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Guidelines on investment in Burma/Myanmar

Websites/Multiple Documents

Title: Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business
Description/subject: "The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business is a new initiative to encourage responsible business activities throughout Myanmar. The Centre is a joint initiative of the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) and the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR). Based in Yangon, it aims to provide a trusted, impartial forum for dialogue, seminars, and briefings to relevant parties as well as access to international expertise and tools. Vicky Bowman is the first Director of the Centre. She draws on seven years of living in Yangon, is fluent in the Myanmar language and has many years' experience of working on responsible business issues, within the private sector and government. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were unanimously endorsed in June 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council, are key to the Centre’s mission and activities..."
Language: English, Burmese
Source/publisher: Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 24 May 2014

Individual Documents

Title: Ten things to know about power in Myanmar
Date of publication: 05 December 2015
Description/subject: "With an installed generating capacity of about 3,500MW and a population of more than 53 million, Myanmar’s lack of capacity offers huge potential for developers. The IPP [Independent Power Producers?] approach is still in its infancy in Myanmar and the purpose of this briefing is to highlight ten of the key issues that investors should be aware of when considering investing in power projects in Myanmar."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Norton Rose Fulbright LLP
Format/size: pdf (1MB)
Date of entry/update: 10 July 2016

Title: Following the Money: An Advocate's Guide to Securing Accountability in Agricultural Investments
Date of publication: 2015
Description/subject: "... Large-scale agricultural investments – in plantations, processing plants or contract farming schemes, for example – have increased in recent years, particularly in developing countries. Investment in the agriculture sector can bring much needed support for rural development, but communities have also witnessed significant negative impacts. Some of the most serious involve local landholders being displaced from their lands and losing access to natural resources critical for their livelihoods and wellbeing. Instead of contributing to rural development, ill-conceived investments can undermine people’s rights to food, to water or to decent work. Improving accountability is essential in ensuring that investment processes respond to local needs and aspirations and respect human rights. Yet many deals struck between companies and governments to establish agricultural ventures are not fully transparent, making it difficult for the public and local communities to scrutinise projects before they materialise on the ground. Despite international human rights law and best practice requiring full transparency, public participation, and free prior and informed consent of local communities, civil society participation is often missing and once negative impacts have occurred citizens may struggle to have their voices heard or hold the company or the government to account. Weak governance is often accompanied by limited accountability to citizens. Yet, despite these challenges, many citizens have been able to hold companies and governments to account. For this to happen, local communities and the organisations that support them have to get organised, get informed and be strategic. Supporting affected communities to get organised so that they can collectively challenge or influence the project is essential to any successful advocacy. Success can take a long time – sometimes involving years of struggle – so ensuring strong community solidarity is key. Communities should be aware of their rights and what laws, regulations and policies are in place to protect them. An organised and informed community can then begin to devise a sophisticated advocacy strategy to achieve their goals. Usually the first step is to take complaints directly to local authorities, national authorities or the business operating on the ground. But when these approaches have limited success, communities and their supporters should not give up. There are other strategies that can be tried which reach beyond the borders of the project and the country where it is located. Behind most large-scale agricultural projects is a web of global actors that make the project possible. These actors include banks and companies that are funding the project and the companies that are buying the produce being grown or processed by it. All of these actors are necessary to the project’s success, and all are aiming to earn a profit from it in one way or another. They all have a relationship with the business operating on the ground and have the ability to influence it. All of these actors have some responsibility to ensure that the project does not harm communities. Knowing who is financing the project, who is buying the produce and who else is making the project possible and profitable – in other words, ‘following the money’ – opens up a range of opportunities for improved accountability. We call the web of actors involved in a project an ‘investment chain’. Within this chain there are ‘pressure points’. If affected communities can identify the strongest pressure points and take actions directed at effectively influencing key actors in the investment chain, they are more likely to achieve their goals. Understanding investment chains and pressure points, and effectively making use of them, can prove difficult. This Guide provides information, practical tips and exercises on how to map an investment chain behind a project, identify the strongest pressure points along the chain and then devise effective advocacy strategies that leverage those points. It explains what you need to know, the challenges you may face and the strengths and weaknesses of a range of advocacy options. Examples are provided from cases around the world where communities have tried to ‘follow the money’ and have used a number of strategies to hold investors and governments to account..."
Author/creator: Emma Blackmore, Natalie Bugalski, David Pred
Language: English
Source/publisher: International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Inclusive Development International (IDI)
Format/size: pdf (7MB)
Date of entry/update: 18 April 2016

