Bishop named United Nations special envoy for Myanmar

Michael Mehr and John Kidman |

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has picked Julie Bishop as his envoy on Myanmar.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has picked Julie Bishop as his envoy on Myanmar.

Former foreign minister Julie Bishop says she is deeply honoured to have been named by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as his special envoy on Myanmar.

Ms Bishop, who is currently Australian National University chancellor, will take up the post, which has been vacant since the departure of Singaporean diplomat Noeleen Heyzer last June.

“I am deeply honoured to be appointed Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations on Myanmar to help deliver on the mandate of the General Assembly and the Security Council Resolution of December 2022,” she said in a statement on Saturday.

Announcing the role, the UN noted one-time deputy Liberals leader had “extensive policy, legal and senior management experience”.

“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, it added.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong welcomed the news on Saturday morning.

“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.”

Senator Wong said the special envoy played a vital role in sustaining international attention and supporting co-ordinated efforts towards a peaceful resolution in the troubled Southeast Asian nation. 

Australia would work closely with Ms Bishop, ASEAN and the international community to build conditions for sustainable peace, she said.

Julie Bishop and Penny Wong (file)
Senator Wong (right) says Australia will work closely with Ms Bishop. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

Senator Wong also reiterated the government’s call for the Myanmar regime to “cease violence against civilians, release those unjustly detained, allow safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance and return Myanmar to the path of inclusive democracy”.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the army took power from Aung Suu Kyi’s elected government on February 1, 2021.

The country is locked in a civil war between the military on one side and, on the other, a loose alliance of ethnic minority rebels and an armed resistance spawned out of the junta’s crackdown on anti-coup protests.

Ms Bishop was Australia’s foreign minister from 2013 to 2018 under prime ministers Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.

She became ANU chancellor in January 2020.

The university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Genevieve Bell, said Ms Bishop’s recognition was well deserved.

 “The entire ANU community congratulates Julie on this important appointment and wishes her the very best in this vital role,” she said.