Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Twenty-first Century Panglong Conference, in Nay Pyi Taw today:
I give you my full respect and greetings from the United Nations. It is a great honour for me as Secretary-General of the United Nations to address the great opening of the Twenty-first Century Panglong Conference. Thank you for your invitation.
This is a historic occasion for the further democratization of this country. The symbolism of this conference is clear from its title, which recalls the spirit of the original Panglong Conference convened in 1947 by General Aung San, the Father of Modern Burma.
But, today, we also look to the future. This conference is bringing together Myanmar’s different ethnic groups in a joint commitment to a federal union based on equality, democracy and self-determination. I congratulate all sides for the patience, endurance, determination and spirit of compromise you have demonstrated in support of national reconciliation.
There is a long road ahead, but the path is very promising. This is the first time that such a peace process has been initiated in the 70-year history of conflict and division between the Union Government and armed ethnic groups.
Today’s meeting marks a historic transition since former President U Thein Sein opened the doors to democratic reforms six years ago. Around the world, we have seen the tragedies that can ensue when leaders deny the need for democratic change. Myanmar shows what is possible when leaders listen to their people’s genuine aspirations, genuine concerns of the people and genuine dreams of where this country should proceed.
The United Nations has been a steady partner in support of Myanmar’s reforms, in particular the national reconciliation process. We will continue our efforts to smooth differences, lower tensions and move parties towards better understanding and dialogue in line with the goals and values of the United Nations Charter.
The long civil war has cost numerous lives and robbed successive generations of their dignity, tranquillity and normalcy. It is now clear that there can be no military solution to your differences.
I urge you to accept that no party involved in this reconciliation process can expect to achieve all its aims. Conversely, every side must win something if the process is to succeed. This will require goodwill on all sides and a recognition that success is in the vital interest of all the people of Myanmar, regardless of ethnicity, religion, political affiliation or socioeconomic status.
It is encouraging that the different ethnic armed organizations with divergent interests and aspirations came together to form a single team to negotiate the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement last year. This agreement was crucially important and the new Government has undertaken efforts to make it more inclusive. The Twenty-first Century Panglong Conference represents the result of those efforts.
I urge all of you, as you walk along this path with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to demonstrate the wisdom needed to address complex and unresolved issues and to pave the way for a unified negotiation track that is inclusive of all interests and constituencies.
This will require sensitivity and flexibility, and respect for both signatories and non-signatories. You will need to be truly consultative if you are to reach sustainable solutions. In this connection, I urge you again to ensure that women make up at least 30 per cent of the representatives at all levels of dialogue.
Every transition [carries] risks. But, refusing to embark on transition may carry the greatest risk of all. We see tragic evidence of this around the world. I urge you all to continue to face up to your responsibilities, particularly to the youth and children of Myanmar — the future of this wonderful country. You owe it to them to work for a better tomorrow, in which they can fulfil their dreams and aspirations in peace and prosperity.
This is my fifth visit to Myanmar as Secretary-General. From Cyclone Nargis in 2008 to the winds of change gripping the country today, I have worked to mobilize the full support of the United Nations system for Myanmar. In my meetings with the authorities and with representatives of the wonderfully diverse people of this country, I have always found inspiration in your determination to advance towards reform, peace and stability.
The United Nations will remain your respectful partner as this process deepens. I wish you every success. Let’s work together for peace.