Imperatives for a Sustainable Solution to the Rohingya Crisis – Statement at the 76th UN General Assembly

76th session of the UN General Assembly  

High Level Side Event on

“Rohingya crisis: Imperatives for a Sustainable Solution”

22 September 2021, 3.00 pm – 4.30 pm (EST)


Dear Prime Minister (of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina), Dear Ministers,

Dear High Commissioner (Filippo Grandi), Dear OIC Secretary-General (Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen),

Dear Special Envoys (of UN Secretary General, Christine Schraner Burgener; and ASEAN, Erywan Yusof),

Dear participants,

It is a great honour to speak at this high-level event on behalf of the European Union.

The Rohingya continue to bear the brunt of violations of human rights in Myanmar. Decades of the military rule with blatant disregard for human rights and grievances of ethnic minorities as well as rampant impunity have seen thousands of Rohingya women, children and men killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes. Today, the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice investigate these horrific attacks as alleged genocide.

The military coup in February, a heavy blow to prospects of a democratic transition in Myanmar, have further exacerbated the plight of the Rohingya. They continue to flee violence and discrimination, often risking their lives in a perilous escape at sea. And the country is sinking into a civil war.

Bangladesh, despite limited resources, has taken in more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees and provided them with food and shelter. I visited refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar two years ago. I spoke with Rohingya refugees. When I chaired the last Human Rights Dialogue between the European Union and Myanmar last October, we raised the situation of the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State as one of the issues of great concern.

Bangladesh’s efforts stand as an example of solidarity with the Rohingya people. The international community must acknowledge and support these efforts. The European Union plays its part. We have been one of the world’s greatest donors to address the Rohingya refugee crisis, from the very outbreak of the crisis. The European Union contributed over 280 million euros in humanitarian and development funding to tackle the consequences of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, Bangladesh and the region since 2017. Last October, we co-hosted a donors conference Sustaining Support for the Rohingya Refugee Response. The event increased the visibility of the Rohingya crisis and raised 597 million U.S. dollars for Rohingya refugees. This year, the European Union has already committed 35 million euros in humanitarian aid for Rohingya refugees and their host communities – this includes food assistance, clean water, sanitation, healthcare services, education, as well as increased protection for the most vulnerable groups.

At the United Nations, we have long been the driving force calling for the improvement of human rights situation in Myanmar and for ensuring accountability. For many years, we have presented at the Human Rights Council a resolution on the situation in the country. Together with the OIC, we also lead an initiative at the Third Committee of the General Assembly addressing the situation of human rights in Myanmar with a strong focus on the plight of the Rohingya and other minorities.

For the forthcoming session, we are again working on a resolution, which will underline, among other issues, the need to ensure justice and accountability for gross violations of human rights, and to create the necessary conditions for a voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees and internal displaced persons.

What is the durable solution for the Rohingya crisis? First and foremost, addressing its root causes in Myanmar. Improving the situation of the Rohingya people is only possible through creating an environment in Myanmar where respect for human rights and the rule of law prevail, through eliminating discriminatory laws and uprooting discriminatory attitudes.

Today, in the midst of the crisis in Myanmar, this seems like a distant goal. This crisis is an urgent call for action. We welcome and support the ASEAN efforts to resolve the crisis in Myanmar. We support the work of the UN and ASEAN Special Envoys. We are encouraged by the commitments of Myanmar’s National Unity Government to end discrimination of the Rohingya and grant them citizenship. For there is no other way to find a durable solution of the Rohingya crisis.

The European Union stands with the Rohingya and with all peoples of Myanmar in their quest for dignity and human rights. They can count on us. The global community can count on us.

Thank you.