LATEST VISIT TO MYANMAR YIELDED NO ‘IMMEDIATE TANGIBLE OUTCOME’, SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL ADVISER TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

18 March 2008
SC/9278

LATEST VISIT TO MYANMAR YIELDED NO ‘IMMEDIATE TANGIBLE OUTCOME’, SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL ADVISER TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

18 March 2008
Security Council
SC/9278
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5854th Meeting (PM)

LATEST VISIT TO MYANMAR YIELDED NO ‘IMMEDIATE TANGIBLE OUTCOME’,

SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL ADVISER TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

 

Acknowledging that he had never been under any illusion that engagement with Myanmar would be “smooth sailing”, Ibrahim Gambari, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General, reported to the Security Council this evening that his latest visit to that country, unlike his previous two, had yielded “no immediate tangible outcome”.

However, he said that, despite the lack of results during his visit to a country that had experienced nearly 60 years of armed conflict pitting its Government against multiple armed opponents, his 6-10 March mission should be assessed within the broader context of recent efforts.  Two years ago, there had been no dialogue with the authorities and, only six months ago, there had been no mechanism for promoting dialogue between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, detained leader of the main opposition party.

The National Convention had since established the principles to be enshrined in a new draft constitution and a committee had drafted that text, he noted.  A nationwide referendum on the draft constitution would be held in May, followed by ratification and then multiparty democratic elections in 2010 -– the first general election in 20 years.  While the referendum and elections were milestones in any transition to civilian democratic rule, they were not ends in themselves.  In order to succeed, they required political conditions that would ensure broad and free participation in the transition.

The United Nations would continue to pursue dialogue and engagement so as to strengthen cooperation through tangible results, he said.  Over the past two years, the Organization had been the only international actor to maintain face-to-face dialogue with Myanmar’s leaders regarding the need for greater efforts towards national reconciliation, democracy and human rights.  It was the only outside actor to maintain access and to act as a go-between between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  The United Nations was Myanmar’s “preferred interlocutor” for engaging with the international community and the region.  The international community as a whole must support the Secretary-General’s good offices to ensure that the country’s interests and concerns were addressed in a credible, acceptable way.

Detailing his latest visit, he said the Myanmar authorities had granted most of his requests for meetings, including two with the Government Authoritative Spokesperson Team representing the State Peace and Development Council, the Referendum Convening Commission and the Constitution Drafting Committee.  He had also met twice with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and with some political parties, but it had not been possible to meet with the senior Government leadership and other parties, including representatives of ethnic minorities.  Nonetheless, there had been an opportunity to exchange views on current preparations for the planned constitutional referendum in May and multiparty democratic elections by 2010.

He said he had put on record the concerns of the United Nations, as well as specific suggestions for enhancing the credibility of the constitutional and electoral process.  The suggestions included an offer of technical assistance and independent monitoring.  In return, he had received repeated assurances that all political forces in Myanmar would be allowed to participate freely in the referendum and elections.

In the socio-economic sphere, he said he had discussed with ministers the United Nations recommendation to establish a broad-based national economic forum.  In the ministers’ view, sanctions were the primary cause of any socio-economic problems in Myanmar and the central obstacle to the country’s development.  Technically, therefore, they considered the utility of the proposed forum or similar proposals as limited, since, in their view, such vehicles would only produce a “distorted” diagnosis of the situation in Myanmar.  Nonetheless, the Government had expressed an interest in finding areas of convergence in that area, with a view to addressing concerns and challenges.

Regarding dialogue between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he said the fact that he had been granted a second meeting with the Nobel Peace Laureate indicated the Government’s abiding interest in maintaining that channel of communication.  It also signalled a willingness by the authorities to recognize the value of the United Nations in facilitating substantive dialogue.  It was important to recognize the steps that the Government had taken in appointing a Minister for Liaison with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the several meetings they had held so far.  On her part, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had already signalled her willingness to cooperate with the Government and she continued to expect the United Nations to help facilitate a substantive and time-bound dialogue.

Also addressing the Council, Myanmar’s representative said the Government had come a long way and made significant strides in its seven-step political road map.  It would continue to cooperate with the United Nations, as that cooperation was the cornerstone of Myanmar’s foreign policy.  The country was not a threat to international peace and security, as all its neighbours could attest.  No Security Council action was warranted with regard to Myanmar.

The meeting began at 5:10 p.m. and adjourned at 5:40 p.m.

