Member States and civil society to support protection of human rights.

MARÍA PAULINA DÁVILA (Colombia) said that progress made and initiatives undertaken by her country regarding its human rights and international humanitarian law policy had been explained during the country’s universal periodic review in Geneva. A number of normative and institutional changes had focused on ensuring the universal enjoyment of human rights. The main progress made by Colombia had occurred in two main areas: guaranteeing the human rights of the entire population and of victims. In that way, her Government aimed to lay the foundation for putting an end to conflict in her country. A total of 6.6 million victims had been identified to whom compensation, care, assistance and reparations were being provided. The Government had created a national protective unit, which was the result of its ongoing dialogue with human rights organizations.

OSAMA ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said that countries must refrain from all forms of discrimination and racism. They must also eliminate double standards, which triggered violence and extremism. On the promotion and protection of human rights, his country had made significant progress, and was moving steadily. However, the statement delivered by the representative of the United States was totally inappropriate, and there was no will to understand the overall situation, he continued. In that regard, he said, his country did not need to be lectured by the delegation of United States.

YAHYA AL-OBAIDI (Iraq) said that by the end of April 2013, the Iraqi people had completed parliamentary elections despite the poor security conditions. Many parts of Iraq had been subjected to terrorist attacks by the entity known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS). Numerous human rights violations had been committed, including mass executions of Iraqi prisoners, forced migration, indiscriminate killing and sexual violations, as well as the imposition of practices that had nothing to do with Islam. Shrines and temples had been demolished. Collectively, the terrorist attacks against Iraq, in regions under ISIL control and in other regions, all aimed to deprive citizens of their right to live in dignity. An alliance had been formed to fight ISIL and his Government extended its thanks to all that had supported his country. He called upon the international community to continue to support his country in its war against terrorism and to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by terrorists.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the right to life as enshrined in natural law and protected by international human rights laws was at the foundation of all human rights, reaffirming that all life must be fully protected in all its stages from conception until natural death. Welcoming the reduction in the last two years of the recourse to the death penalty, he recommended the abolition of life imprisonment, which could be defined as a “hidden death penalty”, as it also excluded all possibilities of redemption and recuperation. Recognizing that the right of thought, conscience and religion continued to face serious challenges around the world, he called for the strengthening of the international human rights system.

MILAN MILANOVIĆ (Serbia) said, as a multi-ethnic country, it attached special attention to the rights of minorities, especially the right to language and script. On the Roma minorities, he noted efforts being made to improve housing conditions, increase employment in public administration and to give special attention to families in flood-affected areas. Turning to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population, he said awareness-raising efforts targeting security and public administration officials were being made. In addition, social workers were being trained in matters related to LGBT persons and their families.

HUDA MOHAMED (Ethiopia) said her country’s development strategy fully recognized the human rights of all citizens, allowing them to take part in decision-making. Ethiopia had worked with the United Nations human rights entities on a number of initiatives that aimed at further strengthening the human rights system in her country. In that regard, the Government had taken concrete steps in the areas of freedom of religion and arbitrary arrest and detention. Despite notable progress made in the last years, Ethiopia needed financial and technical support to implement its human rights obligations.

AL-ANOUD AL-TEMIMI (Qatar) said that her Government’s commitment was demonstrated in the fact that its day of human rights was an important national occasion. Many institutions had been established, including a department of human rights in the Foreign Ministry, a national committee and a centre for religious dialogue in Doha, which played a major role in the promotion of rights. She hailed the creation of the United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region, and noted that the Secretary-General had attached great importance to its work. Qatar’s election for the third time to the Human Rights Council also showed her Government’s commitment to promoting and protecting human rights throughout the world.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, a representative of Thailand addressed the issue of intervention, saying that it was necessary to take steps to prevent further violence in her country. After that intervention, Thailand returned to stability, strengthening its democratic governance with respect to the rule of law, she said.

A representative of Israel, in exercise of the right of reply, said that Gaza was being controlled by Hamas, which was very close to ISIL. With regards to the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces against Palestinians, he said his country had a right to self-defence like others did.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, a representative of Japan said despite claims by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, his country had maintained the recognition of its history.

In response, a representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea said Japan had committed crimes against humanity, including genocidal killings and the issue of sexual slaves. However, he said, Japan was reluctant to address such crimes.

Japan’s representative, taking the floor for a second time, said the claims that the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had mentioned were groundless.

Also taking the floor for a second time, the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea said the claims were historically well documented, including by United Nations special rapporteurs. Accordingly, he called upon Japan to take immediate action to address those claims.

For information media. Not an official record.

World: ECHO Daily Flash of 29 October 2014

29 October 2014 - 4:29pm
Source: European Commission Humanitarian Aid department Country: India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, World

Sri Lanka - Landslide (Media)

-Heavy rains affected parts of Sri Lanka in the last few days. According to media (as of early 29 October), a landslide hit the area of Haldummulla (Badulla, central Sri Lanka) early on 29 October, killing at least three people. At least 150 people are still missing. Rescue operations are on-going.

India, Pakistan - Tropical Cyclone NILOFAR - UPDATE (GDACS, JTWC, IMD, PMD, ECHO)

  • NILOFAR is moving north-northeast over the Arabian Sea. On 29 October at 00.00 UTC it had max sustained winds of 195 km/h and its center was located approx 400 km east of the coast of Al Wusta Governorate (Oman) and 850 km south-west of the coast of Gujarat State (western India).
  • In the next 48 h it is forecast to move north-east, over the Arabian Sea, towards western India and south-eastern Pakistan, slightly weakening.
  • Starting on 29 October, the Indian government is mobilising to evacuate around 30,000 people living along the coastal areas in Gujarat’s Kutch district to safer areas.

Myanmar/Burma - Mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from western Myanmar (ECHO)

  • Since communal violence broke out two years ago, there is a growing sense of desperation fuelling a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from western Myanmar/Burma, most fleeing by boat from Northern Rakhine Statee and the border with Bangladesh.
  • According to nonprofit advocacy group the Arakan Project, since 2012 more than 100 000 people have fled on precarious boat journeys to other countries in the region with more than 8 000 departures from 15 to 23 October. An unknown number are Bangladeshi migrant workers. November and December are usually the peak of this exodus.
  • Most are victims of organized criminal networks in South East Asia and as stateless face an uncertain future.
  • A number of Rohingya are also were moving overland to Bangladesh and on to India and Nepal. The UN, which has labelled the Rohingya one of the most persecuted religious minorities in the world, has confirmed figures provided by the Arakan Project about a massive exodus.