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Civil society statement on the visit of Head of OCHA to Myanmar

August 22nd, 2023  •  Author:   514 Civil Society Organizations  •  12 minute read
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22 August 2023

Civil society statement on the visit of Head of OCHA to Myanmar

While noting efforts by UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, to negotiate humanitarian access across Myanmar, including to Rakhine State following deadly Cyclone Mocha, we, the undersigned 514 civil society organizations, are concerned that Mr. Griffiths’ visit lacked substantive achievements and was used as propaganda by the military junta. We urge the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), to officially engage and partner with legitimate stakeholders of Myanmar and civil society service providers to deliver humanitarian assistance.

As Mr. Griffiths’ end-of-visit statement affirmed, “it is critical for us to have the humanitarian space we need for safe, sustained aid deliveries around the country.” Principled humanitarian engagement must see OCHA and other UN humanitarian agencies cut ties with the illegal criminal junta which is weaponizing aid and is the root cause of human suffering in Myanmar. Rather, OCHA must immediately partner with legitimate governance actors that control large parts of the country and deliver aid through local service providers. This includes Ethnic Revolutionary Organizations (EROs), the National Unity Government (NUG), and civil society organizations who have been effectively providing essential services on the ground, including through cross-border channels. Such stakeholders have the access, legitimacy, capacity and, most importantly, trust from the people that the junta simply lacks.

Given that the visit happened three months since Cyclone Mocha devastated communities in Chin and Rakhine States, Sagaing Region and beyond, the junta has proven to have no intention to address the acute needs of affected communities. Rather, OCHA visit has become the military junta’s latest propaganda exercise to attempt to gain international recognition and legitimacy. We are alarmed that OCHA’s statement omits the fact that the cause of the escalating humanitarian crisis is the junta’s violence and atrocities, or that it is the junta’s weaponization of humanitarian assistance that is blocking access to Cyclone Mocha’s victims.

While the junta has restricted humanitarian access and prevented aid from reaching vulnerable communities affected by the natural disaster, it is also the perpetrators of a nationwide man-made humanitarian catastrophe. Its widespread and systematic campaign of arson, military offensives, extrajudicial killings, and aerial attacks on civilians are, according to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, strong evidence of “increasingly frequent and brazen war crimes.” In addition to these heinous crimes, severe restrictions of humanitarian aid delivery, including targeting aid workers, are the junta’s collective punishment of a population that is rejecting its ongoing brutal attempt to grab power. In his recent report to the 53rd Session of the Human Rights Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, outlines how “As part of its attempts to assert control, the military has imposed a range of legal, financial, and bureaucratic requirements on civil society and humanitarian activity that have severely reduced civic space and delivery of life-saving assistance.”

We further note OCHA’s recognition of the Myanmar military’s unconstitutional body of the “State Administration Council” in its statement which is inconsistent with the language used by the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly in their resolutions. It also legitimizes Min Aung Hlaing’s claim to be head of government by referring to him as the Chairman of the State Administration Council. We express serious concerns that OCHA’s current approach will embolden the junta to further its war of terror across the nation. Such actions risk exacerbating the humanitarian crisis, the very crisis OCHA is mandated to address and alleviate.

Despite the junta attempting to gain diplomatic legitimacy over this type of visit, OCHA must ensure substantial benefits are provided for the millions of people in dire need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the junta’s violence and atrocities. Access for OCHA staff to parts of Rakhine State and nearby areas is one issue at stake, but so is the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons in central, southeast and northwest Myanmar, where the junta is launching non-stop deliberate attacks on civilians. In these areas, the junta does not have effective control and cannot grant access to affected communities. On the contrary, local governance and civil society actors have been effectively delivering assistance to affected communities, but must be supported by more resources.

OCHA must reflect on its current failed approach and take critical, concrete actions which truly serve Myanmar communities that are in dire need. To fulfill its mandate and principles to do no harm, OCHA must immediately pivot to delivering aid in collaboration or partnership with local humanitarian and civil society groups, ethnic service providers, diaspora communities, local administration forces of the Spring Revolution, members of the Civil Disobedience Movement, EROs, and the NUG who have been effectively providing life-saving services on the ground, including through cross-border channels.

The Myanmar military has a long history of weaponizing humanitarian aid and UN agencies have a long history of being criticized for complicity in military atrocities, all done in the name of access. OCHA can no longer afford to rehash failed models of humanitarianism, and thus tacitly giving credence and status to the illegal military junta. Rather, OCHA must be innovative and supportive of local service providers, as well as engage and collaborate with the legitimate stakeholders of Myanmar. This will ensure the most effective and widespread delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected communities suffering from international crimes committed by a brutal military junta.

