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UN Agencies Must Comply with their Obligations to Uphold Human Rights and Cease Lending Legitimacy to the Myanmar Military Junta

December 10th, 2021  •  Author:   256 Civil Society Organizations  •  12 minute read
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10 December, 2021

We, the undersigned 256 civil society organizations, call on all United Nations (UN) agencies, Funds, Programmes and other Entities to cease all forms of cooperation that lend legitimacy to the illegal murderous Myanmar military junta. This includes signing Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) and inviting junta representatives to meetings as the junta continues to callously inflict immense suffering on the people of Myanmar and deepen an already catastrophic human rights and humanitarian crisis.

The UN agencies are, through the signing of the MoUs and other forms of cooperation, providing the military junta legitimacy and a platform to fuel its propaganda machine. Partnering with the junta through an MoU compromises the UN’s ability to promote and protect human rights by emboldening the junta to continue its grave human rights violations and giving it leverage to advance its craven political and military goals.

The recent decision by the UN General Assembly to reject the military junta’s application for credentials at the UN is a confirmation from the world body that the military junta does not represent Myanmar at the UN. All UN agencies should now accept nominations made by the current UN Permanent Representative, Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun appointed by the National Unity Government (NUG), to represent Myanmar in all UN bodies as well as related forums and meetings.

Shockingly, on 17 November, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) co-organized a virtual meeting attended by the military junta. Other UN agencies have hosted summits, meetings, and events attended by the military junta, including the “ITU Digital World 2021”, UNWTO’s “The Future of World Tourism Summit-Ministerial Debate” and UNEP’s “United Nations Biodiversity Conference”.

The UN Charter requires agencies, funds and programmes to advance human rights as a core UN pillar. The UN must not therefore make deals with the devil by pandering to the military junta, at the expense of human rights, in exchange for “access”. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) must also guide a rights-based approach in all UN programming, with human rights due diligence and the “do no harm” principle placed at the core of all operations as called for by the UN Secretary-General. This is essential to respecting and protecting the human rights guaranteed to the people of Myanmar in line with the Secretary-General’s “Call to Action for Human Rights”.

The Myanmar military junta has been designated a terrorist organization under Myanmar’s national law by the duly elected government. Every day it commits acts of terrorism as defined by international experts on Myanmar. Since the attempted coup on 1 February, 2021, the Myanmar military has killed over 1,323 people including around 100 children, and has detained 10,815 people. Since September, Myanmar military has been ferociously and systematically shelling and burning Thantlang, Chin State, burning down over 250 houses. On 5 December, they opened fire and rammed a military vehicle into peaceful protesters, killing five and injuring dozens more in Yangon. These patterns of extreme violence and terrorist acts are being repeated by junta forces across the country. UN agencies espouse their commitment to human rights and the humanitarian principle of ‘Do No Harm’, yet these agencies breach their acclaimed principles of “neutrality and impartiality” when they choose to work with a military junta that continues to commit extreme terrorist acts.

Cooperating with the military junta not only contradicts UN agencies’ obligations to neutrality and upholding human rights, but it is a misguided approach to assisting the people of Myanmar. The junta continues to weaponize and destroy humanitarian aid, arresting and killing those who provide it, and is forcing more and more people into displacement and destitution through continuous attacks on civilians. At the same time, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and World Food Programme have been restricted and blocked from providing lifesaving humanitarian aid, including to Chin and Rohingya people, raising serious questions about the effectiveness of the MoUs.

The UN must learn from its systemic failure during the Rohingya genocide. It must not forget that it failed to stop, mitigate, or sufficiently draw attention to violence that was laid out by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission which concluded that the leaders of the Myanmar military should be investigated and prosecuted for crimes they committed against the Rohingya, including genocide and crimes against humanity. The UN agencies in Myanmar chose to keep quiet about the genocidal atrocities being committed in Rakhine State in the hope of maintaining access and continuing their programs, contributing to a worsening human rights situation in the long term. Such systemic failures by the UN, as detailed in the Rosenthal report, must not continue to be repeated over and over while the people of Myanmar put their lives at risk in defiance of the military junta. The UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar is risking yet another repetition of these systemic failures of the UN in Myanmar, failing to regularly and publicly speak on the situation on the ground. The Resident Coordinator must immediately consult with the NUG and Myanmar civil society in responding to the crisis.

