Ansar Ahmed Ullah
Contributing Editor, Shottobani
London: The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and UNDP, the UN Development Programme, signed on 6 June a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
This Memorandum is a first and necessary step to establish a framework for cooperation between the UN and the Government aimed at creating conducive conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh and for helping to create improved and resilient livelihoods for all communities living in Rakhine State.
Since the conditions are not conducive for voluntary return yet, the Memorandum of Understanding is the first and necessary step to support the Government’s efforts to change that situation and is also intended to support recovery and resilience-based development for the benefit of all communities living in Rakhine State.
The agreement will provide a framework for UNHCR and UNDP to be given access to Rakhine State, including to refugees’ places of origin and areas of potential return that has not been permitted since violence broke out in August 2017. The access, once effective, will allow UNHCR to assess the conditions on the ground and carry out protection activities. This will also enable UNHCR to eventually provide independent information to refugees about the conditions in their places of origin, helping them to make informed decisions if the conditions are right for them to return in safety and dignity. The Memorandum of Understanding will also allow the two UN agencies to carry out needs assessments in affected communities and strengthen the capacity of local authorities to support the voluntary repatriation process.
Once signed, the Memorandum will affirm the Myanmar Government’s commitment to work with UNHCR and UNDP to find a solution for the Rohingya population, in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. The recommendations include establishing a clear and voluntary pathway to citizenship and ensuring freedom of movement for all people in Rakhine State, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or citizenship status. The development programmes supporting livelihoods and social cohesion will benefit all communities.
The signing of the Memorandum is an integral part of a comprehensive approach by UNHCR and UNDP to find solutions for Rohingya refugees and supporting transition towards a peaceful, fair and prosperous future for all the people of Rakhine. On 13 April 2018, the Government of Bangladesh and UNHCR also signed a Memorandum relating to voluntary returns of Rohingya refugees once conditions in Myanmar are deemed conducive.