Myanmar’s Representation at the UN: Webinar

Myanmar’s Representation at the UN

Tue 28 Jun 2022 11:00pmWed 29 Jun 2022 12:30am


Online Webinar

Webinar Time zones:

11pm -12.30am  Brisbane ( Australian Eastern Standard Time/+UTC=10)
2:00 -3:30 pmLondon  (British Summer Time/UTC+1)
3:00-4:30 pmGeneva  (Central European Summer Time/UTC+8))
7:30-9:00 pmYangon  ( Myanmar Time/ UTC+6.30 )
8:00 -9:30 pmJakarta ( Western Indonesian Time /UTC+7) Bangkok( Indochina Time /UTC+7)
9:00-10:30amWashington, New York  ( Eastern Daylight Time /UTC-4 )
9:00- 10:30pmBeijing  (China Standard Time/UTC8 ) Singapore ( Singapore Time /UTC+8)


Since Myanmar’s military coup in February 2021, the UN’s various organs, subsidiary bodies and specialised agencies have had to contend with the question of who represents Myanmar on the world stage: the civilian government or military junta.

In 2021, both the National Unity Government (NUG) and the junta submitted credentials to the General Assembly, claiming the right to represent Myanmar at its 76th Session. The General Assembly deferred its decision on Myanmar’s representation. By virtue of the Assembly’s rules of procedure, that decision allowed Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, endorsed by the NUG, to continue representing Myanmar at the General Assembly. General Assembly Resolution 396(V) (1950) states that when questions arise regarding who should represent a State at the UN, ‘the attitude adopted by the General Assembly … should be taken into account’ by other parts of the UN. In the case of Myanmar, that hasn’t happened.

While Myanmar continues to be represented at the General Assembly by Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, other UN bodies and entities have either excluded Myanmar from their meetings altogether or have allowed Myanmar to be represented by the junta. In the genocide case against Myanmar being heard by the International Court of Justice, Myanmar has been represented by the junta; and at the Human Rights Council, Myanmar has been excluded – with the result that Myanmar’s Universal Periodic Review has been unable to be finalised. If the approach taken by the Human Rights Council is followed by other UN bodies/entities, which looks likely to be the case, the people of Myanmar will effectively be denied the right to be represented at any UN forums other than the General Assembly. At this critical time in the country’s history, this lack of clarity regarding Myanmar’s representation at the UN is having real-life consequences for the people of Myanmar and needs urgent resolution.

The webinar will provide information and a forum for discussion, drawing on expert opinion on the legal and procedural requirements regarding the representation of States at the UN, and on the General Assembly’s practice. It will also propose possible solutions, and specifically, set out a path by which Member States and UN officials can allow Myanmar to be appropriately represented in UN bodies and entities, in accordance with the procedural rules, principles and practice of the UN.

The event will take the form of a moderated panel discussion of approximately 1 hour, followed by a moderated Q&A.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Chris Gunness, Director, Myanmar Accountability Project

Speakers and Panellists:

  • Rebecca Barber, Research Fellow, Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

  • Larry Johnson, Professorial Lecturer at the Vienna Diplomatic Academy and formerly UN Assistant Secretary General for Legal Affairs.

  • Zunetta Liddell, International human rights scholar, activist and advisor to civil society organisations in Myanmar.

  • Aung Myo Min, Minister for Human Rights, National Unity Government, Myanmar.

  • Chris Sidoti, founding member of the Special Advisory Council – Myanmar and formerly member of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

Questions to be addressed:

The questions to be addressed by the panellists will include:

1. What are the legal and procedural requirements for determining Myanmar’s representation at the UN, and how have similar decisions been made in the past?

2. What is the significance of the decision by the UN General Assembly in December 2021 to defer its decision on Myanmar’s representation, and to allow Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun to remain in his seat; and what does this precedent mean for other UN bodies and entities?

3. What specific actions are required in order for UN bodies and entities to have greater clarity on this issue, and to ensure that Myanmar is appropriately represented, going forward?

Speakers/Panellists bios: 


Rebecca Barber is a research fellow at the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and a PhD scholar with the TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland. She has published extensively on international legal issues relating to the role of the General Assembly, including on the issue of the representation of governments in the UN. She previously had a career with international NGOs, primarily in humanitarian policy and advocacy, human rights, protection and legal assistance programs.


Chris Gunness is the founding director of the Myanmar Accountability Project.  He was previously the Director of Strategic Communications and Advocacy for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in Jerusalem, and prior to that had a 23-year career with the BBC, including covering the 1988 democracy uprising in what was then Burma.

Larry Johnson served at UN headquarters as the UN Assistant-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs. Prior to that Mr Johnson held numerous other positions spanning a career of almost 40 years at the UN, including legal adviser of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Chef de Cabinet, Office of the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, and principal legal officer in the UN Office of the Legal Counsel. Mr Johnson taught UN Law and Practice at Columbia Law School from 2009 to 2020 and now serves as a Professorial Lecturer at the Vienna Diplomatic Academy.

Zunetta Liddell has worked on human rights and civil society support in Myanmar since 1986. She lived in Myanmar from 1988 – 1990, during the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and beyond.  She worked as a Burma researcher for international human rights organisations for ten years, including as interpreter for the UN Special Rapporteur in 1992. Since 2007 she has been an advisor to Myanmar civil society organizations working on legal sector reform, human rights, gender and land rights. Since the coup, she has lead a UK charity to provide funds to over 90 civil society organisations in Myanmar.

Aung Myo Min currently serves as the Human Rights Minister in the cabinet of Myanmar’s National Unity Government, Myanmar. He is a long-standing human rights advocate, and was a student leader in Myanmar’s 1988 revolution. Aung Myo Min is also the founding Director of Equality Myanmar, a leading human rights organistation in Myanmar, and he has been awarded several international awards for his work in human rights, particularly in LGBTQ rights.


Chris Sidoti is a founding member of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, and was also a member of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. Chris has held several prominent public offices in Australia in the field of human rights, including Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Australian Law Reform Commissioner and founding Director of the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. He has also held roles with non-governmental organisations including director of the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights.

Further Background Information and Reading:

Further discussion regarding the issue of Myanmar’s representation at the UN can be found in the following:

Rebecca Barber, ‘The Role of the General Assembly in Determining the Legitimacy of Governments’ (2022) International and Comparative Law Quarterly.

· Rebecca Barber, ‘The People of Myanmar Need to be Heard, Not Ostracized, on the International Stage’ (Just Security, 29 March 2022).

· Rebecca Barber, ‘How Should Governments Decide Whether or not to Recognise other Governments, and can the General Assembly Help?’ (EJIL:Talk!, 6 December 2021).

· Rebecca Barber, ‘The General Assembly Should Provide Guidance to the UN System on the Question of Who Gets to Represent Myanmar’ (Just Security, 7 June 2021).

· Rebecca Barber, Chris Sidoti et al, ‘Legal Opinion: Credentials Committee: Representation of the State of Myanmar to the United Nations’ (Myanmar Accountability Project, September 2021).

· Chris Gunnes and Damian Lily, ‘UNHCR Must Respect Myanmar’s Democratic Reps’ (Asia Times, 11 March 2022). (insert before Chris’s other article)

· Chris Gunness and Khin Ohmar, ‘Myanmar’s Democrats Must be Allowed to Attend the UN Human Rights Council’ (Jakarta Post, 20 March 2022).

· Larry Johnson, ‘What’s Wrong with this Picture? The UN Human Rights Council Hears the Military Junta as the Legitimate Government of Myanmar’ (EJIL:Talk!, 31 March 2021).