Nobel Laureates release open letter to Obama, Thein Sein
Five women Nobel Peace Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative released an open letter today to President Barack Obama of the US and President U Thein Sein of Burma in advance of their meeting next week. The letter urges the leaders to make a firm commitment to ending the escalating and systematic violence in Rakhine State of Burma.
Find the full text of the letter and more information below.
November 18, 2012
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500 USA
President U Thein Sein
Office of the President
In Support of Peace, Reconciliation and Development in Myanmar
Dear President Obama,
Dear President Thein Sein,
As you meet together in Myanmar next week, we are writing to urge your firm commitment to bring an end to the escalating and systematic violence in Rakhine State. We are deeply saddened by reports of the recent deaths of 170 people, and the displacement up to 110,000 people from their homes. We also encourage an end to the restrictions on humanitarian assistance, preventing survivors of the violence—including women and children—from getting much-needed medical help, food and shelter.
As peace leaders, we are following the conflicts in Kachin and Rakhine States with great concern. Our fellow Laureate and member of Myanmar’s parliament Aung San Suu Kyi has recently called the ongoing violence “a huge international tragedy.” This letter is an urgent call to prioritize in your discussions an end to the violence in both states and the protection of and the delivery of aid to vulnerable populations.
We cannot support the rationale of using violence to end violence. We hold the belief that violence that will not alleviate the suffering of Myanmar’s people. The passive acceptance of the marginalization and discrimination of a minority group, thinking it will lead to peace, is flawed logic. It must not be catered to by national or international lack of political will. Furthermore, these violent conflicts, if not resolved, will continue to delay much needed reforms in economic development and may spread unrest and violence to other areas and destabilize the region.
Your priorities should include the creation of a fully inclusive reconciliation process in Rakhine State and the resumption of meaningful peace talks with the leaders of Kachin State. Women are an important part of such efforts and should be fully represented and meaningfully engaged in both processes. Additionally, lasting peace will require national and international commitments to ending the statelessness of the Rohingya people, with development efforts that improve livelihoods and education for all the people of Myanmar.
We appreciate the recent positive steps for democratic reform in Myanmar. However, to truly succeed, essential work is needed to ensure the genuine inclusion of all political, ethnic, and religious groups in the country’s future development. The inability to govern a diverse people without oppression or violence will threaten development, peace and stability within Myanmar. It is our conviction, that the people of Myanmar have an opportunity to demonstrate the best qualities of a multi-ethnic nation with acceptance and protection of all religions and ethnicities. This is indeed possible and in alignment with your national interests.
Therefore we call for:
• Full access for humanitarian aid into affected areas.
• The creation of a reconciliation process led by local community and religious elders.
• And ultimately, your personal commitment to bring an end to the escalating and systematic violence in Rakhine State.
The government of Myanmar has the daunting task of preventing unresolved grievances from exploding into country-wide and regional violent conflict. We stand with you and the people of Myanmar to work towards advancing human freedom and supporting democratic and economic development so that all within the country and the region can thrive.
Jody Williams, 1997
Leymah Gbowee, 2011
Mairead Maguire, 1976
Rigoberta Menchu Tum, 1992
Shirin Ebadi, 2003
The Nobel Women’s Initiative is an organization comprised of six women Nobel Peace Prize Laureates: Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee & Tawakkol Karman. Nobel Women’s Initiative was created with the vision of helping strengthen work being done in support of women’s rights around the world. The Nobel Women’s Initiative uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and of courageous women peace laureates to magnify the power and visibility of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality.
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