Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Security Council Mission to Bangladesh and Myanmar
National statement delivered by Ambassador Carl Skau on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the Security Council Mission to Bangladesh and Myanmar, 14 May 2018, New York.
Thank you Madam President.
I would also like to begin by thanking the co-Chairs for organizing this important and timely mission. And let me also thank the governments of both Bangladesh and Myanmar for their cooperation as well as the Secretariat and the UN Country Teams for their support.
The Council's visit allowed members to see for themselves the massive refugee crisis sparked by widespread violence that has taken place in Rakhine State since August last year; to hear first-hand from those who fled the violence, as well as those who have remained in Rakhine, and; to assess the situation in Myanmar and the possibility for voluntary, safe and dignified returns.
What the Council saw during its visit left an indelible mark. There was shock - at the stories of the brutality suffered by the Rohingya.
There was appreciation - for the open and generous reception that refugees received in Bangladesh. And, there was alarm - at the scale of the crisis and the response necessary.
Ensuring the full implementation of the Council's Presidential Statement of 6 November 2017 remains relevant and urgent. The Council's visit demonstrated our determination to make sure that this happens. The appointment by the Secretary-General of Christine Schraner Burgener as his Special Envoy on Myanmar is another step in this regard and we would like to express our strong support for the Special Envoy in her work.
The Council's visit underlines the need to remain seized of the situation and to increase our efforts to find a solution to the crisis. Several matters must now be urgently addressed.
Firstly, we need to urgently respond to the needs of the refugees. We commend the efforts of the government of Bangladesh, and the host communities hosting the Rohingya refugees.
As witnessed by the Council members, the immensity of the crisis means that they must have support to sustain the response needed. The upcoming monsoon rains will likely further exacerbate the difficult situation for refugees. We encourage all states to continue and increase their support.
Secondly, we need to ensure conditions for voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable returns are created.
It is clear that for the process of returns to begin, conditions that allow for returns to be voluntary, secure and dignified in line with international law and the principle of non-refoulment must exist. It is essential that the root causes that led to the violence and displacement in the first place are addressed in full. During the visit, it was clear that there is an urgent need for security, reconstruction and livelihood programmes that benefit all communities in Rakhine. Implementation of the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission report must be stepped-up, in close cooperation with international and regional partners, including seriously addressing the issue of citizenship.
Refugees told the Council that those who do decide to return voluntarily want to be able to do so to their place of origin.
When conditions do allow for return, it is important that new IDP-camps or camp-like arrangements in Rakhine are avoided. Transition and reception centres need to be temporary.
We encourage the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to expedite the ongoing bilateral consultations and efforts, and to implement the Memorandum of Understanding and agreement in a timely manner. International actors should continue to support the efforts towards this end. UNHCR, with its global mandate as the international refugee agency, must be associated with this process.
The stories members heard of sexual violence were harrowing. Particular attention must be given to the perspectives and special needs of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, including protection needs in the return process.
Thirdly, Madam President, UN access and engagement is essential.
It is time for the government of Myanmar to grant the United Nations, as well as other domestic and international non-governmental organizations, full and unhindered access to Rakhine State.
We welcome the United Nations leadership on Rakhine under the Resident Coordinator. The Memorandum of Understanding with UNDP and UNHCR should now be concluded as soon as possible. Access is also essential in order to support implementation of the Rakhine Commission recommendations. And in this regard, we welcome the renewed commitment to implement the Commission's recommendations as well as to work with the UN in the State Counsellor's press release on 1st May 2018, following her meeting with members of the Security Council.
Finally, numerous reports, including testimonies heard by Council members themselves, of systematic, widespread and coordinated acts of violence strongly indicate that crimes against humanity have been committed. Impunity for such crimes cannot be tolerated and those responsible must be held to account. All states have a responsibility to address and prevent violations of international law, including human rights violations and abuses. In this case, the primary responsibility lies with the government of Myanmar, which must genuinely address the issue of accountability. Otherwise, the international community will need to assist and look seriously into the possible mechanisms available for this.
We are aware of the ongoing process at the ICC. Without true accountability, the trust needed for refugees to return will be hard to garner. We fully support the work of the Fact-finding Mission, which should be given full and unhindered access to do its work. Evidence gathering at Cox's bazaar could also prove to be an important contribution.
The visit was a demonstration of its solidarity with the refugees sheltering in the camps in Bangladesh. There was a strong and clear call from the refugees for the Council's ongoing support and action. We must not let them down. The visit also represented solidarity with the government of Bangladesh, and the Bangladeshi host communities, who we must continue to support. And the visit represented commitment to support the government of Myanmar to create the conditions for the return and to build peace and prosperity for all people in Rakhine State. We invite them to fully engage with the United Nations agencies on the ground and with other regional and international partners. Sweden stands ready to continue supporting Myanmar on its path towards democracy and peace.
I thank you.