February 19, 2009

In the past two weeks two UN envoys, Special Advisor Ibrahim Gambari, and Special Rapporteur Thomas Ojea Quintana, have visited Burma. As with the previous 37 visits by UN envoys, no concessions or reforms were secured from Burma’s generals.

“After twenty years and thirty-nine visits, one would think the United Nations might have noticed that their current approach isn’t working”, said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “Human rights abuses are worse than at any time in the past twenty years. The UN must drop its softly softly approach and take a firmer approach, setting benchmarks and timelines for change.”

The Burma Campaign UK believes that the United Nations is operating under a false premise, which is that the regime wants to reform, and that a process of dialogue will increase understanding and trust, leading to genuine dialogue. But the dictatorship is a lot more sophisticated than people give it credit for. Its systematic abuse of human rights is not accidental or because of a misunderstanding due to lack of dialogue and engagement with the international community. It is a deliberate policy by a ruthless and brutal dictatorship that is determined to cling on to power and the privileges it bestows. The regime will not enter into genuine dialogue unless it is forced to do so.

The Burma Campaign UK believes that until the United Nations and member states are prepared to take stronger action to support the work of UN envoys, the visits will not deliver any results that lead to practical change for the long suffering people of Burma.

Positive steps could include:

• Setting benchmarks and timelines for change, with the threat of stronger action if they are not met.
• Proper support for the envoys from the United Nations Security Council, in the form of a binding resolution requiring the regime to reform.
• Any new sanctions from individual countries or the European Union could be linked with whether the regime responds positively to the requests made by UN envoys. If the regime knows new sanctions could be imposed if they continue to defy the UN and ignore its envoys, then there is more incentive to engage.

“The UN is sending envoys without giving them proper support”, said Mark Farmaner. “Twenty years of failure has led to immense suffering in Burma. We can’t have another twenty years of this.”

For more information contact Mark Farmaner on +44 (0)20 7324 4710.

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