Rangoon, Burma (BBN)– During a historic address to Burmese parliament, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has emphasized the importance of partnerships – amongst the country’s political leadership as well as with the international community – in helping the Asian country advance its process of national reconciliation and democratic transition.
“The dramatic changes sweeping Myanmar have inspired the world, and we know that your ambitions for the future reach higher still,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks to the members of Myanmar’s Union Assembly, during an extraordinary session of the parliament on Monday. “We know that Myanmar can meet the challenges of reconciliation, democracy and development, but it will take your full determination and your common leadership and partnership.”
Earlier this month, Burma’s citizens headed to the polls to vote for representatives of 48 parliamentary seats, with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi winning a position in the lower house of parliament. The by-elections were part of a series of democratic reforms led by President Thein Sein, which began last year.
In his speech to the parliament – the first ever by an outside guest – the UN chief also outlined a four-point agenda for action to advance national reconciliation and the democratic transition at “this historic moment,” a UN statement said.
The agenda entails increasing investments in health and education so that the population can quickly see the benefits of the democratic transition in their daily lives, increasing international development assistance, implementing measures to accelerate the reconciliation process such as resettling displaced communities and releasing political prisoners, and fostering an inclusive democratic culture which respects human rights and in particular freedom of speech.
“Priority must be placed on nationally inclusive human rights norms along with the rights of self-expression of ethnic groups,” Mr. Ban said. “This will have to be the essential basis for the emergence of an authentic national democratic unity.”
Mr. Ban also called on the international community to provide assistance to Burma, officially known as Myanmar, to help it develop its natural resources as well as its manufacturing and service industries.
“Today, Myanmar receives a small percentage of per capita development assistance compared to other neighbouring countries,” he said. “The best way for the international community to support reform is to invest in it.”
During his three-day visit to the country, the UN chief also announced a new partnership between Myanmar and the UN to support the country’s first population and housing census in thirty years.
In addition, he noted that UN expertise in various areas, such as rule of law, electoral assistance, anti-corruption and democratic practices, would be made available to Myanmar. “Progress takes partnership,” Mr. Ban said. “The United stands ready to help in every way we can.”
Mr. Ban also voiced his strong commitment to work with the people and hovernment to build a closer partnership between the UN and Myanmar during his meetings with senior officials, including Mr. Sein, People’s Assembly Speaker Thura Shwe Mann, Nationalities Assembly Speaker Khin Aung Myint and Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, according to the statement.
BBN/SSR/AD-01May12-1:25 pm (BST)