Secretary-General's Press Conference in Yangon [see Q&A below]
Yangon, Myanmar, 1 May 2012
I am concluding my third visit to this country – but my first visit to the new Myanmar.
I leave with profound hope and expectation in the future of this great country.
Over the last three days, I met with President Thein Sein, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and many other leaders from across government, business and civil society.
From every front -- at every level, I heard a genuine commitment for democracy, political reform and reconciliation.
The leaders of this country have a shared determination to write a new chapter for Myanmar. The international community has a shared responsibility to help Myanmar and her people.
That was my main message: I know the reform effort is real. We must make sure that it makes a real difference in the lives of people across Myanmar.
This is crucial not only for Myanmar, but for the ASEAN region and for our world.
There are many challenges. Myanmar's experience in democracy is limited. Capacities need to be strengthened, starting with basics.
Resources are few. Myanmar receives about six times less in per capita development assistance than similar neighboring countries.
And yet, Myanmar has chosen the road to fuller democracy, greater dignity, and enhanced participation.
It is taking significant steps by opening up politically and economically - and advancing national reconciliation.
At the same time, this is still an uncertain and fragile process. There will be more obstacles and bumps along the road.
We need to remain clear-sighted – and do all we can to keep up the momentum for lasting change.
The three years between now and the next general election and also 2014 ASEAN Chairmanship are likely to test Myanmar’s capacity. Myanmar needs encouragement. It needs support.
I think the international community should [provide] support – Myanmar deserves it. The international community is responding positively – but much more needs to be done.
The UN is committed to doing its part.
During this visit, we have worked to strengthen our partnership in a number of concrete, practical ways, including through my continued good offices.
We signed an agreement to help Myanmar get a clear picture of its people by helping the country with its first census in 30 years. This is critical for planning and delivering services, particularly to the poorest and most vulnerable people. And it is also a tool for mutual understanding in a country of remarkable ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity.
To reinforce still fragile ceasefires and political dialogue, we explored how best to provide technical and logistical support for the peace-building process. We want to help create immediate peace dividends through the resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced people, returnees and migrants.
At the same time, there is no reason why a ceasefire cannot be found in Kachin State as it has in all other regions. Until then, the UN’s humanitarian access must continue unfettered.
We launched a process leading to a Global Compact Network in Myanmar. This will help local entrepreneurs engage with foreign investors to advance mutually beneficial economic relationships that are both socially responsible and generate decent jobs and equitable growth.
We will strengthen our work to help communities and families reduce their dependence on the revenues from drugs through alternative livelihoods in former combat zones. Yesterday, I visited a UNODC [UN Office on Drugs and Crime] drug reduction field project in Shan State. We will mobilize international support for Myanmar’s efforts to build a drug-free ASEAN community.
And as the world normalizes its relations with Myanmar, the United Nations will, too.
We are on a fast-track to establishing a normalized UNDP [UN Development Programme] country programme which will support Myanmar’s efforts to define and meet its development priorities.
The United Nations also has much experience in the area of aid coordination. This is critical to avoid overlapping efforts and to maximize efficient support to Myanmar’s efforts, especially in social sectors such as health and education where the needs remain serious.
Finally, we will continue to explore new ways in which the United Nations’ comparative advantage may help Myanmar advance the process of democratization and development.
This includes offering Myanmar our expertise and best practices in the areas of electoral assistance and human rights, including strengthening the independence of the National Human Rights Commission.
The UN is also seeking to boost its work in the area of peacebuilding to help authorities and the groups concerned and create conditions conducive to the implementation of ceasefire agreements and sustainable peace. We will consider providing emergency financial assistance from the UN Peacebuilding Fund to generate immediate peace dividends in support of pilot projects for the resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced people, returnees and migrants.
Once again, I heard strong support for these efforts from all quarters of this country.
I leave Myanmar satisfied, enthusiastic and determined to help keep the momentum for reform and reconciliation going strong.
If sustained, this can put the government and people of Myanmar on the path to a better future for all. They deserve our full support every step of the way.
SG: This reconciliation process should be Myanmar-owned, Myanmar-led. This should be done by the initiative and leadership of Myanmar together with the groups concerned. There is no reason why in Kachin State [there] cannot [be] a ceasefire and a peaceful reconciliation process. We will help and we will provide expertise, know-how. We have accumulated experience and know-how. We have found our role successful in many parts of the world. And as I said in my earlier remarks, we will provide necessary financial resources to help accelerate and facilitate this process. For example, we will try to help those displaced people resettle so they can return to their normal lives. We will very closely coordinate with Myanmar’s authorities. This is what I have discussed with President Thein Sein and I had a very good meeting with a group of negotiators, members of the “Peace Committee” yesterday. I was very much encouraged by their very determined will. I encouraged them. This reconciliation process could make progress, not only on the dialogue table, but also beyond the dialogue table by promoting mutual understanding and try to understand the real concerns and aspirations of the groups concerned. That is required on the part of the Government leadership. Thank you.
