In a recent briefing note for the UN Security Council, Watchlist strongly urged Council Members to raise concerns about the denial of humanitarian access in Myanmar during their visit to the country. The Security Council visited Bangladesh and Myanmar from April 26 to May 2, 2018.
The primary purpose of the Council’s visit was to follow up on the situation in Rakhine State since the outbreak of violence in August 2017, which resulted in the mass displacement of civilians to Bangladesh. In a November 2017 presidential statement, the Security Council expressed concerns over reports of human rights violations and abuses in Rakhine State by the Myanmar security forces against members of the Rohingya community, as well as over restrictions on humanitarian access. In addition to following up on implementation of the November presidential statement, the visiting mission sought to assess the situation of refugees in Bangladesh and to strengthen the Council’s understanding of the views and concerns of all parties.
In addition to the alarming human rights and humanitarian situation of Rohingya civilians fleeing from State-sponsored violence in Rakhine State, the security situation has deteriorated in recent months in other parts of Myanmar, notably Kachin and Shan States, as well as more recently Karen State. With frequent outbreaks of conflict close to villages, townships, and displacement sites, the protection of civilians is a major concern, as is the denial of humanitarian access to conflict-affected populations.
Restrictions on access significantly affect the quality of humanitarian services provided, especially in the area of protection. Leaving protection monitoring and follow-up to national staff or local NGOs unduly puts them at risk. In addition, the lack of access impacts the ability of the UN-led Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) to carry out its Security Council mandate to monitor and report on grave violations of children’s rights, including verification and follow-up on allegations it has received. The Government of Myanmar has refused access to the country to the HRC-appointed Fact-Finding Mission and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee.
When the UN Security Council met on May 14, 2018, to debrief on its recent mission, several Member States highlighted concerns about humanitarian access. Specifically, France, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the UK, and the US, highlighted the need for unhindered humanitarian access to Rakhine State. Notably, Equatorial Guinea underscored the need for safe and unfettered humanitarian access to all parts of the country, including Rakhine.
In addition to urging the Council to call for safe and unfettered humanitarian access to affected populations, Watchlist encouraged the Council to request the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC) to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh and to brief the Council on her return. It further calls on the Council to remain seized of the situation in Myanmar, including in the conflict-affected regions of Kachin, Karen, Rakhine, and Shan, where Government forces and ethnic armed organizations have committed violations against children and other civilians.