‘First and very important step’ taken to allow return of Rohingya refugees
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) signed a landmark agreement with the Government of Myanmar on Wednesday that paves the way for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to return home.
Since last August, some 700,000 mainly Muslim Rohingya have fled Rakhine state, in majority-Buddhist Myanmar, for neighbouring Bangladesh.
Most say they were fleeing violence and persecution, including a military campaign by Myanmar forces, which began in response to violent attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
In an exclusive interview with UN News, UN Resident Coordinator Knut Ostby said that for them to make the journey home safely, the violence had to be brought to an end and their human rights upheld.
“This is a first and very important step but it is now that the really important work starts. It was a major crisis last year — hundreds of thousands, living in horrible conditions today. And we really need to do our best to help them so that they can eventually return home.”
The new agreement will give UN agencies previously denied access to the Rohingya’s home areas in Rakhine state, so they can assess local conditions.
Massive scale-up of mental health resources needed to meet development targets
There is a global shortage of mental health workers and insufficient investment in community-based mental health facilities, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Mental Health Atlas 2017, released on Wednesday.
“This latest edition provides us with yet more evidence that the scale-up of resources for mental health is not happening quickly enough,” said Shekhar Saxena, Director of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
Although 1 in 10 people is estimated to need mental health care at any given time, the rate of mental health workers in low-income countries can be as few as 2 per 100,000 people.
Of the 139 countries with mental health policies and plans, fewer than half are aligned with human rights conventions that stress the importance of transitioning people from psychiatric care to community-based services.
Dr. Saxena warned that “failure to invest in mental health as a matter of urgency will have health, social and economic costs on a scale that we have rarely seen before”.
UN rights experts condemn China’s 5-year prison sentence for Tibetan activist
UN human rights experts have condemned a Chinese court-mandated five-year jail sentence handed down to Tashi Wangchuk at the end of last month, for his work promoting the cultural and linguistic rights of the country’s Tibetan minority.
Arrested in January 2016 for taking part in a documentary, in which he appealed for education programmes in the Tibetan minority language, and for the right of Tibetan people to their own cultural expression, Mr. Wangchuk has remained incarcerated ever since.
Although the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion in December last year, finding his detention arbitrary and in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it was not until 22 May — five months after hearing that case — that the Intermediate Court in Yushu, Qinghai province, made public its verdict that he was guilty of “incitement to separatism”.
The group of six experts said: “We are gravely concerned about the sentencing of Mr. Tashi Wangchuk, and the sanctioning of his right to freely express his opinion about the human rights of the Tibetan minority of China.”
“Governments should under no circumstances undermine or repress legitimate human rights advocacy and action,” they added, urging Chinese authorities to comply with their international human rights commitments, and immediately release Mr. Wangchuk.