In her first-ever address to the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva on Thursday, Myanmar's Opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi called for international aid and investment to help build a better future for her country.
"Foreign direct investment that results in job-creation should be invited. Investors should adhere to codes of best practices. Track records in regards to internationally recognized labour standards and environmental responsibility should be examined," Suu Kyi told delegates at the annual conference of the U.N. agency.
"What I would like to see for our country is democracy-friendly development growth. I would like to call for aid that would strengthen the democratization process by prompting social and economic progress that is beneficial to political reform," she said.
Highlighting the recent changes in her country, Suu Kyi stressed that her National League for Democracy (NLD) party has repeatedly emphasized the need for rule of law and an end to ethnic conflict in Myanmar.
On the issue of youth unemployment in Myanmar, Suu Kyi noted that "it is not so much joblessness as hopelessness that threatens our future. Unemployed youths lose confidence in the society that has failed to give them the chance to realize their potential." She also stressed on the need to equip young people with the skills needed to enter the world of work.
Pointing out that she and the NLD have had a long association with the ILO, she said: "We cooperated to the best of our ability with the ILO and other interested organizations and individuals over the issue of forced labor and child soldiers."
Her address to the ILO came a day after the U.N. labor forum lifted its restrictions imposed on Myanmar in 1999 due to concerns over the use of forced labor, and decided to review the progress on the elimination of forced labor in the country next year.
Nearly 5,000 government, employer and worker delegates from the ILO's 183 member-states are participating in the Geneva annual conference, which is focused on the global jobs crisis and its impact on youth, as well as social protection and rights at work. It began on May 30 and ends on June 15.
Suu Kyi arrived in Geneva on Wednesday night, marking her first European visit since 1988. In addition to Switzerland, Suu Kyi will also visit the UK, Ireland, France and Norway during her two-week European tour. While in Norway, she will accept the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to her in 1991.
Incidentally, she had traveled to Thailand last month to attend the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok, marking her first foreign trip in 24 years. Suu Kyi's decision to embark on overseas trips reflects her confidence that she would be allowed back in by the present civilian government.
Her NLD party had secured 40 of the 45 seats contested in the recent by-elections. However, the Army and its proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) still dominate the 664-seat bicameral Parliament with about 80 percent seats. NLD had secured a landslide victory in the 1990 elections, but could not assume power as the military junta refused to recognize the poll results.
Suu Kyi herself was under house-arrest for most of the past 20 years. Although the NLD had boycotted the November 2010 polls, it later decided to rejoin mainstream politics and was subsequently allowed to contest the by-polls.
Following the widely acclaimed by-elections and the recently implemented reforms, Western powers, including the United States, Britain, European Union and Australia, have softened their approach toward Myanmar and eased some of their sanctions imposed on the previous military junta.
Since assuming power in March 2011, the new government led by President Thein Sein has released thousands of political prisoners detained by the previous military junta and implemented several reforms demanded by the Opposition and the international community.
by RTT Staff Writer
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