Contact: Roland Watson, email@example.com
UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL ENVOY FOR BURMA
January 15, 2006
Please forward to all Burma lists.
In March 2005, in a statement titled "The Tipping Point," I called for
the firing of Special Envoy to Burma Razali Ismail. It is therefore good news
that he has resigned. This initiative was doomed from the start. Trying to talk
to the SPDC, to Than Shwe, is like trying to reason with the infamous American
mass-murderer, Charles Manson. You will get nowhere.
Some Burma commentators are now saying that we must identify another person who
will have better luck talking to the Junta. This is ridiculous. More importantly,
it is a disservice to the people of the country. If you want someone who can talk
to Than Shwe, you will have to choose an individual who already has a relationship
with him. For example, you could choose a Chinese teak cutter, heroin distributor
and trafficker in ethnic minority women who are forced to become sex slaves. Of
course, this will accomplish nothing for democracy.
If the United Nations is to have an envoy who will be effective, who will play
a central role in ending the rule of the SPDC and establishing a well-designed
and functioning federal democracy, the approach must be changed. We do not need
a Special Envoy to the SDPC, whose job is to try to talk to the generals. Rather,
we need a Special Envoy for Burma, who does not even visit Rangoon but who instead
travels the world, to Beijing, Moscow, Bangkok, Tokyo, Paris, Frankfurt, Washington
D.C., and many other places, organizing and unifying pressure for democratic change.
If the position is not redesigned in this way, it would be better off left unfilled.
Also in the earlier statement, I suggested myself as a replacement as Special
Envoy. I would like to repeat this offer, now that the position is available.
I have never before published my personal information, as it is not germane to
my work. In a real democracy, your credibility derives from the power of your
ideas. But for a position such as Special Envoy, the holder must have an appropriate
background. I have such a background. I formerly worked in New York City on the
executive staff of a major American corporation. Following this, I was an international
investment banker, in Stockholm and London, for one of the world's largest banks.
My understanding of institutional culture derives in part from these experiences.
After this, I traveled extensively, for what is now fifteen years, and for the
most part in rural areas of South and Southeast Asia. I have excellent cultural
understanding and strong cultural skills for the region. I have also written a
number of books, and many articles, which deal with political and economic development
issues, particularly the transition from an authoritarian society to one that
is open and democratic.
Most importantly, I am dedicated to democracy for Burma, and have worked continuously
for many years to achieve this goal. I have also lobbied the United States on
its Burma policy, and the United Nations, extensively. I therefore request that
this offer receive serious consideration.
Some people may find it unusual that an individual with my background would become
a corporate and supranational (e.g., WTO, IMF and World Bank) activist. The change
in my position derives from my travels, where I experienced first hand the environmental
and cultural catastrophe that is resulting from commercial globalization. The
actual consequence of unregulated capitalism and a focus on economic growth to
the exclusion of all other measures is the opposite of the poverty reduction and
the other forms of "progress" that we have been promised.
The challenge with filling the Special Envoy position for Burma is analogous to
finding a replacement for the United Nations Secretary General. The United Nations
is in crisis. The Security Council is unable to function because of its membership
and also due to the veto power wielded by the permanent member states. The Human
Rights Commission is filled with serial human rights abusers. The oil for food
scandal illuminates the organization's desperate need for accountability and skilled
management. And as if all this were not enough, the world faces greater challenges
now than at any time since the U.N. was established. The organization therefore
needs the absolute best individual that can be identified to replace current Secretary
General Kofi Annan.
The selection process though has been defined in terms of entitlement and political
horse trading. This guarantees that a weak, compromise candidate will be chosen,
and that the U.N. will continue to flounder for the next five years. This is terrible
news for the world social system.
Similarly for the Burma Special Envoy, the search is concentrating on people who
are acceptable to the Junta and who have diplomatic backgrounds. We do not need
another diplomat in the job. Professional diplomats are weak! They do everything
in their power to avoid confrontation rather than directly address a problem and
do what is required to solve it.
The Special Envoy for Burma should be uncompromisingly dedicated to democracy,
and have enormous strength of will.
If you support the above ideas, would you please forward this statement, right
now, to the United Nations at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also change the subject
line to "Special Envoy-Burma." This statement will likely be read by
two thousand people or more, mainly Burmese who are tired of waiting for their
country to be free. If one hundred of you would forward it to the U.N, this would
send a strong signal to Kofi Annan and his Burma staff to appoint someone who
is actually able and determined to get the job done.