The UN accepted an independent report on Monday that highlights the ‘systemic failure’ of the UN to work with authorities in Myanmar to curb the abuse of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
Gert Rosenthal, a former Guatemalan Foreign Affairs Minister, UN Ambassador, and top executive at the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) conducted the report, which covers the years 2010 to 2018.
It begins by providing background on the conflict in Myanmar, goes on to detail the UN’s response to the human rights crisis, and concludes by offering recommendations.
A key issue, is that there is a lack of accountability and structure within the UN Systems, which categorizes the UN’s involvement in Myanmar. The consultant sets out three areas were the UN faces challenges: “first, the interactions with the host government; second, the interactions of different bodies belonging to the UN System among themselves; and, third, the interactions with the rest of the international community, including the international NGOs.”
Within the host government of Myanmar, there is a culture of mistrust of outside organizations and their involvement in the nation. This mistrust is evident not only in the military aspect of the government but the civilian as well.
The report addresses how this mistrust, when coupled with the bureaucratic shortcomings of the UN involvement in Myanmar, led to infighting which “in the absence of a unifying and common strategy…spun out of control.” There was a lack of unification even to the highest levels of the UN, there was no common strategy between the separate offices and organizations. This led to officials and staff focusing their attention on acting within their narrow mandate despite being aware of the broader situation. As a result of this lack of structure and inability to respond to the abuses as they began to take place, the horrendous consequences in Myanmar are ongoing and require immediate action.
The report details insufficient inter-governmental support from the UN. The consultant directly addresses the member states, stating that they “collectively also bear part of the responsibility for the United Nations’ failures in addressing events in Rakhine State from 2012 up to the events of August 2017, the horrific consequences of which persist to the time of writing.”
The conclusion of the report states that: “The statelessness and extreme deprivation of some 1.4 million Rohingya people, not to mention the grave abuses wrought on them and other Muslim minorities in Myanmar, are totally unacceptable and nothing less than an offence to humanity.”
The consultant stresses the necessity of a common strategy and a cohesive bureaucratic system where the different entities of the UN System work together to achieve their own narrow objectives within the broader system-wide strategy. The UN Security Council bears some responsibility for this shortcoming, and the consultant urges the Council to support the Secretariat.