Dhaka, Bangladesh

02 July 2018

Secretary-General’s remarks at joint Press Conference with President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim (unofficial transcript)

SG: Ladies and gentlemen of the media, a very good evening, and thank you very much for your presence.

I have been, in the past, twice in North Rakhine State. So, I was perfectly aware that the Rohingyas’ world can remain one of the most if not the most discriminated community in our planet.

I remember visiting their villages, they couldn’t move from the villages without permission. They couldn’t marry without permission. They were harrassed by the police, by the administration; very limited access to education and to health services; an extremely, extremely discriminated community that’s stateless; that had no nationality. Nationality being rejected by the Government of Myanmar and that had not even a country that could call theirs.  Even if, of course, they live in Myanmar and they felt themselves as Myanmarese citizens.

But knowing that, and knowing that what has happened with the reasons why such a large number of people fled the country was a series of atrocities that have difficult parallels in recent history.

Mass killings, gang rapes, torture, villages razed to the ground, burned. Even knowing all that, it is impossible to go to their to the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, the biggest refugee camp in the world, without feeling our heart completely broken. With the testimony of the women, children and men that we meet, when they tell us the story of their tremendous suffering and the horrible discrimination.

And so this is the moment when the international community needs to show the complete solidarity with the Rohingya people and clearly request to Myanmar not only accountability in relation to those that committed crimes, but also the creation of conditions by the construction and by massive investment in reconciliation, by abolishing hate speech and the forms of pointing out against the Rohingyas all the accusations, not without any basis. 

It is the moment for the international community to ask Myanmar to end all these practices and to create the conditions for the Rohingya to be able to go back, to go back in safety and dignity, voluntarily and go back to their places of origin or to the places they choose and to be able to enjoy all the rights that are typical for the citizens of any country in the world.

But at the same time, I think we need to express deep gratitude to Bangladesh, to the people of Bangladesh, to the local communities in Cox’s Bazar, for their extreme generosity.

Bangladesh opened its border in a world where unfortunately many borders are still closed. And Bangladesh has accepted to protect and to assist more than one million Rohingyas at the present moment, being a developing country with many challenges in its own development process. And because of that, it’s the moment to appeal to the international community to express a much stronger solidarity, both with the Rohingya and with Bangladesh that is hosting them.

The response plan to this dramatic humanitarian crisis is now funded only at the level of 26%, which means that we have high levels of malnutrition in the camps, which means that water supply and sanitation are extremely ineffective in relation to the needs. Which means that there is very limited response in education, which means that we are far from the minimum of conditions to allow for the Rohingyas to be in full dignity in their situation of exile.

The international community has the duty to come up with a much stronger support to the Rohingyas and to Bangladesh and my appeal is for mobilization of that solidarity in order to be able to have this operation fully funded by the international community.

But fortunately, the World Bank, thanks to the leadership of its President Jim Kim, has decided, and he will announce to give a very important contribution not only to the Rohingyas, but to the local communities in Bangladesh, creating a completely new situation that I hope will allow for an effective game changer, in the way we are able to address the basic needs of the Rohingyas and of those that so generously are hosting them.

So, I want to say that this visit, that is an expression of solidarity with the Rohingya community and with the people of Bangladesh, is also a visit to express my deep gratitude, and the gratitude of the United Nations for the initiative of the World Bank, and the leadership of the President of the World Bank,
creating the conditions for hopefully, changing in a very meaningful way, the possibilities to provide to most Rohingyas and their hosts, a much more dignifying form of support.

And I was extremely pleased to be able to do this trip together with the President of the World Bank, and to be able to express here our deep gratitude and appreciation.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. You said that Bangladesh has done a great job to the world services by providing support to the Rohingya people and hosting them here. My question is that what are the options that the international community can explore going beyond the bilateral mechanism to find a solution?

Q: My question to the Secretary-General is that you spoke about creating pressure during your meeting with the Prime Minister and today you tweeted that Rohingyas want justice. My question is: who will create the pressure and how will they get the justice when we see a divided  UN Security Council and at the same time ICC is still finding their options?

Q: Can I ask you how the UN body and the World Bank will work together in repatriating the Rohingya from Bangladesh to Myanmar?

SG: So, I will answer the two first questions. I will leave the third one for with the President of the President of World Bank. Now, a political solution: The solution is clear, is from the point of view of the Government of the Myanmar, and the other authority of Myanmar - let’s not forget the role of the military - is to create conditions for the people to be able to return in safety and dignity, to their places of their origin or the places they might choose, and to have access to all the rights that people have to be able to have a normal life. The right to move, the right to go to school, or to send the children to school, the right in all levels, the right to access basic services, the right to property, the right to access to access the labour market and all the conditions to have absolutely a normal life and from our perspective, also addressing the question of citizenship.

