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News analysis: Is the UN doing enough for Rohingyas?

  • Published at 01:01 am April 30th, 2019
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A group of Rohingya refugee people filling jars with water Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Several delegates have visited the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar since the crisis began in August 2017, with no visible outcome

The United Nations keeps on failing the Rohingyas, one of the most persecuted communities in the world, by not taking any concrete measures to compel Myanmar to take its people back to their homeland in Rakhine.

Let alone compelling Naypyidaw to take the Rohingyas – who were forced to take shelter in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh to escape the unprecedented atrocities orchestrated by the Myanmar military forces, local Buddhist mobs and people from other ethnic groups – the global body has not yet been able to ensure access to the affected areas.

UN officials from top to bottom, including the full UN Security Council and Secretary General António Guterres, along with state heads and royals, and the World Bank president, have been visiting Bangladesh since the latest influx began in August 2017, but these visits do not seem to be yielding any results whatsoever.

The latest high-profile visit by three UN top officials, which just concluded, also failed to provide any glimmer of hope for the Rohingyas, who have already suffered a lot and are still suffering.

Mark Lowcock, UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, António Vitorino, director general of International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN migration agency, and Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, led the delegation that visited Cox’s Bazar on April 24-26. 

According to the UN, the aim of the visit was to highlight the ongoing need for support for the humanitarian needs of almost a million Rohingya refugees.

With respect to this type of visit, what happens is this: a UN dignitary meets with the prime minister and the foreign minister; then, he or she flies to Cox’s Bazar and sit with the Bangladeshi officials led by the refugee relief and repatriation commissioner and international organizations working to aid the Rohingyas; afterwards, a visit to Rohingya camps takes place for interactions with the refugees, followed by a trip to Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Bandarban where several thousand Rohingyas live officially in Myanmar. Before concluding the trip, the dignitary holds a press conference to reiterate the global body’s commitment to keep working toward safe and sustainable solutions for the Rohingyas.

There was no exception this time round.

In UN’s defence, one may argue that this type of visit “draws the attention of the international community.”

In response, one may be forgiven for asking how much attention the protracted humanitarian crisis still needs.

The UN supremo visited the Rohingyas and gave a heart-rending account of the Rohingyas’ sufferings. The whole Security Council was there. The former UN human rights chief has described the atrocities as “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” while the fact-finding mission of the UN itself in its report indicated to genocide.

Despite having solid evidence in hands, if the UN does not or cannot act, it is nothing but the failure of the global body, which has already lost much of its credibility over the years for failing to protect the helpless.

Given the bleak scenario as regards to the Rohingya people, who are currently leading a terrible life both in Myanmar and Bangladesh, where the situation is much better than the former, it is incumbent upon the UN to give much more attention to Naypyidaw. 

The global body should make all-out efforts to force Myanmar to live up to its commitment to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission that are the road map for the permanent solution to the crisis.

If the Rohingyas are being failed continuously by the UN, people’s trust in it, which has already been affected to a significant extent, will diminish further, turning the global body into an inactive one.