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Monthly Archives: February 2015

The recently launched Myanmar Foreign Investment Tracking Project’s initial results are disappointing:

PRESS RELEASE: Most foreign investors in Myanmar silent or evasive when asked about their human rights commitments

Amid rights concerns linked to investment surge, too few companies publicly discuss their human rights policies and due diligence efforts.

Myanmar, 17 February 2015 – Only a handful of foreign companies investing in Myanmar were able to point to substantive actions when invited to publicly respond to questions on their human rights commitments in Myanmar, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reports today after reaching out to over 100 companies through its Myanmar Foreign Investment Tracking Project.

Fifty-seven of the 108 companies approached responded, and only 24 of them referred to human rights policies with respect to their investments or activities in Myanmar. Even fewer described undertaking due diligence efforts prior to investing. These findings echo concerns raised by local communities and human rights organizations that human rights issues are not being adequately addressed as foreign companies invest in the resource-rich country.

for the full story see: http://business-humanrights.org/en/press-release-most-foreign-investors-in-myanmar-silent-or-evasive-when-asked-about-their-human-rights-commitments 

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has launched a useful project that aims to track foreign investment in Myanmar. It highlights human rights law violations and criticism of foreign investment while allowing companies to respond.  The strength of this project is its balanced approach providing a forum for open discussion of business and human rights issues.

As of February 2015, the project has we have reached out to 108 companies from various sectors and regions. Out of those, 57 companies have responded. The record of responses and non-responses is useful for civil society to gauge which investors are willing to cooperate and invest in an open and transparent manner. It also shows us which companies are not cooperative.

Company responses can be important advocacy tools as civil society works to hold investors to their responsibility to respect human rights. These responses indicate their commitment. Their activities should be monitored to ensure that they fulfil these public commitments. The BHHRC will continually update the database.

The Project’s Webpage is available here: http://business-humanrights.org/en/myanmar-foreign-investment-tracking-project

International Commission of Jurists

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Date: 07/02/15 

Myanmar’s Investment Law Drafting Process at Critical Phase

As the Myanmar government enters a critical phase of establishing its new legal framework governing investments in the resource-rich country, it should continue working with all stakeholders, including affected communities and civil society, to promote a law that balances investors’ needs with human rights, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).

“This is a critical moment for the economic development of Myanmar. The laws it implements now will shape investment, economic development and, in turn, human rights for the foreseeable future,” said Daniel Aguirre, ICJ International Legal Advisor.  “It is imperative that drafting is not rushed and that laws take into account international human rights laws and standards.”

ICJ has been working directly with Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), as well as with Myanmar civil society, on investment law and their potential impact on the human rights of all people in Myanmar.

The International Finance Corporation, in support of DICA, has produced a Draft Investment Law designed to consolidate the Foreign Investment Law (2012) and the Myanmar Citizen Investment Law (2013) to create a level playing field for both local and foreign investors. DICA has now opened the process to civil society consultation.

ICJ conducted a workshop with DICA on bilateral investment treaties in July of 2014. In November, the ICJ submitted feedback on the Draft Investment Law providing expert analysis and flagging issues of concern.

An initial consultation on the Draft Investment Law took place on 29 January 2015. The ICJ along with other civil society organizations met with the IFC and DICA.

“The ICJ is encouraged by DICA’s willingness to consult civil society, including international non-governmental organizations, and hear concerns about investment laws and their potential to curtail important regulations designed to protect, promote and fulfill human rights,” said Aguirre. “The ICJ looks forward to formal engagement in a consultation process that will include both national and international civil society.”

The ICJ remains concerned that the Draft Investment Law establishes significant rights for investors without protecting the rights of those affected by business activity. The Draft Investment Law would require investors to follow national laws without acknowledging that the existing national legal framework does not adequately protect human rights or provide remedies for those whose rights have been violated.

Furthermore, the Draft Investment Law does not establish or protect Myanmar’s ‘right to regulate’ to protect human rights or other social or environmental needs. Investment law should indicate Myanmar’s obligation to enact necessary regulations for the protection of human rights, including economic and social rights such as the right to health, in the future in order to avoid legal disputes when adopting these regulations.

“The Draft Investment Law’s proposed legal framework would provide all investors the right to be consulted and challenge any new national law or regulation that may impact their profits,” said Aguirre. “This framework would allow businesses to challenge government policies aimed at addressing legitimate needs within the country, and it could create a regulatory chilling effect in which Myanmar’s government would find itself in the troubling position of evaluating whether the passage of new social policies would lead to costly lawsuits from investors.”

“The draft Law as currently formulated runs the risk of hindering progressive regulation to protect human rights in Myanmar,” said Aguirre. “The ICJ is encouraged that DICA has begun meeting with non-governmental groups and believes that an effective and meaningful consultation will help address key concerns about the Draft Investment Law. The ICJ looks forward to working with the Myanmar Government, with the IFC, and with all other concerned groups in order to promote a law that balances investors’ needs with human rights.”

http://www.icj.org/myanmars-investment-law-drafting-process-at-critical-phase/

Key to ensuring that people have access to remedy for business and human rights related violations in Myanmar is the creation of an independent and accountable judiciary. Myanmar must follow through on promising efforts to improve the independence and accountability of its legal system, and particularly its judiciary, said the ICJ today at the launch of one of its landmark book in Yangon.

The ICJ launched today the Myanmar language version of its Practitioners’ Guide to the Independence and Accountability of Judges, Lawyers and Prosecutors.

“The judiciary in Myanmar has taken important steps towards asserting its independence from the other branches of government, but we heard repeatedly from the judiciary that they still face significant obstacles in this regard,” said Wilder Tayler, ICJ’s Secretary-General.

The book launch wrapped a series of discussions regarding judicial ethics and the rule of law with the Supreme Court of the Union of Myanmar, as well as with the parliamentary Committee on Rule of Law and Tranquility.

The ICJ’s Practitioners’ Guide n°1 is the first of its kind to be published in the Myanmar language providing detailed references to international and comparative standards on the independence and accountability of judges and lawyers.

“The Supreme Court emphasized its belief that an independent judiciary plays a key role in ensuring access to justice and the protection of human rights, but with independence must come accountability,” Tayler added. “The Myanmar judiciary must be accountable not just in deciding cases according to the law and facts, but also as a separate and equal branch of the government, and ultimately, to the people of Myanmar.”

The full press release is available here: http://www.icj.org/myanmar-must-follow-through-on-promising-efforts-to-improve-the-independence-and-accountability-of-its-legal-system/http://icj.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Myanmar-SC-workshop.png

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