Background

Meeting this afternoon to consider the situation in Myanmar, the Security Council heard a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on his recent visit to that country.

Briefing

IBRAHIM GAMBARI, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General, reported on his 6‑10 March visit to Myanmar, saying he had been under no illusion that the task would be “smooth sailing”.  Engagement with interlocutors had been difficult, complex, frustrating, but, nevertheless, incremental and ongoing.  That was invariably the nature of the good offices role of the Secretary-General.

He said the Myanmar authorities had granted most of the meetings he had requested, including two with the Government Authoritative Spokesperson Team representing the State Peace and Development Council and comprising the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Information and Culture, as well as with the Planning and Health Ministers, the Deputy Foreign Minister, the Referendum Convening Commission and the Constitution Drafting Commission.  He had also met twice with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and with political parties, including the National League for Democracy, the National Unity Party, the Pa’o National Organization and the Union Solidarity and Development Association.  In addition, he had met twice with the United Nations country team, the diplomatic corps and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Regrettably, it had not been possible to meet with the senior Government leadership and other parties, including the “88 Generation Group” and representatives of ethnic minorities, he said.  Moreover, whereas previous visits had produced results on which to build, it was disappointing that the latest visit had yielded no immediate tangible outcome.  Nonetheless, it had been an opportunity to discuss further some earlier recommendations and, in particular, to exchange views on current preparations for the planned constitutional referendum in May and multiparty democratic elections by 2010.  Those discussions had helped to foster a greater understanding of how the Government of Myanmar could work further with the Secretary-General’s good offices.

Regarding the constitution-making process, the planned referendum and elections, he said he had placed on record the concerns of the United Nations, as well as specific suggestions for enhancing the credibility of the constitutional and electoral process, including the Organization’s offer of technical assistance and its suggestion to consider independent monitoring.  The authorities, including at the highest level, had given repeated assurances that all political forces in Myanmar would be allowed to participate freely in the referendum and elections.  The Government had further reiterated that the draft constitution had been completed on the basis of principles adopted by the broadly inclusive process of the National Convention, and that, based on the precedents of the 1947 and 1974 constitutions, it had sufficient experience to organize and conduct a referendum and elections.

He said he had encouraged the authorities to take further steps to ensure that the credibility of the process was enhanced.  Such steps should include early and broad dissemination of information, including the referendum rules and regulations, in addition to the text of the constitution and the referendum law.  The better educated the voters were and the more public space there was for open debate on the draft constitution, the more confidence the process would generate from all political actors and the public at large, the more the outside world would perceive it as credible.

Turning to the socio-economic sphere, he said he had discussed with the Minister for National Economic Planning and Development, and the Minister for Health the United Nations recommendation to establish a broad-based national economic forum.  In their view, sanctions were the primary cause of any socio-economic problems in Myanmar and the central obstacle to the country’s development.  Technically, therefore, they considered the utility of the proposed forum or similar proposals as limited, since, in their view, such vehicles would only produce a “distorted” diagnosis for Myanmar.  Nonetheless, the Government had expressed interest, in subsequent discussions, in finding areas of convergence in that area, with a view to addressing its concerns, as well as the challenges facing the country.  Towards that goal, the United Nations stood ready to continue to work with its Myanmar partners to develop existing and new ideas.

With respect to dialogue between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he said the fact that he had been granted a second meeting with her was an indication that the authorities remained interested in maintaining that channel of communication, and a sign of their willingness to recognize the value of the United Nations role in helping to facilitate substantive dialogue.  It was also important to recognize the steps that the Government had taken in appointing a Minister for Liaison with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the several meetings they had held so far.  On her part, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had already signalled her willingness to cooperate with the Government and she continued to expect the United Nations to help facilitate a substantive and time-bound dialogue.

The role of the United Nations good offices in that regard, therefore, appeared relevant to both sides, he said, noting that he had proposed that the authorities consider raising the level of the Government interlocutor, and stressed that no dialogue could be complete unless Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released and treated as a partner.  Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had asked him to report that she was in good health and good spirits.

He said that, in addition to positive steps taken in the wake of the September crisis, the Government’s continuing cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO) -– which had resulted, on 26 February, in a one-year extension of the supplementary understanding to address complaints about forced labour --– and the fact that it had agreed to receive delegations from ICRC and the European Union, illustrated Myanmar’s readiness to continue engaging with the United Nations and the international community.  There was reason to believe that the Government attached importance to the just concluded mission and continued to value the Secretary-General’s good offices as the best prospect for further cooperation through mutual trust and confidence, and constructive suggestions.