Q: (inaudible – on the political transition in Myanmar and how the United Nations can help)
SG: This process is quite difficult and fragile. That is why I said in my remarks: this process should be nurtured by both sides and by all stakeholders. That is why I have been meeting government leaders, parliamentarians and civil society and peacemakers, peace negotiators. So all the parties should fully cooperate. That is true, as you said, that [Myanmar has] just [moved] out of a military regime to a civilian regime – there may still be some remaining mentality of previous regimes that we have to be very cautious and guard against. There is no turning back. This path for reform is very narrow. The President, Thein Sein, last November, told me in Bali where we were having a meeting – he said, this path is so narrow so there is no turning back for us, for Myanmar, that was quite encouraging and that was what he expressed: his strong, determined political will. I fully commend and encourage that he carries [this] out without looking back and only go forward. The UN will always try to help such a process.
Q: I would like to ask, with all of the developments and changes that are happening in Myanmar, in your opinion, do you think Myanmar is ready for that rapid change and development?
SG: I would hope that Myanmar’s authorities and people would take a fast track and an accelerated process, but it is up to the people and the government to find their comfortable level of speed. But it is a general hope of the international community that this reform process should be accelerated. I know that this is very sensitive, in a sense very fragile. There may be many obstacles, there may be some argument of returning back to the past. These are all very dangerous mentalities. So we need to guard against this. The international community, the UN, should always fully encourage them to go forward. That is why I pledged to help Myanmar in every step and any way we can. And we will try to mobilize international support. The United Nations will lead this campaign. I am the chairman of the Group of Friends of Myanmar and I will always continuously consult with these group members.
Q: (inaudible – on Myanmar’s future)
SG: I’m optimistic. That is why the international community is very hopeful. That is why the international community is showing confidence and trust in this new government of Myanmar. As I said, this is very difficult and they have chosen and they have embarked on a path of reform. This is very important. They have wasted four decades during this military regime. There is no time to lose. Now time is of the essence. But this should be addressed comprehensively. All the parties - civilian population, civil society, business community, religious and ethnic representatives, and government leaders and parliamentarians – they should be united, they should be united. This is very crucially important timing for Myanmar, Myanmar’s future. You have our full support, therefore, do not waste any time. Do not miss this opportunity. Seize this opportunity. That is my message.
Q: Do you have any concerns regarding Myanmar’s democratization process?
SG: I have been answering many questions about that. There are some apprehensions. It’s only natural that people are watching this process with some concerns. But we have to make this happen. We have to make this happen. Many obstacles surely – these we have to overcome. That’s why I’m here as Secretary-General. You have seen the stream of world leaders coming to Myanmar. They just want to encourage you, the people of Myanmar and the government, not to look back. It’s not without apprehension. But we have to overcome this one. But that requires strong, political leadership and wisdom – a sense of compromise and flexibility. The political leadership should rise above their political party lines. Political leaders may have some difference of opinion. But this is not the time to haggle over all of these details, this short-sighted debate. You have to rise above political party lines, engage in the interest of the greater cause and common prosperity and well-being of this country I’m urging you to rise above.
SG: I wish you continued good success and prosperity of this country. But this is not only the moment of celebration – it’s a moment of showing the firm determined will, the purpose of unity. That is what is required at this time for the people and government of Myanmar; the peace and stability in this country and prosperity of Myanmar and human rights of Myanmar. It’s good not only for Myanmar, but for the ASEAN community and for all the world. You should remember that the whole international community has been expressing their concern for so many years. Only recently, since last year, they are showing some cautious optimism. They are showing greater optimism now. I just wanted to solidify this sense of optimism by my visit here and by pledging the United Nations’ and the international community’s full support and encouragement. That you should take advantage of and make the most of it. That’s my message on this happy occasion.
Q: Today, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that aid money should be used to reduce people’s dependence on the government, while you speak of the need for capacity development. Is there a slight difference of view on how aid money should be spent?
SG: We discussed this matter. As I said in my statement, the level of official development assistance per capita for Myanmar is one of the lowest considering the neighbouring countries, but at the same time, Myanmar is a country with a lot of natural resources. The government may not be poor. The government has capacity to raise money and financial support. So how to use all of these natural resources in an equitable way and for the longer-term benefit and well-being of people – that requires good governance, policy priority. With Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, I discussed all these matters. There should be aid effectiveness, and of course I will try my best working together with donor countries to increase their assistance. And I discussed this matter with [Baroness] Cathy Ashton of the European Union and she also agrees that Myanmar deserves such increased support. At the same time, there should be good governance. Determined will, they have already shown. This should also be the area of high priority. There is always a matter of policy priority- where and how you can use limited resources for better economic and social plans. UNDP and all UN agencies will be always engaged and coordinate. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi asked us, particularly UNDP, to closely coordinate with the government and herself. That’s what we will do to increase effectiveness of our support, the international community.
I again thank you very much for your support. And I count on your strong commitment. Media can play always a very important role. I regard you as the connectors, connecting the government of Myanmar and its people with the outside world. The people of the outside world should know how the people of Myanmar are doing here. At the same time, they should also know that role can be [played] only by media. That’s why I’m always trying to talk and discuss our mutual concern, common concerns, with media. You have also a very important role to play in this process. Thank you very much.
Off-the-Cuff on 1 May 2012