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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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New York, 10 July 2013 - Secretary-General's opening remarks to the Group of Friends on Myanmar [as prepared for delivery]

When this Group last met in September, we recognized remarkable gains in Myanmar’s reform process.  Your support was reflected in last year’s Third Committee resolution. 

President Thein Sein has since renewed his commitment to peace, democracy and an open market economy. 

He has urged all citizens to support the transition … highlighted the Government’s determination to resolve on-going problems in Rakhine State … and underscored the need for communities to live together in peace.

The April report of the Investigation Commission on Rakhine offered recommendations and the President has committed to respond, including by promoting tolerance and mutual respect among different faiths.

Urgent action on these commitments is essential.  The transition remains fragile and requires wisdom, courage and determination to safeguard gains and make progress.

The Government and people of Myanmar need continued support to move towards a truly irreversible reform process and to deliver the dividends of peace and inclusive development.

Some important steps have been made in the past year.

The Parliament has advanced the reform process.  I recently met with the Speaker of the Lower House Thura Shwe Mann and a delegation of cross-party Parliamentarians. 

The Speaker underscored Parliament’s important role and recognised that legislation must serve all interests while meeting international norms and standards. 

To help move forward, the Parliament has established a number of sub-committees, including the Committee on Rule of Law chaired by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Peace and national reconciliation with armed ethnic groups remains a pressing priority.

The recent meeting between the Union Peace Making Working Committee and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) resulted in a seven-point agreement for political dialogue and the cessation of hostilities. 
 
Sustainable peace will require an inclusive process of political dialogue that results in viable arrangements for power and resource sharing. 

Excellencies,

I am deeply troubled by the communal violence that swept Rakhine and elsewhere.

I remain concerned about the plight of the Rohingya population and their disturbing humanitarian situation.  The actions that resulted in many deaths and widespread destruction are deplorable and unacceptable.

The President has strongly condemned these acts and made clear his determination to punish the perpetrators.  He also evoked the country’s religious and ethnic diversity and expressed resolve in protecting all lives.

These commitments must be translated into concrete action. 

There is a dangerous polarization taking place within Myanmar. 

If it is not addressed urgently and firmly, underlying tensions could provoke more upheaval, undermining the reform process and triggering negative regional repercussions. 

It will be important for the Myanmar authorities to take necessary steps to address the legitimate grievances of minority communities, including the citizenship demands of the Muslim/Rohingya in Rakhine. 

Moderate voices from religious leaders and civil society organizations could also help promote harmony. 

I plan to write to Myanmar’s three key leaders urging them to work together to squarely address communal concerns and to make a united call to the people of Myanmar to end all violence and incitement, respect the law and promote peace.

Now is the time for communal harmony and promoting the positive winds of change and reform.

We must also encourage the Government to continue its important socio-economic developmental initiatives. 

The reform process has created an open and transparent economic environment but much more remains to be done to improve people’s livelihoods and address grievances in areas such as land grabbing and the environmental impact of development projects.

The enactment of the Foreign Investment Law will attract sizeable foreign investment.  The recent World Economic Forum on East Asia hosted by the Government  was also significant.

The international community must continue to work closely with the Government to help strengthen Myanmar’s capacity to absorb foreign investments and handle them transparently and coherently. 

I welcome the adoption of the “Nay Pyi Taw Accord for Effective Development Cooperation” and the Government’s intention to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Myanmar faces challenges inherent in any major social transformation.

As the Myanmar’s leadership steers the country through its current troubled waters, my Special Adviser will remain closely engaged, keeping in mind the wishes of the Government and Member States. 

The United Nations will continue to support to Myanmar as it faces key milestones, including the 2015 elections. The coordination of international support will be needed during this period.

I look forward to hearing your views, particularly in light of the September debate concerning the resolution of the Third Committee of the General Assembly. 

This Group has discussed possibly refocusing its role given the progress of the reform process, including by inviting Myanmar to future meetings. 

We would welcome your views ahead of the September meeting.

But first let me ask Mr. Nambiar to briefly share with us highlights of his latest efforts.

Thank you.