It is imperative to deliver humanitarian aid to those most in need, without placing further risks to human security. The realignment of UN programming forced by the failed coup presents an opportunity to the UN Country Team to develop a new common Human Rights Strategy that identifies Myanmar civil society, ethnic organizations and the NUG – the sole and legitimate government of Myanmar – as key implementing partners. The UN must meet with the NUG and provide cross-border aid through local humanitarian and civil society organizations. Ethnic health organizations and civil society organizations operating in conflict areas as well as newly established networks across the country have the experience and capacity to deliver aid effectively and have gained the confidence of the people and the infrastructure to make this a reality.

The attempted coup has led to the Spring Revolution, a nationwide movement of diverse groups including workers, labor unions, ethnic people, educators, medical professionals, women, LGBTIQ, police, military personnel and civil society to finally free the country from the military’s oppression. The Spring Revolution is succeeding. For nearly eleven months, the junta has been unable to gain control and power over the country. The UN must stand with the people of Myanmar and support their struggle – in solidarity.

In line with the June 2021 UN General Assembly resolution, UN agencies must clearly show support for democracy and the will of the people of Myanmar, and call for the end of the junta’s violence against civilians and peaceful protesters and the immediate release of political prisoners.

The military junta is not a partner to solve the humanitarian crisis, as they are the root cause of this crisis.

The UN must not continue to fail the people of Myanmar but deliver on its human rights obligations as its paramount consideration and on its promise to “Do No Harm’’.

For more information, please contact:

Signed by 256 civil society organizations:

