A report by the United Nations on its own involvement in Myanmar since 2011 has expressed displeasure over the functioning of the agency in handling the violence against the Rohingya, observing that “serious errors were committed and opportunities were lost in the UN system following a fragmented strategy rather than a common plan of action”.
The report has also come down heavily on the Resident Coordinator of the UN. “There appear to have been instances of deliberately de-dramatizing events in reports prepared by the Resident Coordinator, as well as instances of various UN entities, including OCHA, of not sharing their analysis with other entities of the UN System,” it states.
On Monday, the Secretary-General received the review conducted by Gert Rosenthal, former minister of foreign affairs of Guatemala. The review was directed at how the UN as an institution works on the ground and possible lessons learned for the future. The report has made serious observations, stating that “even at the highest level of the organisation there was no common strategy”.
“The United Nations System, despite the advocacy efforts from the Secretary-General’s personal involvement as well as that of the most senior officials down to members of the country team, has been relatively impotent to effectively work with the authorities of Myanmar to reverse the negative trends in the area of human rights and consolidate the positive trends in other areas,” the report states.
“In fact, there appears to be some basis for each of these differing perceptions, and without question serious errors were committed and opportunities were lost in the UN system following a fragmented strategy rather than a common plan of action. It goes beyond the scope of this review to try and adjudicate responsibilities to entities or personalities (they are, after all, accountable for their actions), but the consultant was left with the impression that the overall responsibility was of a collective character; in other words, it truly can be characterized as a systemic failure of the United Nations,” the report states.
The report also emphasises impact of competing strategies between some UN agencies and individuals while dealing with the Rohingya crisis. “Important point to make is that the different approaches to dealing with the contradictory trends in Myanmar were magnified as the events in Rakhine State became increasingly dire. Indeed, instead of seeking a common ground for the competing strategies, the differences between them appear to have led to a polarization of attitudes — institutional and personal — among officials and staff, at Headquarters and in the field, and even among the non-governmental organizations, as the intensity of the human rights violations escalated, reaching their apex in August of 2017 with truly catastrophic consequences.”
The report further observes that “it appears that the increasing polarisation among officials and staff was fuelled, at least in part, by the emotional reactions to the horrific events taking place on the ground”.
“The documentation reviewed suggests that instead of a generalized recognition that the overwhelming majority of officials and staff were committed to the principles and values of the United Nations and genuinely believed, rightly or wrongly, that by following their own tactical play-book they were acting in the best interests of the Organization in its support of the host country, serious recriminations surfaced among the proponents of the competing strategies being followed,” it said. The report further states that those who “promote constructive engagement” sometimes incur the wrath of those that favour a more robust advocacy role” — thereby “poisoning the environment in which a unified United Nations is expected to work.”