Statement at meeting in The Group of Friends of Myanmar

Last updated: 9/30/2013 // This statement was held by Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide at the meeting in The Group of Friends of Myanmar on September 26.

Mr Secretary-General, Minister U Khin Yi, fellow friends of Myanmar

First of all, let me thank the Secretary-General for convening this meeting, and warmly welcome Minister U Khin Yi and the delegation from Myanmar. It is high time Myanmar was part of this forum.

I strongly support the idea of the Secretary-General to reconfigure this group into a partnership with Myanmar as a central member. This would be more aligned with the positive developments in Myanmar over the last years.

For this new partnership to be successful, we believe it is important to listen to the needs and concerns of Myanmar itself. If Norway can be of any assistance in the further development of this partnership, we will gladly play such a role – in close cooperation with Myanmar, as well as with Special Representative Vijay Nambiar.

For Norway, support for the democratic reform process in Myanmar is a high priority. I have visited the country several times, and was the first member of a western government to visit after Thein Sein’s Government came into power. We were the first country to slash sanctions, and we chair the Peace Donor Support Group. Norway is an “all-weather friend” of Myanmar.

The progress towards democratisation, development and reconciliation in Myanmar continues. The momentum towards a nation-wide ceasefire and the plans to formally start the political dialogue are important. The Government and the armed ethnic groups alike deserve our recognition for their efforts to tackle this complex issue. The process that Myanmar has started is not easy, and takes courage.

The peace process is fully owned and driven by Myanmar. International engagement should only complement the efforts made by the internal stakeholders. We are aware that the stakeholders in Myanmar will face many difficult choices in the time to come. This calls for long-term attention – and concerted, coordinated support from the international donor community.

Norway is pleased that the UN’s aid-related activities in the country are being normalised. In going forward, there will be a need to expand existing UN programmes further into ethnic and conflict-affected areas.

The difficult situation in Rakhine has been of particular concern over the last year. Long-term solutions must be found for the Rohingya population. Their immediate humanitarian needs must also be addressed.

In conclusion, through the upcoming chairmanship of ASEAN, Myanmar has taken on a great responsibility, not only for its own development but also for the broader region.

ASEAN was forward-looking, and recognised the scope of the positive changes in Myanmar before most western governments. My good friend, Marty Natalegawa, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, was right when he, along with others, decided that Myanmar should take over the chairmanship of ASEAN from 2014.

We should all be ready to support Myanmar.

Thank you.

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