Delivered on: 7 March 2023
Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered:
»UK statement during the 2023 Rohingya Joint Response Plan«
Let me begin by expressing my heartfelt appreciation to the Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, State Minister Shahriar Alam, and the Government of Bangladesh. You have generously hosted one million Rohingya refugees for over 5 years. I would also like to express our gratitude to our humanitarian partners that are providing vital assistance, including, High Commissioner and Director-General, you, your staff and the volunteers on the ground.
As we enter the sixth year of the crisis, a long-term solution for the Rohingya people remains frustratingly out of reach. The UK remains deeply concerned by the worsening situation in Myanmar, which means that the conditions for the Rohingya to return are not in place. The High Commissioner for Human Rights set out that situation just yesterday across town in the Human Rights Council, just as the DG did here this morning: military attacks on the civilian population up nearly 400%. Over 600 villages torched by the junta’s troops. A staggering 17.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Since the February 2021 coup d’etat, we have provided over £100 million in humanitarian support in Myanmar, including for the Rohingya and other Muslim minorities.
In December, as the State Minister mentioned, the UK led efforts to secure the first ever UN Security Council Resolution – UNSCR 2669 – on the situation in Myanmar. That Resolution stresses the need to address the root causes of the crisis in Rakhine State and create the conditions necessary for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees.
We also continue to do all we can do to support the Rohingya whilst they remain in Bangladesh – providing £345m since 2017. The UK Minister for the Indo-Pacific, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, will visit Bangladesh just this week to see in person the effect of our support for the humanitarian response. And we welcome this year’s JRP, in particular the inclusion of the skills development framework, and roll-out of the Myanmar curriculum. These are vital to help prepare the Rohingya for their eventual return to Myanmar.
We well understand the challenges the Government of Bangladesh faces in managing this protracted crisis, including security, environmental and economic impacts. The tragic fire just this weekend in Cox’s Bazar, leaving thousands of Rohingya without shelter, just adds to that challenge.
And we are deeply troubled by the trajectory for 2023, and the fragility of the situation set out so graphically today by the High Commissioner and the UN Resident Coordinator. As the High Commissioner said, we face unparalleled global humanitarian need – a situation exacerbated of course by Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine – and the global response is under unprecedented strain. This has been highlighted by the first food ration cut for Rohingya refugees since 2017. There is a real risk that refugees, including the extremely vulnerable, will not receive the full range of basic assistance they so desperately need, as the UN Resident Coordinator set out this morning.
The UK sees an urgent need to work pragmatically with your Government, State Minister, taking account of your concerns about the impact of the Rohingya refugee presence, to find a sustainable way forward that:
- Offers the Rohingya more self-reliance, and less dependence on humanitarian aid;
- Ensures that we achieve maximum effect with every pound, euro or dollar we spend; and
- Supports a safe and secure environment for refugees.
International Financial Institutions must play an important role in helping to meet the needs of all refugees and support the host community in Cox’s Bazar. We hope the dialogue with them continues, and stand ready to contribute to creative solutions.
Let me end by reiterating the UK’s commitment to the Rohingya while they are in Bangladesh, and the communities that do generously host them, and to working with you all to resolve the underlying causes of this tragic crisis.