His Excellency U Hla Myint, Chair of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, and distinguished Commissioners

His Excellency, Dr. Win Myat Aye, Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement

His Excellency U Saw, Chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Pyithu Hluttaw

U Aung Myo Min, Executive Director of Equality Myanmar

Civil society representatives

Colleagues from the United Nations

Human rights defenders

Distinguished guests

Happy International Human Rights Day to you all. It is a great pleasure and an honour to share today with you, and to be invited to speak on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme.

2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year for all of us. It has been a time of uncertainty and anxiety, and sadly one of tragedy, disruption and loss for many people. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how vulnerable we all are, and how quickly everything can change. And, as is so often the case, it is people already in situations of great hardship who have been worst affected – the people living in remote and conflict-affected communities, people living in poverty and struggling with unemployment, marginalised groups and individuals already at the edge of society.

I wish to dedicate my remarks to the people, families and communities across Myanmar who continue to suffer terribly during COVID-19, and to the medical workers, civil society organisations, community and religious leaders, and government officials who have been working tirelessly to help and support them, often at their own great risk.

International Human Rights Day celebrates the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today the Declaration is 72 years old, but in the midst of a global pandemic, see can see that it’s more important now than ever before. True to the message of the Declaration, COVID-19 has shown us just how connected and reliant we all are on each other. And the people of Myanmar are renowned for their generosity and understand this.

Article 1 of the Declaration says that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. And article 2 goes on to say that everyone is entitled to rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind.

Dignity, equality and non-discrimination form the heart of the Declaration. And in turn, they are the foundations of strong, rich, diverse and united communities and societies. They are the touchstones we should all reach for at a time of crisis, like we find ourselves today. 

The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, to whom I am very grateful for the kind invitation to speak today, has an enormously important role to play in giving life to the Declaration in Myanmar. As its founding law set out, the MNHRC’s aim is to create a society where human rights are respected and protected, in recognition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[1]

UNDP is very proud to support the Commission and its leadership and staff in this mission. In recent years, we have worked in close partnership with the Commission to assess and strengthen its capacity, to help develop its Strategic Plan, and to support its continuity of work and its accessibility during the COVID crisis. These achievements would not have been possible without support from many partners, including the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, the UN’s human rights organizations, and the Government of Norway for its great support.

The theme of this year’s International Human Rights Day is “Recover Better - Stand Up for Human Rights”. It’s an important theme, moreso now than ever before as we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis. So I would like to recognise the human rights defenders, the activists, the journalists, and the community and civil society representatives who stand up for human rights across the country every single day.

In the words of the United Nations Secretary-General, civil society groups are our allies in upholding human rights, and our indispensable partners in forging peace.[2] They are also our critical partners here at UNDP in Myanmar, and I would like to welcome today the opportunity to recognise and celebrate civil society’s very real contributions to the realisation of human rights every day in Myanmar.

In closing, I wish you and your families a safe and peaceful close to 2020. And I wish us all a much brighter, more secure 2021, in which we can continue our shared efforts to leave no one behind, and the promise of the 2030 Agenda, and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Thank you all very much for this opportunity.


[1] Section 3(b), MNHRC Law, 2014.

[2] ‘United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres on the crucial voice of Civil Society in #ShapingOurFuture!’, 26 June 2020, https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=265733694877374.

 

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