National Statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Myanmar, 12 December 2017, New York.
Thank you, Mr President, for calling today’s meeting
I also thank Under Secretary-General Feltman and the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten for their engagement, briefings and appeals for action.
We recognize the commitments made by the Government of Myanmar since the adoption of the Council’s Presidential Statement on November 6. But, urgent action is now required to implement these commitments and to achieve real change on the ground. The support and continued engagement of the international community and the United Nations system, including this Council, remains important.
This crisis is far from over. Hundreds of people continue to cross the border into Bangladesh every day; bringing the number of refugees to well over six-hundred and twenty thousand. Reports of ongoing trafficking in human beings, including children, are extremely worrying. The risk of radicalization in the camps is also a real concern. There are clear implications for regional peace and stability. It is essential that our attention does not wane.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, recently visited Bangladesh and Myanmar. While there, she engaged with the leaders of both countries. She met with leaders from the region, also to hear their perspectives and also used the opportunity to convey the messages of this Council.
From the camps outside Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, Minister Wallström was able to hear first-hand accounts, not only of the enormity of the humanitarian crisis, but also of the horrific violence and abuse, including sexual and gender-based violence against the Rohingya by Myanmar’s armed forces. Ms. Patten’s graphic intervention today and numerous reports, including from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, clearly illustrates the seriousness and horrific nature of these crimes. The Minister was particularly struck by the precarious situation of children and young people caught up in the crisis.
Numerous reports of systematic, widespread and coordinated acts of violence strongly indicate that crimes against humanity have been committed. It is important that the facts and circumstances on the ground are fully established. The Fact Finding Mission, mandated by the Human Rights Council is an important resource in this regard, and we urge the Government of Myanmar to provide it with full access.
We have fully supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to resolve the crisis in Rakhine State. After listening to Under Secretary-General Feltman’s comprehensive briefing today, it is clear that the three areas for urgent action identified by the Secretary-General when he briefed us on 28 September remain relevant and urgent. Of immediate concern is the need to ensure assistance reaches those estimated 865,000 people who need it inside Rakhine State and elsewhere in Myanmar. It is unacceptable that humanitarian access in northern Rakhine is insufficient and still severely limited.
Restoring peace and stability, ensuring full humanitarian access as well as addressing the root-causes of this crisis will require real change in Rakhine State. Only then will the conditions exist for those who have fled to return in a safe, dignified and voluntary manner. People who do decide to return should be able to do so to the places of origin. This requires the establishment of a credible verification mechanism. The creation of IDP-camps or camp-like conditions is unacceptable. We take note of the arrangement reached between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh regarding the voluntary repatriation of refugees. Like others, we feel that UNHCR must now be invited to participate in the Joint Working Group that will oversee the return so that it can fully carry out its mandate, and help work towards arrangements that would enable refugees to exercise their right to return in line with international law. I also note Under Secretary-General Feltman’s recommendations, including regarding reconciliation efforts in northern Rakhine.
Implementation of the recommendations set out in the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s report is needed without delay. The Commission’s report provides the roadmap needed to address the root causes of this long running crisis, in particular the systematic discrimination of the Rohingya including by addressing the issue of citizenship.
We encourage the Government of Myanmar to continue to cooperate with Bangladesh and countries in the region. We urge Myanmar to cooperate fully with the UN and to counter narratives and rhetoric that seek to undermine the organization’s ability to do its work. In addition, as mentioned in this Council’s Presidential Statement on this matter, we continue to see value in giving consideration to the appointment of a Special Adviser or Envoy to offer assistance to the Government.
Sweden and the international community stand ready to support the Government and people of Myanmar as it continues its democratic transition. Now is the moment to rebuild trust between the communities within Rakhine State; between Myanmar and its neighbours and with the international community. Doing so can create the conditions for peace and development that will benefit all the people of Rakhine State and the people of Myanmar.
We encourage the government to grasp this opportunity, including by implementing its commitments. And, this Council should stay very actively engaged.