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Myanmar Arria-formula Meeting

Tomorrow afternoon (13 October), Council members will hold an Arria-formula meeting, initiated by France and the UK, on the situation in Myanmar. Following opening remarks by France and the UK, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to brief in his capacity as the Chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which was mandated to make recommendations for improving the situation in the State with regard to conflict prevention, humanitarian assistance, reconciliation, institution-building and development. The Advisory Commission, which published its final report on 23 August, was established at the request of the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and was comprised of both Myanmar and international commissioners. Council members will be invited to make interventions following Annan’s statement. Countries in the region, regional organisations and UN entities engaged in Myanmar will also have the opportunity to speak. The meeting will be open to all UN member states and permanent observer missions as well as non-governmental organisations accredited to the UN.

Annan is expected to brief on the main recommendations of the Advisory Commission’s report and how these can be implemented. In this sense, according to a communiqué issued today by Annan’s Foundation, the former Secretary-General “will urge stakeholders to use the report as a roadmap to peace and development in Myanmar.” Among other things, the report recommended that the government take steps to end enforced segregation of Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims; ensure full and unfettered humanitarian access throughout the state; tackle Rohingya statelessness and “revisit” the 1982 Citizenship Law; hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable; and end restrictions on freedom of movement. Annan is further expected to emphasise the need for a rapid cessation of military operations, for improved humanitarian access, and for civilians to be protected.

Tomorrow’s meeting takes place in the context of a rapid deterioration of the security, human rights and humanitarian situation in Rakhine State. On 25 August, two days after the release of the Commission’s report, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked Myanmar security forces. Since then, with government forces responding with violence to these attacks, more than 500,000 Rohingya have fled across the border into Bangladesh. A report of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released on 11 October and based on interviews conducted with Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in September, stated that “[c]redible information gathered indicates that the destruction of Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine State, and other serious human rights violations committed in the aftermath of the 25 August attacks, were executed in a well-organised, coordinated, and systematic manner.” It further said that “these human rights violations were committed against the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State by the Myanmar security forces often in concert with armed Rakhine Buddhist individuals.”

In recent weeks, there has been significant international attention to Myanmar, including a number of ministerial meetings on the margins of the General Assembly high-level debate in September. For their part, Council members have followed the situation in Myanmar closely. Members received briefings under “any other business” on 30 August, 12 September and 26 September from the Department of Political Affairs. On 28 September, Secretary-General António Guterres briefed the Council on Myanmar in a meeting requested by Egypt, France, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Senegal, the UK and the US (S/PV.8060). The Secretary-General had written a letter to the president of the Council on 2 September expressing his deep concern about the security, humanitarian and human rights situation in Rakhine State and warning that the situation could degenerate into a humanitarian catastrophe with implications for peace and security beyond Myanmar’s borders. During his 28 September briefing, Guterres emphasised the need for an end to the violence “whether by the military or by radical elements within communities”; immediate and safe humanitarian access for UN agencies and non-governmental partners to affected communities; and the safe and voluntary return of those who have fled the country. Guterres stated that the recommendations of the Advisory Commission “provide a blueprint for the longer-term future.”

Several Council members echoed the points made by Guterres and are likely to do so again in tomorrow’s Arria-formula meeting. There will most likely be an effort to address how implementation of the recommendations can be achieved. At the 28 September meeting, Myanmar’s National Security Advisor Thaung Tun called the recommendations “a viable road map forward,” while adding that a committee that it had formed to implement the recommendations needed “time and space to go forward.”

While there is significant concern among members about the situation in Myanmar, there are different views in the Council in terms of how to assess and approach the situation. Several members, while condemning the attacks of ARSA, have been particularly disturbed by the response of Myanmar’s military, attributing to it much of the blame for the current crisis. Russia, however, appears to be particularly critical of ARSA, stating in the 28 September briefing that the deteriorating situation was “provoked first and foremost by fighters of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army” and “condemn[ing] their armed attempts to undermine efforts to stabilize the situation in Rakhine state.”

While some members would like for the Council take action to address the situation, China appears to be particularly cautious. During the 28 September briefing, it encouraged the international community to exercise patience with regard to the situation. It seems the UK, the penholder on Myanmar, has been working on a draft resolution addressing the crisis resulting from the recent violence.

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will visit Myanmar from 13 to 17 October. It is possible that one or more Council members will ask for a briefing when he returns.

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