Statement from the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar on World Humanitarian Day
Yangon, 19 August 2013. On this World Humanitarian Day, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, Mr. Ashok Nigam called on the people of Myanmar to celebrate the inspirational spirit that is humanitarian work while remembering humanitarian workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty around the world.
“Today, we - the humanitarian workers of Myanmar - join colleagues from across the globe in commemorating World Humanitarian Day. We remember our 22 colleagues killed in the bombing of UN Headquarters in Baghdad 10 years ago and we commemorate the many others who have sadly died before and since that tragic day. Their deaths remind us of the daily challenges and personal risks humanitarian workers around the world continue to face,” said Mr. Nigam.
Mr. Nigam praised humanitarian workers in Myanmar for their dedication in assisting those affected by natural disasters, conflict or violence. He highlighted the work of the many Myanmar citizens and international workers who have committed themselves to the humanitarian cause and drew renewed attention to the plight of four humanitarian workers from international non-government organizations who remain detained in Rakhine State. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, has reiterated in his last report “that the charges against them are unfounded and that their due process rights have been denied and calls for their immediate and unconditional release”.
In Myanmar, the UN and other international organizations, international non-government organizations, national and local civil societies and the Red Cross movement are working in partnership with the Myanmar Government to address humanitarian needs arising from natural disasters, conflict and inter-communal violence. In accordance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality, humanitarian workers deliver aid in Myanmar exclusively based on need and vulnerability. Myanmar’s humanitarian workers are fully committed to assisting vulnerable people in need wherever they are found, regardless of social groupings such as ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender or class. Yet despite this, in some parts of Myanmar, humanitarian workers are harassed or intimidated, for just trying to help, and so are some of community leaders and others cooperating with them. “The harassment and intimidation of humanitarian workers prevents humanitarian assistance from reaching those in need should be unacceptable and never be tolerated,” said Mr. Nigam.
“Of particular concern to me on this World Humanitarian Day is the arbitrary arrest and detention of four Myanmar humanitarian workers employed by international non-government organizations who have now been in custody for over a year in connection with the inter-communal events in Rakhine State. The freedom of these four humanitarian workers is long overdue,” said Mr. Nigam. “Any arbitrary arrest or detention of humanitarian workers contravenes international law. I look forward to the Myanmar Government ensuring that these humanitarian workers are immediately and unconditionally released, as called for, inter alia, by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar,” he said.
In Myanmar, humanitarian workers are also frequently prevented from accessing the people in need, consequently exposing these people to further vulnerability. “The Myanmar Government needs to ensure humanitarian access to all those in need in accordance with humanitarian principles” said Mr. Nigam. “Non-state actors including armed groups, community leaders, affected communities and the humanitarian community itself also have a role to play in ensuring humanitarian workers are safe, secure, protected, and free to move at all times,” he added.
In accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1502 (2003), the Humanitarian Coordinator urges the Myanmar Government to ensure the safety and security of all humanitarian workers at all times and reminds that any person, group or institution compromising the protection of humanitarian workers must be called to account. He also calls upon the Myanmar Government to become a signatory to the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel (1994) and its Optional Protocol (2010) as a matter of priority.
Notes to Editors: World Humanitarian Day is commemorated around the globe today through the global campaign asking the question "What do you think the world needs more of?" The World Humanitarian Day website is now live, featuring videos with UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon and Kid President. Please visit: www.worldhumanitarianday.org.
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