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13th-Oct-2017

UN recalls its coordinator from Myanmar

By Special Correspondent

The United Nations (UN) has recalled its resident coordinator in Myanmar to headquarters in New York following allegations that she had sought to block action on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State.
Renata Lok-Dessallien would leave by the end of October, diplomatic and aid community sources in Yangon told media on Thursday.
They said the decision was linked to her failure to prioritise human rights.
Earlier Ms Dessallien also served as UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh.
Lok-Dessallien, who took up the UN's top Myanmar post in January 2014, was accused of presiding over a "glaringly dysfunctional" in-country mission in an internal memorandum sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in April.
The UN's team in Myanmar has been plagued by tensions since her appointment, with accusations that Lok-Dessallien had prioritised building a strong relationship with the Myanmar government while sidelining human rights concerns in Rakhine State.  
During her tenure, Lok-Dessallien had attempted to stop human rights activists from visiting Rakhine state where the Burmese army allegedly persecuted the Rohingya minority, and undermined staff who attempted to warn of the imminent risks of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine, according to several former UN officials working in Myanmar.
In one instance, Lok-Dessallien counselled former UN Special Rapporteur  Tomas Ojea Quintana to avoid public statements on the Rohingya community and to avoid travelling to Rakhine State during his final visit to Myanmar in 2014.
One former member of the resident coordinator's office, Ms Caroline Vandenabeele, told the BBC in September that discussing issues related to the Rohingya community was strongly discouraged under Lok-Dessallien's tenure.
 "You could do it but it had consequences," she said. "And it had negative consequences, like you were no longer invited to meetings and your travel authorisations were not cleared. Other staff were taken off jobs - and being humiliated in meetings. An atmosphere was created that talking about these issues was simply not on."
Other UN Officials in Myanmar said that the fractious internal culture of the UN team, along with the resident coordinator's management of ongoing issues in Rakhine State, had prompted the decision to rotate Lok-Dessallien out of Myanmar earlier than the end of what is usually a five-year term.
 "The UN has proposed upgrading its country chief to the position of assistant secretary-general after Lok-Dessallien's departure, a move that has been rejected by Myanmar's government," according to one UN staff member in Myanmar.
Meanwhile, former UN chief Kofi Annan is expected to provide details of a report on the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Burma (Myanmar) during an informal meeting with the Security Council on Friday.
Annan in late August presented the final report by the special advisory commission on Rakhine state. Annan, who chairs the commission, did this at the request of Burma's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Among others, the report called for Burmese authorities to take urgent action to address the plight of the Rohingya, who are not recognised as citizens and have faced decades of discrimination from the country's Buddhist majority.
Besides, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will arrive in Myanmar on Friday for a five-day visit to discuss the latest conflict in Rakhine State, which has sent more than half a million Rohingya refugees across the border to Bangladesh.
 "Feltman will be holding consultations with Myanmar to address these urgent issues," said a UN official.