  1. 8888 Generation (New Zealand)
  2. Action Committee for Democracy Development
  3. Advocates for Public Interest Law
  4. Ah Nah: Conversations with Myanmar Team
  5. Albany Karen community, Albany, NY
  6. All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress
  7. All Burma Democratic Face in New Zealand
  8. ALTSEAN-Burma
  9. America Rohingya Justice Network
  10. American Baptist Churches USA
  11. Anti-Junta Mass Movement Committee
  12. Arakan Institute for Peace and Development
  13. Arakan Rohingya Union
  14. Arizona Kachin Community
  15. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  16. Asia Democracy Network
  17. Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)
  18. Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition
  19. Asian Companions Against Brutality
  20. Asian Dignity Initiative
  21. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  22. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
  23. Association for Advancing Freedom of Religion or Belief in Vietnam (AAFoRB-Vn)
  24. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
  25. Association Suisse-Birmanie
  26. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
  27. Auckland Kachin Community NZ
  28. Auckland Zomi Community
  29. AwazCDS-Pakistan
  30. Backpack Health Workers Team
  31. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India
  32. Baptist World Alliance
  33. Blood Money Campaign
  34. Boat People SOS
  35. Burma Action Ireland
  36. Burma Campaign UK
  37. Burma Human Rights Network
  38. Burma Medical Association
  39. Burma Task Force
  40. Burmese American Millennials
  41. Burmese Democratic Forces
  42. Burmese Rohingya Association of North America
  43. Burmese Rohingya Community of Georgia
  44. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
  45. Burmese Rohingya Welfare Organisation New Zealand
  46. Burmese Women’s Union
  47. Busan Solidarity Network for Democracy in Myanmar
  48. Bytes For All, Pakistan
  49. Calgary Karen Community Association (CKCA)
  50. California Kachin Community
  51. Campaign for a New Myanmar
  52. Central European Institute of Asian Studies
  53. Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
  54. Changjak21
  55. Chin Community of Auckland
  56. Chin Leaders of Tomorrow (CLT)
  57. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  58. Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA)
  59. Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam
  60. COVIL
  61. CRPH Funding Ireland
  62. CRPH/NUG Supporters Ireland
  63. Dalit Foundation
  64. Dallas Kachin Community
  65. Decency & Clarity
  66. Democracy for Myanmar – Working Group (NZ)
  67. Democracy, Peace and Women’s Organization -DPW
  68. Ecumenical Youth Council in Korea
  69. Edmonton Karen Community Youth Organization
  70. Education Community Woorijari Social Cooperation
  71. Educational Initiatives Myanmar
  72. Equality Myanmar
  73. European Karen Network
  74. Federal Myanmar Benevolence Group (NZ)
  75. Florida Kachin Community
  76. Free Burma Action Bay/USA/Global
  77. Free Myanmar Campaign USA/BACI
  78. Freedom for Burma
  79. Freedom, Justice, Equality for Myanmar
  80. Future Light Center
  81. Future Thanlwin
  82. Georgia Kachin Community
  83. Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4MD)
  84. Green Party Korea International Committee
  85. Gwanak Education Community MODU
  86. Houston Kachin Community
  87. Human Rights Development for Myanmar
  88. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  89. IMPARSIAL, Indonesia
  90. Incorporated Organization Shilcheon Bulgyo
  91. In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND)
  92. Info Birmanie
  93. Initiatives for International Dialogue
  94. Institute for Asian Democracy
  95. Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (I-GMAP)
  96. International Campaign for the Rohingya
  97. International Child Rights Center (InCRC)
  98. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  99. International Karen Organisation
  100. International Ministries – American Baptist Foreign Mission Society
  101. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
  102. Iowa Kachin Community
  103. Justice for Myanmar (JFM)
  104. Kachin American Community (Portland – Vancouver)
  105. Kachin Community of Indiana
  106. Kachin Community of USA
  107. Kachin National Organization USA
  108. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  109. Karapatan Alliance Philippines
  110. Karen American Association of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
  111. Karen Association Ireland
  112. Karen Association of Huron, SD
  113. Karen Community of Akron, OH
  114. Karen Community of Austin, Texas
  115. Karen Community of Canada (KCC)
  116. Karen Community of Czech Republic
  117. Karen Community of Finland
  118. Karen Community of Hamilton
  119. Karen Community of Iowa, IA
  120. Karen Community of Ireland
  121. Karen Community of Israel
  122. Karen Community of Kansas City, KS & MO
  123. Karen Community of Kitchener & Waterloo
  124. Karen Community of Leamington K
  125. Karen Community of Lethbridge
  126. Karen Community of London