For more information, please contact:

Signed by 514 Myanmar, regional and international organizations including 260 organizations who have chosen to not disclose their name:

  1. 5/ of Zaya State Strike
  2. 8888 Generation (New Zealand)
  3. Action Against Myanmar Military Coup (AAMMC)
  4. Action Committee for Democracy Development (Coalition of 14 grassroots networks)
  5. Action Committee of Basic Education Students
  6. Active Youths Kalaymyo
  7. Ah Nah Podcast – Conversation with Myanmar
  8. All Aung Myay Thar San Schools Strike Force
  9. All Burma Democratic Front in New Zealand
  10. All Burma Indigenous People Alliance (ABIPA)
  11. All Burma Student Democratic Front (ABSDF) – Australia Branch
  12. All Young Burmese League (AYBL)
  13. Alliance of Students’ Union – Yangon (ASU-Yangon)
  14. ALTSEAN-Burma
  15. Anti Dictatorship in Burma – DC Metropolitan Area
  16. Anti-coup Forces Coordination Committee (ACFCC -Mandalay)
  17. Anti – Junta Alliance Yangon – AJAY
  18. Anti – Myanmar Military Dictatorship Network (Australia)
  19. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
  20. Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)
  21. Asian Cultural Forum on Development (ACFOD)
  22. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
  23. Association Suisse-Birmanie
  24. Associazione per l’Amicizia Italia Birmania “Giuseppe Malpeli”
  25. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
  26. Auckland Kachin Community NZ
  27. Auckland Zomi Community
  28. Aung San Suu Kyi Park Norway
  29. Australian Karen Organisation (AKO)
  30. A-Yar -Taw People Strike
  31. Ayeyarwaddy West Development Organisation AWDO (Magway)
  32. Ayeyarwaddy West Development Organisation AWDO (Nagphe)
  33. Back Pack Health Worker Team
  34. Better Burma
  35. Blood Money Campaign
  36. Blooming Padauk
  37. Boat People SOS
  38. Burma Action Ireland
  39. Burma Advocacy Group
  40. Burma Campaign UK
  41. Burma Civil War Museum (BCM)
  42. Burma Lawyer Council (BLC)
  43. Burma Medical Association
  44. Burma Support
  45. Burmese Canadian Network
  46. Burmese Community Development Collaboration (BCDC)
  47. Burmese Community Group (Manawatu, NZ)
  48. Burmese Community Support Group (BCSG)
  49. Burmese Medical Association Australia (BMAA)
  50. Burmese Rohingya Welfare Organisation New Zealand
  51. Burmese Women’s Union
  52. CAN – Myanmar
  53. CDM Medical Network (CDMMN)
  54. CDM Support Organisation Mae Sot
  55. Center For Action Point (CAP)
  56. Chaung Oo Township Youth Strike Committee
  57. Chin Community in Norway
  58. Chin Community of Auckland
  59. Chin Human Rights Organization
  60. Civil Information Network (CIN)
  61. Coalition for Democracy
  62. Coalition Strike Committee – Dawei
  63. Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
  64. Community Association Development
  65. Creative Home
  66. CRPH & NUG Supporters Ireland
  67. CRPH Funding Ireland
  68. CRPH Support Group
  69. CRPH, NUG Support Team Germany – Deutschland
  70. Dahnu Youth Organization
  71. Dawei Youths Revolutionary Movement Strike Committee
  72. Democracy for Ethnic Minorities Organization
  73. Democracy, Peace and Women’s Organization
  74. Democratic Party for a New Society, Norway
  75. Democratic Youth Council
  76. Depayin Township Revolution Steering Committee
  77. Doh Atu – Ensemble pour le Myanmar (France)
  78. Earthrights International
  79. Educational Initiatives Prague
  80. Equality Myanmar
  81. Ethnic Youth General Strike Committee (Mandalay)
  82. Federal Corner
  83. Federal Myanmar Benevolence Group (NZ)
  84. Feminist Equality Justice and Peace (Myanmar)
  85. Finland Myanmar Society Ry
  86. Food Not Bombs
  87. Free Burma Campaign (South Africa) (FBC(SA)
  88. Free Rohingya Coalition
  89. Freedom and Labor Action Group (FLAG)
  90. Future Light Center
  91. Future Thanlwin
  92. Gender Equality Network
  93. General Strike Collaboration Committee (GSCC)
  94. General Strike Committee of Basic and Higher Education
