Letter to the UN Secretary-General on UN agencies engagement with the Myanmar junta

Re: UN agencies, funds, programmes and other entities engagement with the military junta

UN entities must stop legitimizing the Myanmar military junta and instead present letters of appointment, sign letters of agreement and MoUs with the legitimate government of Myanmar, the National Unity Government, and ethnic revolutionary organizations

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned 638 civil society organizations (CSOs), condemn in the strongest terms the recent public signing of new agreements and presenting of letters of appointment to the illegitimate Myanmar military junta by UN agencies, funds, programmes and other entities working inside Myanmar. We urge you to intervene for a principled, coordinated UN response to the crisis in Myanmar. We call on you and all UN entities to immediately cease all forms of cooperation and engagement that lends legitimacy to the illegal murderous junta. Instead, letters of appointment and agreements must be presented to the legitimate government of Myanmar, the National Unity Government (NUG), and ethnic revolutionary organizations (EROs).

On 10 December 2021, 256 Myanmar CSOs urged UN entities to not engage with the junta in any way that lends them legitimacy. Despite these consistent calls from the people of Myanmar and CSOs, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) all signed new agreements with and presented credentials to the junta in August and September 2022. The public ceremonies, which were arranged with photographs, were used as propaganda by the military junta in its ongoing attempts to assert their legitimacy. The people of Myanmar have categorically rejected its attempts to seize power since its illegal attempted coup on 1 February 2021.

For nearly a year and a half, the people of Myanmar have sacrificed their lives and livelihoods to defend democracy and their rights by engaging in political defiance and armed resistance – as a last resort. Their aim is to prevent the illegal military junta from taking over the country, as it is attempting to do through inflicting immense suffering on the people.

The recent public actions by UN entities are direct interventions that clearly side with the military junta, undercutting the ongoing collective resistance efforts and sacrifices by the Myanmar people to end the Myanmar military’s tyranny and establish a federal democracy. This breaches the principles of democracy, human rights and humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality, independence and “do no harm” outlined in the UNs’ Joint Operating Standards and frame work of engagement, for which UN entities must comply with and hold themselves accountable.

Furthermore, in December 2021, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to endorse the recommendations of the UN Credential Committee that had rejected the credentials of the military junta and allowed the incumbent Ambassador, U Kyaw Moe Tun, who represents the National Unity Government (NUG) and thus represents Myanmar, to maintain his position at the UN General Assembly. UN entities, and agencies, funds and programmes in Myanmar should be guided by this decision and should be engaging publicly with the NUG and not the military junta.