November 20, 2017 (Ottawa) – Since August 2017, over 600,000 mainly Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh to escape ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. In response to this ongoing crisis, Lloyd Axworthy, Chair of the World Refugee Council, issued the following statement:


"The recurrent Rohingya refugee crisis and the inadequate response thus far by the international community are deeply troubling. Once again, a neighbouring state, one with very limited resources, is left to shoulder a heavy burden. It is indispensable that the international community share this global responsibility, help Bangladesh to assist Rohingyan refugees who have crossed into its territory, come to the aid of displaced Rohingya still inside Myanmar, ensure the eventual safe, voluntary and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya from Bangladesh to Rakhine State, and hold the perpetrators of this crisis to account. In the meantime, it is imperative to ensure the continued protection of refugees in Bangladesh and internally displaced within Myanmar.


The authorities of Myanmar must cease all violence against innocent civilians, stop all incitement to violence and take steps in line with resolution 2106 (2013) to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual violence. The Government of Myanmar should work with the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and facilitate access by UN officials and humanitarian organizations to Rohingya displaced in Rakhine state.


The UN Security Council should impose targeted sanctions and visa bans on senior Myanmar military officials and prohibit all military assistance to Myanmar until such time as the safety of those Rohingya who wish to return home can be credibly guaranteed by the Myanmar government and ensure aid groups can deliver assistance to the Rakhine state safely and unimpeded. The UNSC should also refer this issue to the International Criminal Court to ensure there is an accounting for crimes committed against civilians.

The UN should work closely with the Government of Myanmar and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with all available resources and existing mechanisms of cooperation to ensure the safe and voluntary return of all Rohingya refugees, including demining personnel, human rights monitoring and humanitarian support for all affected people in Rakhine State. 

More than a local refugee crisis, this is a global leadership crisis, yet another example of the failure of the international community to address systematically and effectively the plight of refugees and to prevent conflict. The world needs to transcend serial ad hoc responses to refugee flows and bring about comprehensive structural change. As former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata warned the world community, “there are no humanitarian solutions for humanitarian problems; their solutions are always political.""


Lloyd Axworthy, Chair of the World Refugee Council





The World Refugee Council

The World Refugee Council (WRC) is a group of leaders, innovators and influencers that seeks to devise a new, predictable and cooperative refugee system. It was established by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in May 2017 to complement the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to achieve a new Global Compact for refugees in 2018.




Madison Cox

Communications Advisor

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