Now, for that I think we need the international community to unite and to very strongly put pressure on the Myanmar authorities to recognize these needs, which to a certain extent in recent declarations seem to be in direction, but to transform those declarations in a massive investment, both in a physical reconstruction that is necessary, special in the reconciliation of the communities in ending the hate speech which has been stigmatizing the Rohingyas in absolutely unacceptable forms. And making the rest of the population respect the Rohingya community and accept them peacefully and in harmony in their own territory. This requires very persistent very persistent commitment of the international community.

The second question is related to accountability. There is a UN fact finding mission. There is a special rapporteur from there UN. There were already reports presented; there is a group of new reports that are expected very soon, that will be very clear in relation to the crimes committed.

On the other hand, I know that Bangladesh that is member of the ICC, has already seized the ICC in relation to this question asking the ICC to do its job. On the other hand we have been briefing the Security Council, presenting reports to the Security Council. Security Council visited Cox’s Bazar, visited Myanmar and I hope the Security Council will be able to unite, in order to also create the conditions for that accountability to be possible. We need both accountability, and political solution creating the conditions for people to be able to have a normal life in their own country.

Q: I want to ask UN Secretary-General: Mr. Guterres, you said that the international community should pressure Myanmar both for accountability as well as a tangible political solution. When you were asking for this, we see we witness harsh reality in the United Nations Security Council where the P5 are sharply divided, particularly China and Russia, and also seen some of the members states seem to be more lukewarm. So, dwelling in such harsh reality, how do you want to break up the shackle of impassive to have a tangible solution of Rohingya crisis.

Q: My question is to both of you. Do you have any plan to visit Myanmar soon to see the true story in Rakhine?

SG: It’s true that we face in many situations in the world probably the fact that the Security Council is divided. It was divided in relation to Syria, it was divided in relation to Gaza, and I could go on, in [inaudible] a number of situations where Security Council has been divided. There was already important progress in relation to Security Council in relation to Myanmar, there was a visit to Cox’s Bazar and to Myanmar. There was a presidential declaration, I think there is clearly in the Security Council unanimously the will to make Myanmar create the conditions for the return to be possible.
In relation to that I have no doubt whatsoever. The different thing is to know, whether or not the Security Council is ready for instance to seize the international communal court. Probably it would be a much more difficult thing. But I have no doubt that Security Council is united in requesting Myanmar to create conditions for the return to be possible.

I have my special envoy that has just been in Myanmar, and is coming Bangladesh. At the moment, I have no personal plan to go to Myanmar. It might happen when it is necessary or useful. But those my special envoy and several members of the first line of leadership of the UN have been there. The objective of this visit was of course to support the Rohigyas in Bangladesh in this common action with World Bank.

Q:  Mr. Secretary-General, in our one-year experience working with the Rohingya people very closely, you rightly pointed out that the only thing they want to get back to their land with the dignity and recently we found a classified document came from Myanmar, where it said that UN and Myanmar agreed at some point that those people will not be called as Rohingya and they will not go back without full citizens’ right. I want to be confirmed from you whether this is an authentic document, and if it’s true do you think that is their dignity is accepted there, thank you?

SG: There is no agreement between the UN and Myanmar that these people should not be called Rohingya. For the UN they are called Rohingya; for Myanmar they are called Bengali Muslims. And there is no agreement. So, when we head to establish Myanmar, a first set of conditions to allow for work in relation to future return to be possible. There was no way to find a common name to designate this community. Because for us they are Rohingya, for the government of Myanmar, they are Bengali Muslims. This disagreement exists, and so the document that exists that as I said is the first step for the creation of conditions for the return, a lot being necessary in the future, does not establish a designation because there is no agreement between the UN and the government of Myanmar about their designation. So, it’s very clear, it’s very clear that, for us, they are Rohingya.

Q. Is this a compromise?

SG: So, it’s not a compromise. It’s the clear demonstration that we do not agree.

Q: My question is directed to His Excellency the UN Secretary-General. Excellency, there is a media report that the UN and Myanmar signed a secret deal in which Rohingya refugees returning to Myanmar will have no explicit guarantee of citizenship and freedom of movement. Would you please clear this, whether this type of agreement signed between the UN and Myanmar?

SG: Two, as I said, two UN agencies and the government of Myanmar have agreed on a number of first steps. It is clear that those first steps relate to the right that I had enumerated. It is clear that the population is not identified. It is clear that for us one of the questions that needs to be addressed is the question of citizenship, to which there is a reference in the document, even if again in relation to this, there is presently disagreement between the UN and Myanmar.  Myanmar doesn’t consider this population to be at least entirely citizens of Myanmar. From our perspective, they are stateless people. And one of the objectives of the UN in relation to statelessness is to make sure everybody is granted a nationality, including Rohingya in Myanmar.