Myanmar: Health Workers

Lord Alton of Liverpool Excerpts
Tuesday 7th March 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I absolutely agree with the noble Lord and with the UN. He will know that in December last year the UN Security Council passed the first ever resolution on the situation in Myanmar, and that was led by the UK. The resolution demands an end to violence and urges immediate action by the military regime to fully implement the ASEAN five-point consensus and release everyone who has been arbitrarily detained. However, we are not going to see change until we see change at the very top. The noble Lord is right to make that point, and it is of course a priority for the UK.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary groups on Burma and the Rohingya. I want to take the Minister back to what he has just said about levels of access and the request from my noble friend Lord Crisp about meeting some of those who are involved in these issues, specifically in this case Burma Campaign UK, in order to address their concerns about the level of reporting that is required for the receipt of international humanitarian aid, which they say is wholly unrealistic and simply not feasible in a conflict zone. They say that people are dying because of the red tape. Can we look again at how to utilise local civil society organisations, as referred to by the Minister a moment ago, which are indeed best placed to get aid to those who need it? They say that, among Burma’s ethnic minorities and the 2 million displaced since the military coup, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, it is without doubt a humanitarian catastrophe. Myanmar is the Indo-Pacific’s most desperate humanitarian crisis. Some 17.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and over 1.6 million have been displaced, including over 500,000 children. Some 15 million people are considered moderately or severely food insecure, and 7.8 million children remain out of school. So the noble Lord is right. The difficulty, as I mentioned earlier, is access. When dealing with a regime of the sort that runs that country, access to the grass roots is very difficult. So we have a twin approach: first, we work through channels such as the UN and ASEAN to push for greater humanitarian access and, secondly, we increasingly support local civil society networks with access to vulnerable communities to be the first responders to the crisis. That has ensured that UK aid is reaching the most remote and hard-to-reach areas, but it is difficult.