Title: Joint Comment on the Reporting Requirements on Responsible Investment in Burma
Date of publication: 04 October 2012
Description/subject: "After submitting a detailed comment [MAIN URL] to the US Department of State expressing concern over weak reporting requirements for US companies considering investing in Burma, EarthRights International, Freedom House, Physicians for Human Rights, U.S. Campaign for Burma and United to End Genocide issued the following statement: “We continue to be deeply concerned by the US government’s decision to lift all remaining sanctions, and allow corporations unrestricted investment access to Burma despite widespread corruption, ongoing human rights violations and a total lack of rule of law. Although US companies will be required to report on their investments, the current requirements lack specificity about enforcement and consequences for non-compliance. Furthermore, existing loopholes enable companies to designate information as ‘confidential’ as a way to avoid public scrutiny. The US government should take immediate steps to ensure that there is a strong regulatory framework that can effectively promote accountability and transparency..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) et al
Format/size: pdf (135K; html)
Alternate URLs: http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/deplorable-weak-reporting-requirements-for...
Date of entry/update: 07 October 2012

Title: Proposing Benchmarks for Corporations in Burma. Are they sufficient - or even appropriate?
Date of publication: 18 September 2012
Description/subject: Below, we publish the third draft of “Guidelines for Corporations Operating in Burma”, submitted to “Civil Society Organizations and Shareholders Addressing Corporations in Burma” by the US Campaign for Burma Committee on SRI at the Unitarian Universalist Association. Organisations with current input on these benchmarks include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, US Campaign for Burma, AFL-CIO, International Trade Union Congress (ITUC), Freedom House, Asia Foundation, Open Society, and the Conflict Risk Network of United to End Genocide. The title of the statement suggests that some companies have already decided to invest in Burma, following “rapprochements” with the regime made by the US, Australian and European governments earlier this year. One would have hoped for a more questioning approach by the sponsors. The Guidelines state that the “absence of law governing the behavior of corporations in Burma…makes it imperative that NGOs, shareholders, and affected parties inside Burma develop a position regarding what companies in Burma should do in order to operate responsibly”. Why not, instead, urge companies not to enter (or re-enter) the country before new and binding government regulations are in place? The authors confine themselves to discussing observance of human (including workers) rights, with only one fleeting mention of environmental and socio-economic issues. However, the latter are huge priorities for many thousands of local people. We're also told that “'..companies should prepare impact assessment reports on proposed projects in Burma that include impact assessments in the areas of human rights, the environment, gender equality, and poverty…” Fair enough - except that these need be performed only "where appropriate", rather than being stipulated as mandatory. Art of the possible? Similarly, the Campaign urges companies to “[a]dopt a policy that requires [them to]…seek business partners without connections to the military, drug trade, or questionable human rights practices”. But, again, this is only “wherever possible”. In contrast, the investment conditions published by the US and UK government, appear to proscribe any forging of commercial links with dubious or criminal domestic parties. It’s unfortunate that, while citing examples of campaigns against foreign corporations operating in Burma, no mention is made of those which have called mining companies specifically to account - notably Ivanhoe-Rio Tinto. See: Wikileaks reveal true nature of Ivanhoe-Rio Tinto's Burmese deal But the most important question to ask is surely this: might these benchmarks come to substitute for the vital requirement that a truly democratic government introduce its own binding reforms? Until such a government is freely-elected, there's a clear danger of "corporate creep" into - or even partial takeover - of institutions and regulatory processes which should be firmly under parliamentary control, serving the interests of civil society. [Comment by Nostromo Research, 18 September 2012].
Author/creator: Nostromo Research
Language: English
Source/publisher: via Mines and Communitiies
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 20 September 2012

