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An Open Letter to President Obama and President Thein Sein in Support of Peace, Reconciliation and Development in Myanmar

OTTAWA, Nov. 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- On the eve of a meeting between United States President Barack Obama and Myanmar President U Thein Sein, five women Nobel Peace Laureates of the Nobel Women's Initiative sent an open letter urging the heads of state to commit to bringing an end to the escalating and systematic violence in Rakhine State. This would include full access for humanitarian aid into affected areas and the creation of a reconciliation process led by local community leaders.

Full copy of the open letter follows:

November 18, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500 USA

President U Thein Sein
Office of the President
Naypyidaw
Myanmar

In Support of Peace, Reconciliation and Development in Myanmar

Dear President Obama,
Dear President Thein Sein,

As you meet together in Myanmar this week, we are writing to urge your firm commitment to bring an end to the escalating and systematic violence in Rakhine State. We are deeply saddened by reports of the recent deaths of 170 people, and the displacement up to 110,000 people from their homes. We also encourage an end to the restrictions on humanitarian assistance, preventing survivors of the violence - including women and children - from getting much-needed medical help, food and shelter.

As peace leaders, we are following the conflicts in Kachin and Rakhine States with great concern. Our fellow Laureate and member of Myanmar's parliament Aung San Suu Kyi has recently called the ongoing violence "a huge international tragedy." This letter is an urgent call to prioritize in your discussions an end to the violence in both states and the protection of and the delivery of aid to vulnerable populations.

We cannot support the rationale of using violence to end violence. We hold the belief that violence that will not alleviate the suffering of Myanmar's people. The passive acceptance of the marginalization and discrimination of a minority group, thinking it will lead to peace, is flawed logic. It must not be catered to by national or international lack of political will. Furthermore, these violent conflicts, if not resolved, will continue to delay much needed reforms in economic development and may spread unrest and violence to other areas and destabilize the region.

Your priorities should include the creation of a fully inclusive reconciliation process in Rakhine State and the resumption of meaningful peace talks with the leaders of Kachin State. Women are an important part of such efforts and should be fully represented and meaningfully engaged in both processes. Additionally, lasting peace will require national and international commitments to ending the statelessness of the Rohingya people, with development efforts that improve livelihoods and education for all the people of Myanmar.

We appreciate the recent positive steps for democratic reform in Myanmar. However, to truly succeed, essential work is needed to ensure the genuine inclusion of all political, ethnic, and religious groups in the country's future development. The inability to govern a diverse people without oppression or violence will threaten development, peace and stability within Myanmar. It is our conviction, that the people of Myanmar have an opportunity to demonstrate the best qualities of a multi-ethnic nation with acceptance and protection of all religions and ethnicities. This is indeed possible and in alignment with your national interests.

Therefore we call for:

  • Full access for humanitarian aid into affected areas.
  • The creation of a reconciliation process led by local community and religious elders.
  • And ultimately, your personal commitment to bring an end to the escalating and systematic violence in Rakhine State.

The government of Myanmar has the daunting task of preventing unresolved grievances from exploding into country-wide and regional violent conflict. We stand with you and the people of Myanmar to work towards advancing human freedom and supporting democratic and economic development so that all within the country and the region can thrive.

Respectfully,

Jody Williams
Nobel Peace Laureate, 1997

Leymah Gbowee
Nobel Peace Laureate, 2011

Mairead Maguire
Nobel Peace Laureate, 1976

Rigoberta Menchu Tum
Nobel Peace Laureate, 1992

Shirin Ebadi
Nobel Peace Laureate, 2003

About The Nobel Women's Initiative
The Nobel Women's Initiative is an organization comprised of six women Nobel Peace Prize Laureates: Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee & Tawakkol Karman. Nobel Women's Initiative was created with the vision of helping strengthen work being done in support of women's rights around the world. The Nobel Women's Initiative uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and of courageous women peace laureates to magnify the power and visibility of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality. Visit our website at http://nobelwomensinitiative.org

CONTACT:
Rachel Vincent
Manager, Media & Communications
Mobile: +1.613.276.9030
rvincent@nobelwomensintiative.org

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