    • Basic Education Worker Unions – Steering Committee
    • Representative Committee of University Teacher Associations
    • Basic Education General Strike Committee
  1. General Strikes Committee of Nationalities – GSCN
  2. Generation Wave
  3. Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4MD)
  4. Global Myanmar Spring Revolution
  5. Global Myanmar Spring Revolution (Japan)
  6. Global Myanmar Spring Revolution (Korea)
  7. Grass-root People
  8. Human Rights Educators Network
  9. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  10. Industrial Training Centre (ITC) Family Sydney
  11. Info Birmanie
  12. Initiatives for International Dialogue
  13. Insight Myanmar Podcast
  14. Institute for Asian Democracy
  15. Integria, z.u.
  16. International Association, Myanmar – Switzerland (IAMS)
  17. JMC Inn Lay
  18. Justice For Myanmar
  19. Kachin Association Australia (KAA)
  20. Kachin Association Norway
  21. Kachin Student Union
  22. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT)
  23. Kalay Township Strike Force
  24. Kanpetlat Land Development Association
  25. Karen Environment and Social Action Network
  26. Karen Human Rights Group
  27. Karen Office Relief Development (KORD)
  28. Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN)
  29. Karen Swedish Community (KSC)
  30. Karen Women’s Organization (KWO)
  31. Karenni Association – Norway
  32. Karenni Civil Society Network
  33. Karenni National Women’s Organization (KNWO)
  34. Karenni Society New Zealand
  35. Kayan Women’s Organization (KyWO)
  36. K’cho Ethnic Association
  37. Keng Tung Youth
  38. Kyain Seikgyi Spring Revolution Leading Committee
  39. La Communauté Birmane de France
  40. Latpadaung Region Strike Committee
  41. Legal Aid for Human Rights
  42. Let’s Help Each Other
  43. LGBT Alliance
    • LGBT Community Yangon
    • LGBT Alliance Myanmar (Kalay Region)
    • LGBT Alliance Myanmar (Kyaukse Region)
    • LGBT Union – Mandalay
    • Monywa LGBT Strike
  1. MAGGA Initiative
  2. Magway People’s Revolution Committee
  3. Mandalay-Based University Students’ Unions
  4. Mandalay Medical Family (MFM)
  5. Mandalay Regional Youth Association Revolution Core Group
  6. Mandalay Strike Force (MSF)
    • Chanmyatharzi Township People’s Strike
    • Co-operative University Mandalay Students’ Strike
    • Daung Sitthe Strike
    • Industries Strike
    • Maharaungmyay Township People’s Strike
    • Mandalay-based People’s Strike
    • Mandalay Alliance Coalition Strike
    • Mandalar University Students’ Strike
    • Mandalay Youth Strike
    • Multi-Religions Strike
    • Mya Taung Strike
    • Myanmar Institute of Information Technology Students’ Strike
    • No.12 Basic Education Branch High School (Maharaungmyay) Students’ Union
    • Samgha Sammaga – Mandalay
    • Seinpann Strike
  1. Matu Chin Community – NSW/UPU Chin Association
  2. MayMyo Strike Force
  3. Metta Campaign Mandalay
  4. Min Hla farmers Group
  5. Minbu farmers Group
  6. Mindat Chin Community NSW
  7. Mon National Council (MNC)
  8. Monywa-Amyint Road Strike Leading Committee
  9. Monywa People’s Strike Steering Committee
    • All Burma Federation of Student Unions (Monywa District)
    • Civil Society Organizations Coordination Committee (Monywa)
    • Former Political Prisoners and New Generation Group – Monywa
    • National League for Democracy (Monywa Township)
    • Network of University Student Unions – Monywa
    • Thakhin Kodaw Mhine Peace Network (Monywa)
    • The 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (Monywa)
  1. Myanmar Accountability Project
  2. Myanmar Action Group Denmark
  3. Myanmar anti-military coup movement in New Zealand
  4. Myanmar Campaign Network
  5. Myanmar Catholic Community In Norway
  6. Myanmar Community Coffs Harbour (MCC)
  7. Myanmar Community Group Christchurch New Zealand
  8. Myanmar Community Group Dunedin New Zealand
  9. Myanmar Community in Norway
  10. Myanmar Cultural Research Society (MCRS)
