Open letter to the UN Secretary General on UN operations in Myanmar

International Campaign for the Rohingya has joined fifteen NGOs on an open letter to the UN Secretary General following the publication of the inquiry into UN operations in Myanmar.

The letter calls on the Secretary General to learn from the UN’s past failures in Myanmar and take bold action to strengthen support for human rights in the country, and throughout the UN system.

The letter references the recent report by Gert Rosenthal, “A Brief and Independent Inquiry into the Involvement of the United Nations in Myanmar from 2010 to 2018.”  The Rosenthal report describes the UN’s failure to stop, mitigate, or even draw attention to violence that the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission found amounted to crimes under international law including crimes against humanity, and warrants an investigation of the crime of genocide against Rohingya.

The letter further states:

We note that the mandated scope of Mr. Rosenthal’s inquiry was extremely limited, was undertaken by one individual, did not include field visits, and excluded individual accountability. These limitations do not satisfy the UN Human Rights Council’s call for a “comprehensive” investigation, and are not reconcilable with the extraordinary magnitude of the crisis and the urgency of gathering “lessons learned” to improve the UN’s response in Myanmar and in similar high-risk situations going forward.


[W]e encourage you to take bold action, beyond the recommendations outlined in the Rosenthal report. These actions should include:

• promptly implementing reforms to prevent the recurrence of the “systematic” failures and “obvious dysfunctional performance” outlined in the report, and ensuring accountability for those failures as required;
• re-energizing the Human Rights up Front initiative prompted by the Petrie report;
• returning to your office a senior staff member dedicated to ensuring Human Rights up Front is fully implemented throughout the UN system;
• taking practical steps to hold accountable those UN officials responsible for failures before, during, and since the 2017 ethnic cleansing campaign;
• supporting the Resident Coordinator to ensure they have authority to implement a comprehensive Human Rights up Front strategy that takes into account the views of national and international NGOs, community-based organizations, and the human rights community, and is reflected and implemented at country level;
• using your leadership to take concrete steps to improve coordination at all levels of the UN on the situation in Myanmar; and
• committing to publishing annual updates on progress in adopting the recommendations of the Petrie and Rosenthal reports until they are fully implemented.


It is vital that your office act once again and quickly. Specifically, we call on you to set a clear, unifying strategy for the UN Country Team in Myanmar that places human rights concerns at the center of its strategy.