Addressing a major peace conference in Myanmar, the United Nations chief today highlighted that the country’s path to reconciliation is a promising one, but that after decades of conflict it will not be easy and will require compromise for all involved.
“The long civil war has cost numerous lives and robbed successive generations of their dignity, tranquillity and normalcy. It is now clear that there can be no military solution to your differences,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in Myanmar’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw, in a speech at the opening of the 21st Century Panglong Conference, which brings together representatives from the government, the military, civil society and ethnic armed organisations.
“I urge you to accept that no party involved in this reconciliation process can expect to achieve all its aims. Conversely, every side must win something if the process is to succeed,” he added. “This will require goodwill on all sides, and a recognition that success is in the vital interest of all the people of Myanmar, regardless of ethnicity, religion, political affiliation or socio-economic status.”
Landmark elections in November 2015 brought the National League for Democracy Party to power. Since assuming office in April 2016, it has embarked on a process of national reconstruction as well as a revived national political dialogue process with various ethnic armed groups and others to unify the country.
According to the UN Department of Political Affairs, even though the democratization process remains a work-in-progress, much credit is due to the people of Myanmar for their achievements thus far and to the administration of former President U Thein Sein, who ushered in the reform process with the election of a civilian government after the 2010 general election.In his speech, the UN chief said that the gathering marked a historic transition since former President Sein opened the doors to democratic reforms six years ago.
“This is the first time that such a peace process has been initiated in the seventy-year history of conflict and division between the Union Government and armed ethnic groups,” Mr. Ban said. “Around the world, we have seen the tragedies that can ensue when leaders deny the need for democratic change – Myanmar shows what is possible, when leaders listen to their people’s genuine aspirations, genuine concerns of the people and genuine dreams of where this country should proceed.”
The Secretary-General said it was encouraging that the different ethnic armed organizations with divergent interests and aspirations came together to form a single team to negotiate the country’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in October last year.
“This agreement was crucially important, and the new Government has undertaken efforts to make it more inclusive. The 21st Century Panglong Conference represents the result of those efforts,” he said, while also urging participants, as they “to demonstrate the wisdom needed to address complex and unresolved issues, and to pave the way for a unified negotiation track that is inclusive of all interests and constituencies.”
Mr. Ban emphasized that such steps will require sensitivity and flexibility, and respect for both signatories and non-signatories, and will need to be truly consultative in order to reach sustainable solutions.
The UN chief also reaffirmed the ongoing commitment of the United Nations to help Myanmar with its reforms, in particular the national reconciliation process. “We will continue our efforts to smooth differences, lower tensions and move parties towards better understanding and dialogue in line with the goals and values of the United Nations Charter,” he said.