Ex-foreign minister Julie Bishop revealed as UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for Myanmar

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Former foreign minister Julie Bishop has been appointed by the UN Secretary-General as his special envoy for Myanmar, amid violence escalating in the country since a violent military coup three years ago.

Ms Bishop, who has held a raft of cabinet positions over her decorated political career until her retirement in 2019, was revealed as the special envoy by Antonio Guterres, the ninth UN Secretary-General, on Friday.

She succeeds the former Myanmar envoy, Singapore-born Noeleen Heyzer.

“Ms. Bishop brings extensive political, legal, management and senior leadership experience to the role,” the UN Secretary-General said in a statement.

“Throughout her career, Ms. Bishop has strengthened engagement with regional partners and led international negotiation efforts, including the first ever United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea conciliation.”

Ms Bishop served as Minister of Foreign Affairs between 2013-2018, Cabinet Minister for Education, Science and Training, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women’s Issues and Minister for Ageing over her 20-year parliamentary career.

She is currently Chancellor of the Australian National University.

The Myanmar special envoy position has been left vacant since Ms Heyzer departed the role in May 2023 – two years after the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted by the military.

The coup sparked renewed civil unrest and conflict between the military and ethnic armed groups, as well as pro-democratic forces.

“Since the coup, the humanitarian, security, health, and economic situation in Myanmar has been volatile and is worsening,” the Australian government’s current travel advice states.

“Australia has been a steadfast supporter of Myanmar’s transition to democracy and a market-led economy.”

In an address to the General Assembly Ms Heyzer said the takeover was “devastating” and violence was continuing at an “alarming” scale.

Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, in March said the office was deeply concerned by the escalation of conflict, including ongoing air strikes by the military on civilians.

Current Foreign Minister Penny Wong congratulated Ms Bishop on her appointment, saying the role was vital in “sustaining international attention and supporting co-ordinated efforts towards a peaceful resolution” of the conflict.

“Ms Bishop brings a wealth of experience to the role, and her appointment comes at a critical time as the political, humanitarian and security situation in Myanmar continues to worsen,” she said.

“The people of Myanmar continue to demonstrate great resolve in the face of unspeakable violence and human rights abuses, and Australia remains resolute in our support for them.

“Australia will work closely with Ms Bishop as United Nations Special Envoy, ASEAN and the international community to deploy our collective efforts to build conditions for sustainable peace in the country.”