Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and former Prime Minister of Norway, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, emphasised the importance of inclusiveness in Burma’s peace process during an interview with DVB on Friday.
Ahtisaari and Brundtland were speaking as representatives of The Elders, an independent group of former world leaders which uses their experience and influence to promote peace, justice and human rights worldwide. Other members include former US President Jimmy Carter and ex-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Concluding a short trip to Burma and Thailand during which they met with Burma’s President Thein Sein, Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, House Speaker Shwe Mann and chief peace negotiator Aung Min, the European mediators said, “Both parties [in the peace process] have to have more patience than they have ever had … The government has to make this as all-inclusive as possible.”
Speaking to DVB editor Aye Chan in Chiang Mai, Ahtisaari stressed: “People have not been listened to in the past. Now is the time to be inclusive. Try to listen to all those who want to express their views.
“People have to feel they have a stake in the [peace] process. When they can express their views and concerns – and these are discussed – this paves the way for a totally new beginning in the society.”
Challenged on Norway’s leading role in Burma’s peace process, Dr Brundtland said, “When I think about the role that Norway has played over a long time in many difficult situations – carrying money through the diplomats’ pockets to the resistance against Apartheid and many other situations – Norway has been early in many cases across the world, over many decades, to try to help support peace.
Stressing that she was no longer representing the Norwegian government, Brundtland said, “I can assess that Norway has the intention to help the people of Myanmar. And to help the people in the ethnic areas and states we have visited.”
The Finnish statesman added that, as The Elders, they would continue to emphasise to the various donor countries the importance of ensuring that that displaced persons and refugees in neighboring countries receive the necessary funding.
“Sometimes the donor community moves so fast that they think that they [Burma’s refugees and IDPs] don’t need any more, and that’s not the case,” Ahtisaari said.
In a statement, the two veteran leaders reiterated their call: “The Elders encourage the government of Myanmar to strive for greater inclusiveness, to overcome decades of mistrust within society and reflect the full diversity and talents of Myanmar’s population.”