Enamul Hafiz Latifee compiles,
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), today (11 May 2020) agreed with the Government of the Union of Myanmar to extend the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for activities in Rakhine State.
The exchange of letters was signed by the Myanmar Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Population, and by representatives of UNDP and UNHCR in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, and will extend cooperation through June 2021, said a UNHCR press release received here.
The MoU aims at helping create a conducive environment for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh as well as supporting recovery and resilience-based development for the benefit of all communities living in the three northern townships of Rakhine State.
This framework for cooperation between the UN and the government was initially signed on 06 June in 2018, and previously extended in May 2019.
Welcoming the extension of the agreement, UNDP and UNHCR commented: “While the environment in Rakhine State is not yet conducive to the voluntary repatriation of refugees, the MoU has allowed UNHCR and UNDP teams to assess the immediate needs in over 120 villages so far in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships. We have consulted over 2,600 people on their communities’ priorities, ensuring that the projects will best meet their needs and serve to promote social cohesion between communities.”
Since the initial MoU was signed in 2018, a total of 75 quick impact projects (QIPs) have been approved, including for community infrastructure such as water improvement, school and road rehabilitation, skills training and income-generating projects, as well as projects targeting persons with specific needs.
A seventh-round of assessments is now proceeding but constrained due to the COVID-19 situation. Efforts are underway to raise awareness within the communities about COVID-19 prevention.
This latest extension of the MoU comes amid ongoing armed conflict leading to increased humanitarian needs among all communities across the state, and deepening the operational challenges faced by UNDP, UNHCR, and partner organisations.
Consistent access for UNDP, UNHCR, and their partners is essential to ensure expanded implementation of the MoU.
During the extended implementation period, efforts to carry out assessments in Rathedaung township and medium-term planning for inclusive socio-economic development are priorities.
Commenting on the situation in Rakhine State, UNDP and UNHCR said: “Creating a conducive environment for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of refugees and to improving the enjoyment of human rights for the population still residing in Myanmar is the responsibility of the Government of Myanmar, and UNDP and UNHCR remain committed to supporting this work”.
“We call on the Government to address the root causes of the crisis by fully implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, including those on freedom of movement, a clear and voluntary pathway to citizenship and increased access to public services and livelihoods,” the two organizations said.
Meanwhile, the direct host of the fleeing Rohingyas from Myanmar due to extreme tortures faced there, Cox’s Bazar people are now paying heavily for a prolonged stay of the persecuted group amid COVID-19 pandemic. Economically, and socially locals are being deprived of basic needs at some extents, as the international community has not been so generous yet to work on their living standards and to tackle the distorted local labour market, slumped agricultural production.
However, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen on 27 April 2020 asked other countries in South and South-East Asia and developed nations as well, simultaneously to shoulder responsibilities of providing refuge to the displaced Rohingya people.
But, the situation seems not to be improved yet as, on 06 May 2020, it had been reported that about 280 Rohingyas, who had been adrift in the Bay of Bengal for weeks, were rescued on that night by the Bangladesh Navy and taken to Bhashan Char in Noakhali on 08 May 2020.