United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, Cathy Russell, and her delegation traveled to Myitkyina, Burma this week to meet with Kachin civil society leaders.
Ambassador Russell learned about the role women play in civil society, politics, and the peace process in the far northern Burmese state. The US delegation also visited an internal displacement camp (IDP) in Kachin State. At present, there are more than 240,000 internally displaced people in the Kachin State, northern Shan State, and Rakhine State.
Addressing the needs of these internally displaced people is a challenge. In Kachin State, the Burmese government limits humanitarian agencies' access to the IDP sites and aid organizations must seek permission to access areas not under government control.
In Rakhine State, the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance has been severely limited by the political context, while conditions for IDPs deteriorate. The IDPs spoke openly to US Ambassador Russell about camp conditions. Her delegation reported being very impressed by the brave women who are raising their families in such difficult conditions. Ambassador Russell sought to explain that the US government is providing as much support to IDP camps as political conditions allow.
Ambassador Russell stressed the impact that women around the world have in promoting peace and security.
Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein is visiting Burma/Myanmar this week (May 2-5 2015). The Ambassador at Large is an advisor to President Obama and Secretary of State and serves as the United States’ chief diplomat on issues of religious freedom worldwide. Ambassador Saperstein’s message in Burma/Myanmar is clear: religious freedom and tolerance will advance Burma’s security, stability, and its democracy.
During his visit to Burma, the Ambassador is meeting with many religious and interfaith leaders, government officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations, students, and civil society activists to discuss religious freedom and tolerance. The Ambassador shared strategies for building tolerance and enhancing religious freedom for all, including minorities. Discussions focused on the strength of unity through the country's diversity, and the important role civil society plays in promoting tolerance.
Saperstein has met with representatives of Burma’s religious and ethnic minority communities. Ambassador Saperstein visited the local Chinese Muslim community mosque in Mandalay and had a chance to discuss the rich history of Mandalay's diversity, highlighted by the presence of the city's Chinese Muslim community.
Ambassador Saperstein also visited Ta Cham Pei Mosque in Yangon. He was encouraged by efforts made by the mosque to be inclusive of women.