The UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), today 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.
The MoU aims at helping create a conducive environment for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees 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 6 June 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 organizations. 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.”
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