Secretary-General, in Address, Says Myanmar’s Dramatic Changes Have Inspired World; UN Ready, as Partner, to Help Country Build New, Better Future for All Its People

30 April 2012

Secretary-General, in Address, Says Myanmar’s Dramatic Changes Have Inspired World; UN Ready, as Partner, to Help Country Build New, Better Future for All Its People

30 April 2012
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, in Address, Says Myanmar’s Dramatic Changes Have Inspired World;

UN Ready, as Partner, to Help Country Build New, Better Future for All Its People 

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the Union Assembly of Myanmar, in Naypyitaw, 30 April:


What a privilege it is for me to take part in this extraordinary session of the Union Assembly.  And what an honour to be the first outside guest to address this august Assembly. 

I believe deeply in the potential of this great land.  Above all, I believe in the future of the great people of Myanmar.

That is why, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have sought always to help Myanmar open once again to the wider world. 

We have worked for constructive engagement.  We have worked publicly, and we have worked privately, to help advance peace, democracy and development and mobilize international support.

This is my third visit as United Nations Secretary-General.

In 2008, I came in the wake of Cyclone Nargis   In those difficult days, the United Nations helped bring international aid.  Even then, amid so much hardship, we sensed the potential for dramatic change. 

I returned once again, in 2009, and spoke frankly, as a friend, about the need for dialogue and reconciliation, about the importance of pursuing peace, development and human rights as different faces of the same future — a future held dear by all the people of Myanmar. 

Today, I return to a new Myanmar, a Myanmar that is making history.

The dramatic changes sweeping Myanmar have inspired the world.  And we know that your ambitions for the future reach higher still.

I have no doubt that Myanmar will quickly regain its place as a respected and responsible member of the international community.

I have no doubt that Myanmar will quickly catch up with its Asian neighbours and our fast-changing world.

And I have no doubt that Myanmar has within it a vast potential to become a twenty-first century model for peace, democracy and prosperity.

I am here to urge you to stay on that path.  And I call on the international community to walk with you. 

I am here to tell the people of Myanmar:  You can count on the United Nations.  You can count on me, as Secretary-General.

Together, we will help Myanmar build a new and better future for all its people. 

And I am here to say, and to say clearly:  the road before you is exciting.  But it will not always be easy.

Eventual success will rest largely with this Assembly.

This Parliament can transform people’s aspirations for democracy and a better life into concrete change. 

The perils and pitfalls are many.  There is no single formula for success.

In this Golden Land, blessed with great human and natural resources, the teachings of Buddha have offered guidance through the ages.

Your sages have long known the iddhipadas, the basic rules of success:  Chanda — Diligence and will; Citta — Right Intent and attitude; Viriya —Perseverance in action; Vimamsa or panna — wisdom. 

These transcendent values remain your moral compass.  In our wider multicultural world, they are a source of inspiration for us all.

Let me share with you how I believe these four principles can guide our work together. 

First, will — political will and leadership.

I commend President Thein Sein, for his vision, leadership and courage to put Myanmar on the path of change. 

I salute Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy and others for joining the political process and participating in the recent elections.  For many years, you displayed resilience and fortitude that for generations have distinguished the Myanmar people.

We know that Myanmar can meet the challenges of reconciliation, democracy and development.

But it will take your full determination and your common leadership and partnership.

The path of change is still fragile and uncertain, but it is indeed too narrow to turn back.

The regional and global economies are growing; so, too, are the expectations of people — especially young people.

Let us work together to meet all of these challenges by summoning the political will to make lasting change. 

Elections and open government are the keystones of democracy.  But they must be matched with a healthy and vibrant political climate.

This leads me to the second principle, the need for a positive attitude in the face of differences. 

President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have demonstrated the confidence and statesmanship needed to look beyond politics to the longer and larger interests of the nation. 

It is not surprising for there to be differences among parties — differences both big and small, as we now see regarding the oath-taking of newly-elected members of the Parliament.

I am confident that you will resolve these issues by keeping the focus on the longer-term interests of the country — and the immediate needs of the people who look to your leadership and results.

In a country as complex and diverse as Myanmar, there must be unity of purpose. 

Confrontation and repression were tried — and they failed. 

President Thein Sein speaks of the need to mobilize the “strong force” of a “new political generation for a mature democracy”.

Across Myanmar society, the generational shift now taking place — including within the Tatmadaw — requires more understanding, more solidarity and more cooperation from all. 

The reform agenda gives you a broad framework for addressing different policy priorities — from development to the rule of law, from peace and stability to human rights.

This Parliament is at the very center of your country’s democratic transition. 

It is here that representatives from various ethnicities, religions, and institutional backgrounds come together. It is here that different parties will need to join hands to write an inclusive and forward-looking national agenda for change. 

Under the chairmanship of Speakers U Khin Aung Myint and U Shwe Mann, the parliamentary framework offers a new space to do this.

For Parliament to become the wellspring of democracy, however, it must be fed from many sources.  The waters of genuine participatory development must come together in this place. 

Above all, that means listening to people.  It means providing citizens with the political space to take part in national politics at all levels:

Women.  Young people.  The rural poor.  Ethnic and religious communities.  Media and civil society.

All have a role in building a new Myanmar.

This brings me to the third principle — perseverance in action.

