The UN office in Myanmar is in disarray as the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Renata Lok-Desallien, is due to leave the post prematurely. The office she presided over has been described as ‘glaringly disfunctional’ in internal UN documents, and the Coordinator’s strong emphasis on development programs and on having a good relationship with the Burmese government at the expense of human rights issues in the country has drawn sharp criticism from international observers.
This emphasis on ‘business’ over humanitarian concerns has been a stain on the UN’s reputation, but it is too early to say whether the incoming coordinator would address this problem, or whether the UN more widely is content to watch on as the Burmese military continues its methodical campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the north-west of the country, or as it continues to crack down on other border minority groups.
Other aspects of the UN’s involvement with the Burmese government are also quietly acquiescent to the developments in the country, despite strong protests from other Humanitarian agencies within the UN itself, such as officials from the UN refugee agency. An ongoing UN investigation led by Kofi Annan was supposed to mark a turning point in the UN’s approach to the Myanmar, but the investigation’s remit has been very strictly confined to just poverty reduction, and does not have any authority to comment on the humanitarian situation.
It should be clear by now that Suu Kyi is not on the same page as the rest of us on the humanitarian issues in her country. ‘Giving her space’ will not enable her to take charge of the situation and push for positive change.Azeem Ibrahim
Indeed, Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the Burmese civilian government, has asserted that she would only accept recommendations from the UN in that narrow area, and that any UN probe into human rights abuses would be blocked on the grounds that it would “increase tensions” in the country.
The UN’s approach to this situation has been too patient. The idea was that the new, democratically elected government in the country, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi needed to be given time to turn around the humanitarian situation in the country, and that the boat should not be rocked while they get their bearings after so many decades of military rule.
The hope was that under such a government the humanitarian situation would no doubt get better, even if it took some time for them to turn the direction of the country around.