Farewell message of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ai to staff

Knut Ostby bids his colleagues in Myanmar goodbye.

Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ai, Knut Ostby, poses with staff before leaving for his next post in Pakistan.

Dear Colleagues and friends,

As you are reading this, my tenure in Myanmar has come to an end after nearly two years. I would like to thank you for your commitment to UN values and hard work. I have visited many projects across Myanmar, and I have always been impressed by your passion for UN’s mission and your professionalism. This was strongly reflected in the appreciation of your work by the people and communities we serve. I encourage you to continue to maintain the highest standards of service and focus on results for our beneficiaries. This is how we create value to Myanmar and the international community.

I would like to inform you that a candidate for the new RC was nominated to the government and we are now expecting an official response from Nay Pyi Taw. I would like to thank the UNCT for their support in managing the transition to the new RC. I am confident the incoming RC will find the UN team in Myanmar fit for effectively helping the government and other partners address the significant challenges that Myanmar is facing.

There is much that UN can do to support the ongoing transformation of Myanmar. When I arrived in October 2017, Myanmar was in the early phases of a new, democratically elected Government, and, at the same time, there was an unfolding crisis in Rakhine. In spite of the tremendous challenges, we kept our objectives in focus:

  • Maintain the momentum for the country’s peace, economic and democratic transitions for the benefit of all people;
  • Save lives by gaining greater humanitarian access;
  • Support sustainable solutions for Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States; and,
  • Engage in human rights advocacy.

I would also like to remind you that the UN has Zero Tolerance to sexual exploitation and abuse. Preventing and addressing sexual harassment and abuse of authority remains a priority for the whole UN system. In this respect, I have issued a message to all staff in which I spelled out actions that should be  taken in order to strengthen an internal system enabling complaints to be raised and dealt with fairly and confidentially.

An important document that was released that looks critically at the work of the UN in Myanmar, was the Rosenthal Report. I would encourage you to read this report as it looks at the entire UN system both inside and outside the country. This review is valuable for all of us. The Secretary-General has accepted the recommendations “and is committed to implementing them so as to improve the performance of the United Nations system.” The UN Country Team in Myanmar is in dialogue with UN HQ and is fully committed to play its part in the implementation.

Our work must be guided by an approach of constructive and principled engagement, as entrusted by the leadership of the UN system.  This includes a human rights-based approach to all programming. We have been making sure each of our activities meets international standards and the understanding at UNCT is that the UN will remain engaged in public advocacy on strategic issues and speak out on issues of concern.

We have always prioritized leaving no one behind and served the people of all communities in Myanmar, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or citizenship status in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan, and the international human rights principles and humanitarian priorities. I urge you to continue to use leaving no one behind as your guiding principle.

The Resident Coordinator Office has now formally been separated from UNDP, in line with reforms at the global level. These changes have been to encourage stronger coordination of both development and humanitarian activities across the world, to the benefit of those that we work for – the poorest and most vulnerable.  We have now opened the UN Office in Nay Pyi Taw which will allow us to work more closely with our Government counterparts. We will continue to cooperate with community leaders as well as with our partners in civil society, the international community, academia, private sector, the media, local and international NGOs – and the Special Envoy and the UN system.

As we await my successor, we can be sure that the new RC, will be guided by these same principles. I am fully confident that you will accord him/her the same support and cooperation that you have shown me.

I would like to take this opportunity again to thank you all, for your support, your collegiality and most of all, your dedication to serving the people of this beautiful country that I have come to know and to appreciate.   This is not a goodbye, in the final sense of the word, but rather to say that it has been a privilege to work with all of you and to serve the people of Myanmar.  I look forward to seeing you again, where ever and when ever we may meet again.


Knut Ostby

Speech by
Knut Ostby
Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator a.i.
Knut Ostby
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World Bank