  11. Myanmar Democratic Force in Denmark
  12. Myanmar Diaspora Group Finland
  13. Myanmar Engineers – New Zealand
  14. Myanmar Gonye (New Zealand)
  15. Myanmar Hindu Community – Norway
  16. Myanmar Labor Alliance (MLA)
  17. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
  18. Myanmar Students’ Union in New Zealand
  19. Myanmar Teachers’ Federation
  20. Myaung Education Network
  21. Myaung Medical Team
  22. Myaung Youth Network
  23. Myingyan Civilian Movement Committee
  24. Nelson Myanmar Community Group New Zealand
  25. Network for Human Rights Documentation Burma (ND-Burma)
  26. New Zealand Doctors for NUG
  27. New Zealand Karen Association
  28. New Zealand Zo Community Inc.
  29. NLD Organization Committee (International) Norway
  30. NLD Solidarity Association (NSW Chapter)
  31. Norway Falam Community
  32. Norway Matu Community
  33. Norway Rvwang Community
  34. NSW Karenni (Kayah) Communities
  35. Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
  36. Olive Organization
  37. Open Development Foundation
  38. Overseas Mon Association. New Zealand
  39. Padauk Finland – Myanmar Association
  40. Pale Township People’s Strike Steering Committee
  41. ParChan River Conservation and Development
  42. PFLAG – Myanmar
  43. Progressive Voice
  44. Pwintphyu Development Organisation
  45. Pyi Gyi Tagon Strike Force
  46. Pyithu Gonye (New Zealand)
  47. Rohingya Community in Norway
  48. Rural Community Development Society
  49. Rvwang Community Association New Zealand
  50. Save and Care Organization for Women at Border Areas
  51. Save Myanmar – USA
  52. Save Myanmar Fundraising Group (New Zealand)
  53. Shan Community (New Zealand)
  54. Shan MATA
  55. Shwe Pan Kone People`s Strike Steering Committee
  56. Social Garden
  57. Southern Dragon Myanmar
  58. Southern Youth Development Organization
  59. Spring Friends
  60. Spring Traveller
  61. Student Voice
  62. Sydney Friends For Myanmar Unity
  63. Synergy – Social Harmony Organization
  64. Ta Mar Institute of Development
  65. Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO)
  66. Tanintharyi MATA
  67. Taze Strike Committee
  68. Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB)
  69. The Ladies
  70. The Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute Foundation, Inc. (MPI)
  71. TRF – Myanmar
  72. TRIPNET
  73. Twel Let Myar
  74. Twitter Team for Revolution
  75. S. Campaign for Burma (USCB)
  76. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
  77. University Students’ Unions Alumni Force
  78. We Pledge CDM (Australia)
  79. Wetlet Revolution Leading Committee
  80. White Coat Society Yangon (WCSY)
  81. Women Activists Myanmar
  82. Women Advocacy Coalition
  83. Women Alliance Burma (WAB)
    • Chindwin (West) Villages Women Strike
    • Dawei ( Ashaetaw) Women Strike
    • Depayin Women Strike
    • Gangaw Women Strike
    • Kalay Women Strike
    • Mandalay Women Strike
    • Monywa-Amyint Road Women Strike
    • Monywa Women Strike
    • Taze Women Strike
    • Thayat Chaung Women Strike
    • Wetlet Township Women Strike
    • Yangon Women Strike
  1. Women’s League of Burma
  2. Yadanabon University Students’ Union
  3. Yasakyo Township People`s Strike Steering Committee
  4. Yinmarpin and Salingyi All Villages Strike Committee
  5. Youth for Democratization of Myanmar (UDM)
  6. Youth Heart Beams
  7. Youths for Community – Myaung
  8. Zomi Association Australia Inc.
  9. Zomi Christian Fellowship of Norway
  10. Zomi Community Norway
  11. ကမ်းလက်ကူ
  12. ခုနစ်စဥ်ကြယ် အဖွဲ့
  13. ဒို့မြေကွန်ရက် – LIOH
  14. ဒေါနတနင်္သာရီ – စစ်ဘေးရှောင်များ အထောက်အကူပြုရေးအဖွဲ့
  15. နားဆင်သူများ
  16. ပဉ္စမမဏ္ဏိုင်
  17. ပွင့်ဖြူလယ်ယာမြေကွန်ရက်
  18. ယောဒေသစစ်ဘေးရှောင်ကူညီရေးအဖွဲ့
  19. သောင်ရင်း သတင်းလွှာ

Additional list (Organization who has signed on following publication)

  1. General Strike Committee (GSC)
  2. Justice For All
  3. SEA Junction

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