UN rights chief on Myanmar refugees and a future of 'kindness, empathy and unity'
30 December 2022 - Days after the latest sea rescue of Rohingya refugees by Indonesian fishing crews, UN human rights chief Volker TÃ¼rk appealed on Friday for greater regional protections.
Expressing deep sadness that more than 200 Rohingya - who fled military persecution in Myanmar in 2017 - have died trying to cross the Andaman Sea from Bangladesh this year, Mr. TÃ¼rk said that the boats used to make the crossings are not only "overcrowded and unsafe" but also "left to drift for days on end without any help".
This year alone, more than 2,400 Rohingya have attempted the sea journey.
And with no sign in sight of the crisis ending, the UN rights chief urged more countries to assist in their safekeeping.
Specifically, Mr. TÃ¼rk urged States to coordinate proactive search and rescue operations, disembark Rohingya refugees on their territories, and ensure their protection.
He also called on regional and countries globally to help Bangladesh support the over one million Rohingya refugees who have sought protection there since 2017.
"An urgent solution must be found to enable the voluntary return of all Rohingya, with full respect of their dignity and human rights as full and equal citizens of Myanmar", underscored the High Commissioner.
Turning the page to a new year
At the close of 2022, the senior UN official reflected on "the story we'd like to write for our future".
"My hope for next year is that we lead our lives, individually and collectively, with kindness, empathy, and unity. In how we relate to each other. In our homes, neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces, [and] online", he said in his look ahead message for 2023.
'Story of hope and unity'
Mr. TÃ¼rk reminded recalled that if human rights are not protected "in the little places", they lack meaning anywhere.
He argued for the protection of women's rights at home and in public, saying that women and girls must have "full equality and freedom from discrimination".
Children's eyes must also be opened to the mistakes of the past, so they can "write a story of hope and unity" to create a better world in which "we celebrate diversity, convinced that we are stronger together than we are apart", added the UN right chief.
Guided by humanity
He hoped for a future of online expression, protected from hatred and disinformation with consideration for other viewpoints; respectful disagreements; and embraced diversity.
"Think of the person on the other side of the screen", urged the High Commissioner, reminding that "there is no place for dehumanizing the other by using reductionist labels or identity politics".
"I hope our shared humanity will be our guide".
Mr. TÃ¼rk regarded human rights as "the force that come in and unify us", bringing everyone "back to the fundamentals of who we are, of human dignity and to what connects us all with each other".
He argued that one person's pain ultimately hurts everyone and underscored the importance of safeguarding the rights of current and future generations.
"Let's treat our planet with the kindness and the humility it deserves. And let's make sure that actions to safeguard our environment are grounded in the human rights of all".
According to the senior UN official, this requires bravery and the courage to listen and speak up when others are being wronged, to live in a space in which everyone can safely exercise their rights in justice and dignity.
"As we approach the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights next year, let us strive to make the world more dignified", concluded the High Commissioner. "A world where everyone's rights are respected".
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