During 2021 the people of Myanmar experienced an unprecedented political, socioeconomic, human rights, and humanitarian crisis. On 1 February the Myanmar Armed Forces detained elected political leaders, declared a state of emergency, and transferred all legislative, executive and judicial powers to themselves. Compounded by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the military takeover unleashed a crisis that has resulted in significant human suffering and a reversal of many of the development gains made in recent years. On top of this, Myanmar experienced a severe outbreak of COVID-19 between June and August during which many people lost their lives and the economy was almost brought to a halt.
The events at the beginning of the year had significant implications on the work of the UN. As the member states contended with the legitimacy of the de facto authorities, overnight, UN’s operating environment became much more challenging, while the need for UN assistance increased exponentially. To respond to the new and escalating needs, the UN undertook an extensive reprogramming exercise. Funds and programmes were refocused on meeting the humanitarian needs of people, supporting the COVID-19 public health response, and mitigating the impact on the most vulnerable people and communities. To complement the UN’s humanitarian response, two new development programming frameworks were developed: the Health Response Contingency Plan (HRCP); and the Socio-economic Resilience Response Plan (SERRP). Despite the operational challenges, the UN disbursed a total of US$453 million in programmatic expenditures under the two development frameworks and its humanitarian response.
Under the HRCP, the UN contributed to the COVID-19 response, promoted continued access to essential health and nutrition services for vulnerable groups, and strengthened logistics and supply chains for immunizations, and reproductive health commodity security. Under the SERRP, the UN supported continued access for vulnerable populations to essential services in areas including social protection, food and nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education, shelter, and gender-based violence and violence against children. In addition, the UN worked to promote gender-responsive employment, private sector resilience, and strengthen households, communities and micro, small and medium enterprises capacities to weather future shocks. To promote and protect human rights, the rule of law, and the democratic space, the UN supported civil society actors to hold decision makers to account, facilitated access to legal aid, and worked with communities to increase awareness of fundamental and democratic rights.
At the time of writing, the situation in Myanmar remains uncertain and the political, socioeconomic, human rights and humanitarian continues. Going forward the UN is determined to strengthen our efforts to serve the people of Myanmar. We will use the lessons learnt in 2021 to ensure that our support becomes increasingly impactful as we keep delivering humanitarian assistance, support the most vulnerable, build resilience, and promote conditions for an inclusive and sustainable recovery when the situation allows. I am confident that through the strength of the people of Myanmar, the country will find its way back on a brighter path.
Ramanathan Balakrishnan UN Resident Coordinator a.i./ Humanitarian Coordinator a.i.