Update Report

Update Report No. 1: Myanmar

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The Council expects to be briefed in informal consultations on Monday, 6 December by Vijay Nambiar, the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General, on his visit to Myanmar from 27 to 28 November. Council members were last briefed by him on 18 November following the 7 November elections and 13 November release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

This was Nambiar’s first trip to the country since he began overseeing the Secretary-General’s Good Offices role and engagement with Myanmar in January 2010. (Nambiar, who is also the Secretary-General’s Chief of Staff, took on this position in a temporary capacity following the departure of former UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari in January 2010.) While in Myanmar he met with the foreign minister and other government ministers, Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her party, the National League for Democracy, and other major political parties. During the visit Nambiar called on the government to address concerns about the recent elections and for the release of all political prisoners. He also said that the UN hoped to engage directly with all parties.

Council members are most likely to be interested in Nambiar’s reading of the post-election climate, particularly in relation to the formation of a new government, details of his meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmar government’s reactions to the UN’s call for the release of all political prisoners. Other areas that are likely to come up in discussion are whether this might be the right time to reinvigorate the Secretary-General’s Good Offices role and whether the momentum from Aung San Suu Kyi’s release could be used to secure also the release of the 2,200 prisoners still in detention. (The Secretary-General’s Good Offices appeared to take on a lower profile following a series of visits in 2008 and 2009 by the former Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari which did not yield concrete results and saw him being increasingly denied access to top leaders as well as Aung San Suu Kyi.)

The decision by Council members to have the 6 December briefing was made rather quickly. It seems that on this occasion members, like China, that have resisted consultations on Myanmar in the past were ready to proceed.

Council members are not expecting any decision to emerge from this briefing. While some observers believe the next few months could present a window of opportunity to work with the Myanmar government on ensuring a broad-based and inclusive political transition it seems that no Council members are pushing at this time for a stronger Council role. Council members who had previously shown enthusiasm for trying to find ways for the Council playing a bigger role on this issue appear now to prefer a monitoring role for the Council via briefings.

The P5 remain divided with China and Russia still strongly of the belief that the situation in Myanmar does not warrant being on the Council’s agenda. The UK, France and the US see the situation as a potential threat to international peace and security. Divisions also exist over specific issues such as the need for a commission of inquiry into human rights violations as recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, in his March report to the Human Rights Council. (In a related development the General Assembly passed a resolution on 18 November on the human rights situation in Myanmar with a vote of 96 for and 28 against with sixty abstentions.)