Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on the situation in Myanmar
National statement delivered by Ambassador Carl Skau on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the situation in Myanmar, 13 February 2018, New York.
I would like to begin by thanking High Commissioner Grandi and Assistant-Secretary-General Jenča for your important briefings to the Council. As your remarks make clear, six months on from the initial mass displacements from Rakhine, the situation continues to be one of serious concern and the crisis has clear implications for regional peace and security. Together with Council colleagues, we called for this meeting today as we believe it is important that the Security Council remains seized, and that the United Nations continues its active engagement.
The decision to flee one's home and to take the dangerous journey to seek refuge in a foreign land is a decision driven by fear for oneself and one's family; a decision taken when no other option remains. We have heard, first-hand, from those who have fled, of the violence and abuse that drove them from their homes. However, we also know that when it is safe to do so, refugees want to return home.
In this regard, we welcome the bilateral arrangement on the voluntary return of refugees reached between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. UNHCR, with its global mandate as the international refugee agency, must be fully associated with this process, including by supporting verification, and should be invited to join the Joint Working Group.
As we have heard this morning, Rohingya refugees are still arriving in Bangladesh. Conditions in Rakhine are clearly not yet ripe for voluntary return. For the process to begin, it is critical that conditions exist that allow return to be voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable in line with international law and the principle of non-refoulement. UNHCR must be given access to Rakhine to assess conditions on the ground and to support return-operations from inside the country. Particular attention should be given to the special needs of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, including their protection needs in the return process.
Those who do decide to return voluntarily should be able to do so to their places of origin. The creation of new IDP-camps or camp-like arrangements in Rakhine must be avoided. Similarly, transition and reception centers must be temporary, and UNHCR and other organisations should have full access.
The Security Council Presidential Statement adopted in November still needs to be implemented in full, including by ensuring full and unimpeded humanitarian access. But it will not be possible to restore peace and stability in Rakhine state without also addressing the conditions that led to the violence and displacement in the first place.
There is an urgent need for security, reconstruction and livelihood programmes that benefit all communities in Rakhine. Implementation of the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission report must now be stepped-up, in cooperation with international and regional partners. This is critical to address the root causes of the conflict, underdevelopment and discrimination. Implementation must include a genuine process towards citizenship for the Rohingya. While the re-establishment of the rule of law is urgent and a precondition for safe and voluntary returns, reconciliation between the communities in Rakhine will be essential for long term peace and development.
Numerous reports of systematic widespread and coordinated acts of violence strongly indicate that crimes against humanity have been committed in Rakhine. We are deeply concerned by recent reports of mass graves, which must be duly investigated.
Impunity for crimes against humanity in Rakhine cannot be tolerated. Those responsible for these crimes must be held to account. These reports reinforce the need for all crimes to be fully investigated.
In this regard, we urge Myanmar to cooperate with the Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission, in order to help establish the facts of what has taken place in Rakhine. We look forward to the Fact Finding Mission's oral report to the Human Rights Council in March. If the Myanmar authorities do not genuinely address the issue of accountability, help from the international community should be sought, including considering referral to the International Criminal Court.
We pay tribute to the Government and people of Bangladesh for generously hosting such a large number of refugees. While no effort should be spared in creating the conditions for voluntary return, long term planning and humanitarian support for the refugees in Bangladesh must continue.
Conditions in the camps are dire, and with the monsoon rains coming, there is a risk for another humanitarian crisis within the crisis.
We welcome Bangladesh's efforts and commitments to avoid such a humanitarian disaster, and encourage international partners to provide additional humanitarian support. It is essential that affected host communities are also supported as part of these efforts.
There is no doubt that the situation in Myanmar remains of deep concern, requiring both short and long term solutions. We call on the government of Myanmar to fully engage with the United Nations and other regional and international partners, who want and can provide assistance. Sweden and the international community stand ready to continue supporting Myanmar on its path towards democracy and prosperity.