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Human rights, key priority for a peaceful new Myanmar – UN Special Rapporteur

21st Century Panglong Conference (31 Aug – 5 Sep)

GENEVA (29 August 2016) – Speaking ahead of a crucial peace conference in Myanmar, United Nations independent expert Yanghee Lee has urged participants to prioritise human rights issues in their discussions over the coming days, and to do more to ensure the process is fully inclusive.

The 21st Century Panglong Conference, which will take place in the capital Naypyidaw from 31 August to 5 September, is the first major peace conference held in Myanmar since Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy assumed power in late March 2016.

“Discrimination, land rights, equitable sharing of natural resources are at the heart of the conflict in Myanmar, and therefore must also be at the heart of the peace discussions and solutions,” said the UN the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. “It is only by addressing and prioritising these issues that the durable peace desired by the people of Myanmar can be achieved.”

“A lot is at stake with this Panglong Conference,” Ms. Lee stressed. “As with the peace process generally in Myanmar, this is the opportunity to transform the country, into a state that the people of Myanmar have wanted for several decades. But to do so it must be fully inclusive.”

The human rights expert drew special attention to women’s participation as a vital ingredient in successful and transformative peace agreements. “Unfortunately,” she warned, “women will be underrepresented in the coming discussions despite making up over half of the population in Myanmar.”

Noting that civil society will have a parallel peace forum, Ms. Lee also underlined the need for “civil society organisations, who have been on the front lines of the conflict, to be fully involved in the process at every level.”

“Young people, whose futures are most affected by the outcome of the conference should also have a voice in this and future discussions,” the human rights expert said. “But the young people themselves must also remember the importance of inclusivity not just amongst armed groups but within all communities.”

Ms. Lee called the conference “a historic moment” but cautioned against celebrating too much too early. “This is the first brick into the paving of a long road ahead. There is so much, much more to be discussed and negotiated after the first 21st Panglong Conference.”  She called for all parties to “be committed and to work together in full steam to achieve a sustainable, inclusive and transformative peace.”

“This is the beginning of the process of creating a beautiful mosaic of a diverse, harmonious, and peaceful new Myanmar,” emphasised the UN Special Rapporteur.

Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council. Learn more, go to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

Check the Special Rapporteur’s latest report on Myanmar (A/HRC/31/71):  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session31/Pages/ListReports.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Geneva: Ms. Azwa Petra (+ 44 22 928 9103 / apetra@ohchr.org)
In Bangkok (OHCHR Regional Office): Mr. Jeremy J Laurence (+66 2 288 2627 / laurencej@un.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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