Despite the lack of immediate tangible results, that third visit should be assessed within the broader context of efforts in the last two years, he said.  Two years ago, there had been no dialogue with the authorities and, only six months ago, there had been no mechanism for promoting dialogue between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  The National Convention had since established the principles to be enshrined in a new draft constitution and a Constitution Drafting Committee had drafted that text.  On 9 February, for the first time, the Government had announced a timeline for implementing its road map.  A nationwide referendum on the draft constitution would be held in May, followed by ratification and then multiparty democratic elections in 2010 -– the first general election in 20 years.

He said it was incumbent upon all sides to be forward-looking and to make the most of present opportunities by demonstrating maximum flexibility to make the process work in the interest of all the people of Myanmar.  While the referendum and elections were milestones in any transition to civilian and democratic rule, they were not ends in themselves.  Myanmar had experienced nearly 60 years of armed conflict between the Government and multiple armed opponents, and more than two dozen armed groups remained in the country.  In order to succeed, any formal process required political conditions that were conducive to ensuring broad and free participation in the transition.  It was in Myanmar’s interest that the Government, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other relevant parties engage without delay in a substantive, time-bound dialogue so that the foundations of an inclusive national reconciliation could be formed.  There must also be new instruments for sustainable development.

The United Nations would continue to pursue dialogue and engagement so as to strengthen cooperation through tangible results, he said.  Over the past two years, the Organization remained the only international actor to maintain face-to-face dialogue with Myanmar’s leaders regarding the need for more efforts towards national reconciliation, democracy and human rights.  It was the only outsider to maintain access and to act as a go-between between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  The United Nations was Myanmar’s “preferred interlocutor” for engaging with the international community and the region.  The international community as a whole must support the Secretary-General’s good offices to ensure that the country’s interests and concerns were addressed in a credible, acceptable way.

Statement

U KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar), expressed appreciation for the Secretary-General’s good offices, noting the complex challenges of transforming the country into a democratic society, while at the same time forging national reconciliation and maintaining unity.  It was no easy task.  In the course of his good offices efforts, many of the things that Mr. Gambari had discussed with the Government had come to fruition.  For example, the Government had lifted the curfew, withdrawn the military from public areas in major cities and released some 2,600 persons, including 780 monks, from detention.  The National Convention had been concluded and 8,552 prisoners had been released to mark that historic occasion.  Dialogue and cooperation with ILO continued.

He said the Special Adviser’s discussions with the authorities had been “very useful”, because both sides had been able to understand each other and draw parameters for cooperation with the United Nations.  It was also gratifying that Myanmar’s neighbours saw the situation as it really was and acknowledged the progress made during the visit.  It had been possible to explain the inclusive nature of the National Convention process, which laid down the fundamental principles to be enshrined in the draft constitution.  The National Convention had comprised some 1,080 delegations, 635 of whom were from ethnic nationalities.  It had also included representatives of the political parties and of the 17 insurgent groups that had returned to the legal fold.  Myanmar had endured more than 40 years of insurgency because of the weakness of the 1947 Constitution.  Some ethnic nationalities had reservations about the constitution’s provisions.  It was, therefore, of the utmost importance to include their representatives and those of former insurgent groups in the National Convention process, so as to ensure their acceptance of the fundamental principles.

Under the fundamental principles adopted by the National Convention, he said, in addition to the existing seven states and seven divisions, the ethnic nationalities with sizeable populations would be allowed to form self-administered zones, in fulfilment of one of their most important aspirations.  The boundaries of the existing states and the new self-administered zones had also been agreed by the representatives of the National Convention.  The Constitution Drafting Commission had completed that task, and the draft constitution containing those agreements, as well as qualifications for taking part in the elections, would be put to a nationwide referendum in May.  The Government had assured Mr. Gambari that it would be free and fair.  Everyone -– those supporting the Government and those opposed to its policies -– would be allowed to participate on equal terms both in the referendum and in the elections.

Given the complexity of the challenges facing Myanmar, the Government had come a long way and made significant strides in its seven-step political road map, he said.  The country had been cooperating, and would continue to cooperate, with the United Nations.  After all, cooperation with the Organization was the cornerstone of its foreign policy.  Myanmar was not a threat to international peace and security, as all its neighbours could attest.  Additionally, the country was making significant strides in its national reconciliation and democratization process.  “No Security Council action is warranted with regard to Myanmar,” he concluded.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.