- Dear Madam, you were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, 21 years ago, for your non-violent efforts to promote democracy and human rights - universal values and values Switzerland stands for. You will finally receive your Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow in Oslo.
- I wish to thank you on behalf of the Swiss people for your visit. Numerous citizens have expressed their great happiness about your visit to Switzerland.
- It is a great honour for our country that you have decided to visit Switzerland and to come to Bern on your trip to Europe [the first since she was released from house arrest in 2010].
- Your presence today is also a sign that the situation has evolved in your country. The political reforms that are taking place in your country are raising hopes, not only among the local population, but also throughout the world. By opting to progressively open up, the authorities have shown that the world can change, thanks to the will to choose values tied to democracy and human rights.
- Although the reform process will be long - and there might well be setbacks - I would like to stress that Switzerland wants to contribute to the positive development and is committed to supporting your country along this difficult path fraught with obstacles and challenges. Your country possess enormous potential
II. Ongoing reforms in Myanmar
These positive developments in Myanmar include in particular:
- First: The transfer of power to a civilian government: the military government officially made way for a civilian government in 2011. Ex-General Thein Sein, who was elected President of the Republic in February that year, has meanwhile taken a variety of steps to open up the country. The partial legislative elections that were held in April 2012 represent a milestone on the possible return to democracy in your country.
- Second: Around 500 political prisoners have been released in the past few months.
- Third: cease-fire agreements have been negotiated with ethnic minority groups.
- Fourth: Granting the right to strike and to form trade unions, easing censorship, legalising the use of satellite dishes, and opening Internet sites are indications of a readiness on the part of the authorities to open up.
III. Encouragement measures by Switzerland
As said before, Switzerland has on a number of occasions welcomed the process of reform and gradual opening up which is taking place after half a century of authoritarian rule. We want to support the transition towards democracy and greater respect for human rights in your country. To this end, Switzerland is planning the following measures:
- Opening an embassy: Switzerland is currently represented in Myanmar by the Swiss Embassy in Bangkok. The Swiss Government will open an Embassy in Myanmar at the beginning of November 2012. By opening an embassy in Myanmar, we also want to signal our recognition of the democratic progress that has been made, and to encourage its continuation. Opening an embassy is also a response to the major economic and tourism potential in Myanmar.
- Partial lifting of sanctions: Switzerland, along with other western countries, imposed sanctions against Myanmar in 2000 in view of the serious human rights violations being committed in the country. At the beginning of May, the Swiss Government decided to lift all sanctions, with the exception of the embargo on military equipment and goods that could be used for repression.
- At the same time, however, Switzerland also emphasised the fact that, if the political situation in Myanmar were to notably deteriorate, it would consider imposing stringent sanctions again.
- Strengthening development cooperation: in order to support the ongoing transition, Switzerland will strengthen its development cooperation programme in your country. The budget is to be raised to around 25 million Swiss francs for the next four years (current budget, around 7 million Swiss francs].
- Programmes are to be launched for example in the following areas:
- Vocational training: Switzerland has achieved excellent results with its dual system and links the training of skills to the needs of theeconomy. This system contributes to the low level of unemployment among young people in Switzerland. The Swiss experience could be applied in your country, where vocational training for young people is a unanimously confirmed priority. An example could be tourism.
- With regard to agriculture and food security, Switzerland has been, and will continue, to support the World Food Programme. By working in this domain, we want to contribute to improving efficiency and added value to locally produced commodities, with the active participation of farmers and affected communities (strongly involving women).
- Specifically, Swiss cooperation development will conduct projects on demining, and the construction of schools or healthcare centres will be another option – all with the involvement of civil society, especially ethnic minorities. Switzerland could also directly offer its experience in the areas of federalism, local government and minority protection.
IV. Challenges in Myanmar
- Switzerland is observing the ongoing opening-up process in Myanmar with satisfaction. Switzerland hopes that the authorities will be able to meet the numerous challenges it is facing on the path to reform.
- In this context Switzerland expects that:
: All members of the political opposition who are still imprisoned today are released, and all necessary measures are taken to strengthen human rights and develop democracy and the rule of law.
Second: All forms of forced labour are eradicated by 2015. Switzerland welcomes the creation of detailed action plans aimed to secure good governance, facilitate transparency and accountability, and promote socio-economic reforms. It encourages the authorities of Myanmar to continue along this path and to take measures to enhance workers’ rights and eliminate once and for all the practice of forced labour.
Third: Solutions to encourage dialogue can be found to ease religious tensions and inter-ethnic conflicts in Myanmar in order to bring about lasting peace and consolidate the conditions conducive to development.
Thank you for your attention. I give now the floor to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Madam, the floor is yours.
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