There is no substitute for action.  But action cannot deliver desired results without perseverance.

For the people of Myanmar, expectations are very high.

They expect this Parliament to not only advance reform, but to accelerate the pace of change. 

That will require drawing on the final principle:  wisdom.

True leadership is grounded in wisdom.

Each country must walk the path of progress in ways that best suit the needs and aspirations of its people.  

For Myanmar, wisdom means parties making the most of what they have.  It means not getting locked into rigid dogma or inflexible ideological positions.

Wisdom means flexibility in accommodating competing demands in a way that allows all to move forward.  

There are important milestones ahead. 

By 2014, Myanmar’s chairmanship of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) will raise expectations and responsibilities that come with regional leadership. 

By 2015, national elections will take place.

At this critical moment, both Myanmar and the international community must work together. 

We must do so in the name of the people of Myanmar. 

Those yearning for change.  Those braving great risks.  Those never willing to give up on their dream for democracy, their thirst for change.

Now we must match our actions with their ambitions.

There may be differences in pace and approach, but everyone is a partner in this effort. 

That is why today, I want to outline a four-point Agenda for Action to advance national reconciliation and the democratic transition at this historic moment:

First, ordinary people must see quickly the dividends of democratic transition in their daily lives.

The recent decision to increase investments in health and education is a good start.  More action is needed across the socio-economic spectrum.  That means a focus on job creation and lifting millions out of rural poverty.  These are priorities of the people of Myanmar.  They must also be for this Parliament.

I welcome action taken so far by the international community.  But more needs to be done.

Today, I urge the international community to go even further in lifting, suspending or easing trade restrictions and other sanctions.

Second, Myanmar needs a substantial increase in international development assistance as well as foreign direct investment.

Today, Myanmar receives a small percentage of per capita development assistance compared to other neighboring countries.

The best way for the international community to support reform is to invest in it. 

At the same time, this Parliament must continue to create conditions to ensure greater aid effectiveness.

Learning from the experiences of its neighbours, Myanmar must look for ways to develop its natural resources while supporting its emerging manufacturing and services industries, enhancing governance in both the public and private sectors, and preserving the precious landscape and ecology of the country. 

Let us work for policies that balance equitable development, so that all communities and regions can share in the benefits of growth.

Now is the time for the people of Myanmar to share in the economic dynamism of this region.

Third, more action is needed to advance a fully national reconciliation process.

This requires progress on a number of difficult issues.  Among them:  resettlement of displaced communities, security guarantees for various ethnic and political groups and the release of all political prisoners.

The positive momentum has to be maintained through steady progress towards lasting peace that is anchored in equality and justice.  That is the way to build trust and restore confidence among the Government and the country’s diverse ethnic, political and religious groups.

I commend the progress made by the Government and ethnic groups in achieving ceasefires, and encourage both sides to rapidly reconcile all outstanding issues.

Meanwhile, the situation in Kachin State is inconsistent with the successful conclusion of ceasefire agreements with all other major groups.  The Kachin people should no longer be denied the opportunity that a ceasefire and a political agreement can bring for peace and development.  Let me acknowledge the humanitarian access that now we have in Kachin.  That access must continue.

Success in national reconciliation will hinge on how these issues are discussed in Parliament and within the newly elected state and regional parliaments. 

Fourth, a new discourse is needed to develop an inclusive democratic culture based on the rule of law and respect for human rights, especially those of free association and free speech. 

There must be safeguards for civil society and protections for the rights of ethnic minorities.  The establishment of a new National Human Rights Commission is only a start.

Priority must be placed on nationally inclusive human rights norms along with the rights of self-expression of ethnic groups.  This will have to be the essential basis for the emergence of an authentic national democratic unity.

This Parliament must be the arena where all the people’s diverse voices can be heard and join together to advance your nation’s agendas. 

Everywhere in the world, Governments have learned they cannot do the job alone. 

Progress takes partnership.

The United Nations stands ready to help in every way we can.

I welcome Myanmar’s desire for guidance and advice from the United Nations and other multilateral institutions.

Initiatives by the United Nations Global Compact, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime show how partnerships can multiply national efforts. 

Similarly, the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) must begin a normal country programme for Myanmar.

I am pleased to announce a new partnership by the United Nations to support Myanmar’s first population and housing census in thirty years — a process with far-reaching implications for the country’s development.  

As our United Nations team in Myanmar continues its mission, including the delivery of humanitarian aid, I will make sure that our unique services are at your disposal. 

These include expertise in peacebuilding, rule of law, electoral assistance, anti-corruption and democratic practices.

Closer partnership between Myanmar and the United Nations is natural. 

Myanmar, after all, has an important place in the history of our Organization. 

You are not only a founding member of the United Nations, but also an early contributor to our peacekeeping operations. 

Today, let us renew and strengthen our partnership for the years to come.  

As Secretary-General, I follow in the footsteps of a great son of this nation, U Thant.

He constantly reminded the world to overcome violence, to rise above ego, and to look to our common humanity. 

He believed in our mutual obligations to one another and stressed the need, as he said, “to understand each other and to develop a spirit of One World”.

Today, the world needs Myanmar’s contribution to help address the global challenges of our time.

Answering that call is in your hands, and I thank you very much for your leadership.

Kyae zoo tin bar tae.

* *** *

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