The Elders

Martti AhtisaariDear friends,

I travelled to Myanmar and Thailand last month with my fellow Elder, Gro Harlem Brundtland. In Myanmar’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw, we held meetings with the government, army and parliament. We then travelled to Kachin State, in the north of the country, and to the Thailand-Myanmar border, where we met with people displaced by more than 60 years of civil war.

Many of the concerns we heard about are closely connected to the peace process and its further implementation. From what we heard, we are cautiously optimistic that a nationwide ceasefire could be signed in the coming months. But as I always say, the real work begins after ceasefires are signed, and that peace must be built from the ground up.

Throughout our visit, we also heard many concerns that people are feeling left out of the wider reforms currently underway in Myanmar – from the nationwide census and constitutional reform to the government’s plans to encourage large-scale development projects in parts of the country. But as we emphasised when we met with Myanmar’s leaders, inclusiveness is not only a fundamental quality of ethical leadership – it is essential for democratic reforms to succeed.

One example of the people-owned societal activity is the excellent health and education services we saw along the border, run by what Nay Pyi Taw considers to be “illegal associations”. Not only do they provide vital public services, they are trusted institutions and a source of local talent and expertise.

In order to take the peace process and democratic reforms further, wider consultation within society is needed to help Myanmar’s diverse communities to overcome decades of mistrust and unite around a common vision for a peaceful, prosperous future.

Ultimately no one wants peace more than the Myanmar people, and The Elders remain committed to supporting them.

Best wishes,

Martti Ahtisaari

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