Title: Foreign Investment in Myanmar: A Resource Boom but a Development Bust?
Date of publication: 03 August 2012
Description/subject: "... In February 2011 media outlets worldwide reported that China had surpassed Thailand as the largest foreign investor in Myanmar.1 China had US$8.25 billion of approved investment in fiscal year 2010–11 (which in Myanmar runs April to March), all for projects in the extractive and power sectors. It was the biggest investor in Myanmar’s FY2010–11 Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) windfall of almost $20 billion — more than the previous twenty years combined.2 This was just slightly higher than Vietnam’s approved investments for the corresponding fiscal year, which totalled $19.9 billion.3 Yet the 2010–11 FDI figures exemplified a decade long trend of investment being overwhelmingly concentrated in the extractive (mining and oil and gas) and power sectors. Only 1 per cent of the FDI from FY2010–11 was outside these sectors, evidence that foreign investors saw few other viable investment opportunities in Myanmar’s challenging business climate. The majority of these investments came from neighbouring countries, most notably China, but also Thailand and South Korea. This is partly the result of Beijing’s often overstated but still sizable influence in Naypyidaw, as well as its desire to secure natural resources from abroad and bypass the strategic chokepoint that is the Straits of Malacca.4 But the source of Myanmar’s FDI is also shaped by other factors, including different home country investment patterns. China, for example, is historically a major investor in resource projects. Singapore and Japan tend to invest more in sectors such as real estate and manufacturing, yet because these projects were less viable in Myanmar for the last decade, investors from these countries have often turned elsewhere. Despite oft-cited competition for resource investment in Myanmar, India’s actual investment in the country has been miniscule, though Indian investors have in recent years spent approximately 80 per cent of their FDI on mergers and acquisitions, which are rare in Myanmar. The concentration of FDI has important implications for Myanmar’s economic development, as contrary to common perceptions FDI is not inherently or uniformly beneficial for a host country. Instead, the positives vary depending on the source and sector of investments, the forward and backward linkages they create with other parts of the economy, the number and types of jobs created, and the host country’s economic policies. Most of the FDI that has come into Myanmar in the last decade has created little direct employment and few linkages with existing industries, limiting their positive benefits. Despite this, FDI is still rightly viewed as an important part of Myanmar’s economic development. This paper reviews changes in the source country and economic sector of FDI in Myanmar using actual and approved investment data from 1989 until 2011. The data has been disaggregated by country, sector, and for select years both. It looks at FDI in two periods: the first from the passage of the Foreign Investment Law in November 1988 to the end of FY1999–2000, and the second from FY2000–01 to the present. This division was selected because it falls at the end of a decade, during a lull in both approved and actual investment (after most of the projects approved before the 1997–98 Asian Financial Crisis had been fulfilled), and around the time when the changing trends in Myanmar’s FDI were first becoming evident. The paper starts by noting some caveats of FDI figures in Myanmar. It then reviews recent literature on FDI in Myanmar, before examining the major trends in the country’s investment data. The next section compares these trends with those of Myanmar’s neighbours, Vietnam and Laos. The paper then engages with the theoretical literature on FDI to explore what these investment patterns reveal about the macro economy, and how they are shaped by geopolitics, sanctions, commercial concerns and the specific investment patterns of each home country. The paper closes with a brief examination of whether these FDI projects can contribute to broad-based economic development in Myanmar..."
Author/creator: Jared Bissinger
Language: English
Source/publisher: Macquarie University
Format/size: pdf (603K)
Date of entry/update: 23 April 2016