On August 20 2013 met for over an hour with Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen, Permanent Representative for OIC at the United Nations. We discussed OIC’s role in pressuring the government of Myanmar and in building consensus around human rights and the rule of law. We also discussed the role of our Task Force and the potential for various strategies.
He very much likes the idea of Buddhist-Muslim dialogue and promoting this visibly. It need not be strong advocacy and may be better not to be at least in the beginning. He also says the government of Myanmar is not hostile to the idea. Regarding the earlier Religions of Peace statement in Bangkok, he says that there will be conference to follow up.
Ambassador Gokcen signed the Memorandum (MoC) with the government of Myanmar, after an 11 day visit in 2012, including to camps for the displaced, an experience which moved him greatly. He noted that the Myanmar government reneged on their earlier agreement to allow an OIC office in Myanmar. The “verification process” also stopped.
The citizenship issue is a “long term” challenge and of course with the upcoming census the government is playing all sorts of games. However in July in response to an earlier request they received an invitation for the OIC Secretary General and five ministers to visit Burma. This may happen around the time of the next General Assembly in late September. One way or another, OIC has been working on a resolution for the General Assembly and working to get support.
There were other discussion about allies at Alliance of Civilizations and the Commission on Freedom of Religion, which he says is “not comfortable with the green light the US has given Myanmar.” He is also in regular touch with Human Rights Watch as well as close to Dr Wakaruddin.
I was impressed by the Ambassador’s level of commitment to this issue. One indication is that of his 170 tweets this year, 160 have been about Burma Muslims.
We spoke about Islamophobia and also about Egypt. The Ambassador noted that one Deputy Secretary General is Egyptian and the other is Saudi, and that the third is from Sudan. We also note that the current Secretary General’s term ends at the end of 2013 and the new designated successor is a Saudi.