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Thursday, June 11, 2015

UN Special Envoy Vijay Nambiar, Opening Speech at EAO Summit, Law Khee Lar, Kawthoolei


Nambiar Opening Speech

Speech at Opening of Ethnic Armed Organisation Summit
Law Khee Lar
2 June 2015

Distinguished Leaders of the Ethnic Armed Organisations, Respected NCCT members and delegates.

Dear friends. I am honored to be invited here today at the Ethnic Armed Organisations summit in Law Khee Lar. It is a pleasure and privilege to visit Karen State at this time. I was last at the Ethnic Armed Organisation Summit with you in Laiza.

I speak on behalf of my colleague, Mariann and myself to say we are deeply honored that we have been invited to observe the peace dialogue between the UPWC and NCCT as well as internal deliberations on both sides. I know how much work you have all put together during the past two years and how long a road you have traversed through the decades in order to reach this point. We have been deeply impressed with the commitment and hard work shown by the NCCT and TAT members. They are all proud members of your groups and their work and results of a draft NCA deserve your trust and support.

Which is why I am today giving you an urgent and direct message. I shall be more direct than at our previous meetings, because I strongly feel that at the current stage, there is not much time left to capitalise on the work you have done so diligently for so long. I will explain why I feel this is so critical and urgent.

When we entered this process it was with the intention of opening up space for ethnic groups so that they could take their rightful place at the center of national politics together with other important players. The fighting between ethnic groups and government have been going on for far too long and as a consequence the ethnic groups have remained excluded and disenfranchised in Myanmar for far too long. We all know there is no military solution to the conflict in Myanmar. The only way forward is through a political dialogue that will give everyone a voice and space to work for their political rights. The Nationwide Ceasefire is only the first step and real trust and progress can only be made through implementing a ceasefire together as well as starting a credible political dialogue. This have to be done hand in hand with other stakeholders in the country. We believe that this process has taken its first fragile steps and there is a good chance that a better future for all may emerge from this process.

But the bigger picture cannot be lost sight of. Myanmar still has a long way to go to reach its stated democratic goals. Decades of military rule have left deep scars and challenges in development as well as capacity. Handling these issues in a holistic manner can only happen if the transition is peace-ful. The success of reforms in Myanmar will depend on a sustained peace in the country. Every transition is deeply difficult and fraught with setbacks, but we cannot wait until everything is perfect. We cannot allow the best to become the enemy of the good. If we do that we may get neither peace nor democracy.

The simple point is that the future of Myanmar rests in your hands. A huge and important responsibility rests upon you all today, not only to make the choices based on what you will regard as the best possible outcome for your respective groups individually but for all of you collectively. As responsible leaders, you have already taken a strategic decision to walk down a road of a common destiny for all of you. You do not as yet have all the details of the road you will traverse or a guarantee of when you will reach all your goals but you have a reasonably good blueprint to start with.

I shall also be abrupt and say we do not know what will happen after the elections. We do not know what the country will look like a year from now.

We must be optimistic, but at the same time sitting back and hoping for better opportunities may be risky. It may also diminish the opportunity for you as leaders of the ethnic groups to be at the center of this political transition. We at the UN do see the ethnic minorities as potentially playing a major role in the power equation of a new Myanmar.

Clearly there are risks in any transition. The current government has made some promises that have long been asked for by ethnic groups as well as by the international community. Only by starting the process of a political dialogue can we begin to see if these promises can be delivered. If the process can be started before the elections and with the support of the international community, I feel there is a greater possibility to ensure that a succeeding government after the election to be willing to commit to it. But for all this to happen, time is of the essence.

As of now there may not be much time for a lengthy process before the elections. Signing an NCA and establishing a political dialogue may serve as a stabilising factor. It is critical that we get such a process started as soon as possible.

For this to happen you will require to make some concessions. You will require to move forward even while there may continue to be fighting in some areas. But my hope is that you will be able to create a forceful dynamic that will help you deal with the challenges that remain. More than that, I will say that even if there will be many risks in this approach, they are still less than the risks of delay and of missing this opportunity.

So I will ask you above all to keep your courage. And also to remember that you are doing this for your own people. Your people, especially your youth and children depend on you to bring them a better quality of life for the future. Only then will the sacrifices of your forefathers have been worth it.

The UN will lend you all the support we can muster in this process. However, if such a process were to be delayed until after the elections, even we may not be able to say with certainty what the scenario from the UN angle will be. But nailing it down now, could bring greater immediate commitment from the UN as well as the international community.

Many negative voices are heard about the peace process. Around the world we have seen peace processes carry on miserably for decades on end and cause frustration and disappointments. In Myanmar you have managed to come so, far in a such a small time, with so many stakeholders in the process. This is amazing by any standard. Let me assure you that I am proud to be here as an Observer at your peace talks.

But you need to take one more, brave leap of faith as the Secretary-General himself has told you. I hope this meeting will help you move forward in this leap of faith.

Thank you.
Nambiar Opening Speech

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