Norwegian Diplomat Will Lead the UN’s Rohingya Work

Knut Ostby moderates a panel on Timor Leste in January 2016. (Photo: Twitter / @UNDPNorway)

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The UN has appointed Norwegian Knut Østby as United Nations Resident Coordinator for Myanmar.

Knut Østby takes over the position from the Canadian Renata Lok-Dessallien, who has been strongly criticized for being too passive against the atrocities committed by the authorities in Myanmar, reports Reuters.

Among others, she is accused of having distorted a report criticizing the UN’s strategy in the country and failing to prioritise human rights. Renata Lok-Dessallien was the focus of a BBC investigation in which she was accused of suppressing internal discussion on Rohingya minority.

Amid the harsh criticism, the United Nations has recalled Renata Lok-Dessallien to headquarters in New York three weeks ago.

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Yesterday, Knut Østby has been assigned to her position. Østby will, among other things, be responsible for humanitarian work in a period of time when there is strong disagreement between the UN and the authorities in Myanmar about the treatment of Rohingya minorities.

– I feel the job will lead to both challenges and opportunities. Myanmar is a country with many conflicts. It is not only the conflict around Rohingya minority groups, but also other groups that are affected. We must engage in all the conflicts, says Østby to NRK.

The Norwegian diplomat has long experience of working for the UN in difficult areas. He has been working for UN Development Program UNDP for 27 years.

He has, among other things, been working for the UN in Afghanistan, and is Deputy Representative of the UN in East Timor.

– Mr. Østby has extensive experience in development, human rights and assistance from 17 countries and has been a deputy representative of the UN for 17 years, including East Timor since 2013, it is stated in a UN statement in connection with the appointment.

More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled a military offensive in August, with many now in camps in Bangladesh.

UN investigators have established that Myanmar security forces are behind coordinated and systematic attacks on the minority group. Rohingyaer is prone to killing, torture and rape, and entire villages are burned down.

The authorities in Myanmar claim the military attraction is not aimed at the entire Rohingya population but against a terrorist group.

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