UN envoys focus on Myanmar's development

15 Feb 2012

The Secretary-General's Special Adviser for Myanmar Vijay Nambiar and the United Nations Development Programme's Asia Director Ajay Chhibber arrived in the country yesterday for a five-day visit in which they will meet with Government authorities, political parties and civil society representatives, as the Asian nation moves ahead with planned reforms.

The U.N. recently welcomed the decision by Myanmar's President Thein Sein to grant amnesty and set free a significant number of prisoners of conscience, and acknowledged other reform measures, including dialogue between the Government and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Since the launch of the reform agenda, we have seen progress in various areas," Nambiar said. "The challenges ahead are many and complex. The reform agenda might be ambitious, but it is achievable," he said, adding that participation, partnerships and solidarity  not only between Myanmar's various sectors but also with other countries  would be key factors for success.

Chhibber, speaking to a conference on development options for Myanmar, said he welcomed the moves, and proposed ways to benefit from being a "latecomer" to development.

"I believe there are three huge benefits of being a latecomer to be exploited by Myanmar," Chhibber said. "First, that partly because of underdevelopment Myanmar still has abundant natural resources and must now ensure that it does not follow an environmentally destructive development strategy as some of its neighbours have done."

"Second, many Asian countries focused exclusively on fast growth but have neglected to build the social policies and social protection needed to ensure that their citizens acquire the resilience needed to manage economic and health crisis and natural disasters," Chiibber said. "Third, there is a huge potential to develop Myanmars agriculture, ago-based industries and tourism to suit high end markets and thereby increase value, not just volume."

Chhibber said the U.N. will stand by and support Myanmar during all its endeavours, but emphasized that reforms must be fully owned and implemented by Myanmar's own institutions.