The IHR Clinic recently submitted comments to the State Department recommending it maintain and improve its Reporting Requirements on Responsible Investment in Burma. The State Department Reporting Requirements are aimed at ensuring U.S. investment is conducted in a transparent and accountable manner, requiring certain U.S. companies newly investing in Burma to submit annual reports on their activities, including information about their policies, practices and monitoring mechanisms that protect against human rights abuses in their operations and business relationships. Since the U.S. re-opened investment in 2013, many U.S. companies have entered the Burmese market. Given Burma’s troubling history of human rights abuses, ensuring that such investment is done responsibly and abides by human rights standards is critical.
In its comments, the IHR Clinic encouraged the State Department to uphold these Reporting Requirements but noted that various American businesses operating in Burma, particularly international garment and footwear brands, have maintained that they are not required to report their activities. Others have submitted reports that provide little specific and useful information regarding company practices, making it difficult for the U.S. government and civil society organizations to assess whether substantial efforts are being made to protect human rights in U.S. operations.
To address these challenges, the IHR Clinic has recommended the State Department revise the Reporting Requirements themselves. Currently, the Requirements do not call for investors to disclose efforts to implement their human rights due diligence policies, nor do they require them to disclose the identity of related business entities to which these policies apply. Additionally, the Reporting Requirements provide little guidance on what constitutes a sufficient, helpful disclosure. Among its recommendations, the IHR Clinic suggested the State Department issue clear and specific reporting guidelines on the mandatory information required in the reports; require investors to disclose the identities of related business entities in Burma, including subcontractors, suppliers and business partners; require reports from key investment industries, such as international garment and footwear brands sourcing products; and issue notice letters to investors failing to comply.
IHR Clinic Comments are found here. These comments were submitted by the IHR Clinic as a component of its Workers’ Human Rights and Corporate Responsibility advocacy. For other related projects, click here.