  127. Karen Community of Minnesota, MN
  128. Karen Community of Ottawa
  129. Karen Community of Regina
  130. Karen Community of Saskatoon
  131. Karen Community of Thunderbay
  132. Karen Community of Toronto
  133. Karen Community of Windsor
  134. Karen Community of Winnipeg
  135. Karen Community Society of British Columbia (KCSBC)
  136. Karen Environmental and Social Action Network
  137. Karen Human Rights Group
  138. Karen Organization of America
  139. Karen Organization of Illinois, IL
  140. Karen Peace Support Network
  141. Karen Rivers Watch
  142. Karen Swedish Community (KCS)
  143. Karen Thai Group
  144. Karen Women’s Organization
  145. Karen Youth Education Pathways
  146. Karen Youth Networks
  147. Karen Youth of Norway
  148. Karen Youth of Toronto
  149. Karen Youth Organization
  150. Karenni Civil Society Network
  151. Karenni Human Rights Group
  152. Karenni National Women’s Organization
  153. Karenni Society New Zealand
  154. Keng Tung Youth
  155. Kentucky Kachin Community
  156. Kijamii Table
  157. Korea Christian Solidarity for Democracy in Myanmar
  158. Korea Karen Organization
  159. Korea Karen Youth Organization
  160. Korean Civil Society in Solidarity with the Rohingya
  161. Korean Civil Society in Support of Democracy in Myanmar
  162. Korean Dentists Association for Healthy Society, Busan-Kyungnam branch
  163. Korean House for International Solidarity
  164. Korean Solidarity for Overseas Community Organization
  165. La Communauté Birmanie de France
  166. LA Rohingya Association
  167. Louisiana Kachin Community
  168. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), Maldives
  169. Maryland Kachin Community
  170. May 18 Seoul Memorial Society
  171. Michigan Kachin Community
  172. Migrant Health Association in Korea WeFriends
  173. MINBYUN – Lawyers for a Democratic Society International Solidarity Committee
  174. Minnesota Kachin Community
  175. Myanmar Accountability Project
  176. Myanmar Advocacy Coalition
  177. Myanmar Doctors for Human Rights Network
  178. Myanmar Engineers – New Zealand
  179. Myanmar Family Community Ireland (MFCI)
  180. Myanmar Gonye (New Zealand)
  181. Myanmar Hindu Union
  182. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
  183. Myanmar Students’ Union in New Zealand
  184. National Clergy Conference for Justice and Peace
  185. National Council of YMCAs of Korea
  186. Nationalities Alliance of Burma USA
  187. NeT Organization
  188. Netherlands-Myanmar Solidarity Platform
  189. Network for Human Rights Documentation Burma (ND-Burma)
  190. Never Again Coalition
  191. New Bodhisattva Network
  192. New York Kachin Community
  193. New Zealand Doctors for NUG
  194. New Zealand Karen Association
  195. New Zealand Zo Community Inc.
  196. No Business With Genocide
  197. North Carolina Kachin Community
  198. Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
  199. Olive Organization
  200. Omaha Kachin Community
  201. Oversea Karen Organization Japan
  202. Overseas Burmese Christian Fellowship
  203. Overseas Mon Association New Zealand
  204. Pa-O Women’s Union
  205. Pennsylvania Kachin Community
  206. People, not Profit
  207. People’s Watch, India
  208. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
  209. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
  210. PIDA (People’s Initiative for Development Alternatives)
  211. Progressive 3.0
  212. Progressive Korea
  213. Progressive Voice
  214. Pyithu Gonye (New Zealand)
  215. Pyungdung Parents Union
  216. Rohingya Cultural Center of Chicago
  217. Rvwang Community Association New Zealand
  218. Save and Care Organization for Ethnic Women on the Border Areas
  219. Save Myanmar Fundraising Group (New Zealand)
  220. Save the Salween Network
  221. SEA Junction
  222. Shan Community (New Zealand)
  223. Shan MATA
  224. Sisters 2 Sisters
  225. Sitt Nyein Pann Foundation
  226. Solidarity for Another World
  227. Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights in Asia
  228. South Carolina Kachin Community
  229. Spouses of Peoples’ Soldiers
  230. Spring Revolution Interfaith Network
  231. Students for Free Burma
  232. Support Group for Democracy in Myanmar (Netherlands)
  233. Support the Democracy Movement in Burma
  234. Supporters Group for Migrant Workers Movement in Korea
  235. Swedish Foundation for Human Rights
  236. Synergy – Social Harmony Organization
  237. Ta’ang Women’s Organization
  238. Tennessee Kachin Community
  239. The Center For Freedom of Information
  240. The Human Rights Center of the National Council of Churches in Korea
  241. The Rohingya American Society (RAS)
  242. The Sound of Hope
  243. Thint Myat Lo Thu Myar
  244. S. Campaign for Burma
  246. Union of Karenni State Youth
  247. Unitarian Universalist Association
  248. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
  249. US Advocacy Coalition for Myanmar
  250. Utica Karen Community, NY
  251. Virginia Kachin Community
  252. Washington Kachin Community
  253. West Virginia Kachin Community
  254. Women’s League of Burma
  255. Women’s Peace Network
  256. Wonders International

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