Encouraging Corporate Responsibility to Protect Worker’s Rights in Burma

In 1997, President Clinton issued an executive order declaring that the suppression of democratic opposition in Burma constituted a sufficient threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States so as to constitute a national emergency, prohibiting U.S. corporate investment in Burma. Subsequent executive orders modified the scope of the national emergency and, following efforts at political reform by the Burmese government, in July 2012, the Department of the Treasury issued a general license authorizing new U.S. corporate investment in Burma subject to certain restrictions and conditions.

Under these restrictions, U.S. corporations making aggregate new investments of $500,000 or more in Burma/Myanmar are required to report to the State Department on their operations, policies, procedures and social impact. Among other things, companies must describe mechanisms in place that ensure their investments and partners respect human rights and workers rights and promote anti-corruption and responsible environmental practices. The purpose of these reporting requirements is to allow the State Department to monitor human rights conditions in Burma by maintaining a dialogue with U.S. Corporations as well as to provide civil society in Burma information to support these monitoring efforts.

Union partners of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (Solidarity Center) in Burma have requested IHRC assistance in conducting an assessment of the reporting mechanism. The partners are interested in determining a) whether the reporting mechanism is being implemented in accordance with its intent and b) how they can engage the reporting mechanism to ensure U.S. companies are contributing to efforts to promote human rights in Burma.  IHRC has conducted a legal review of the reporting requirements and analyzed U.S. company reports to date against international human rights labor and workers rights standards, and submitted comments to the U.S. State Department with its recommendations for the reporting mechanism. IHRC will travel to Burma to present its findings to stakeholders including the U.S. Embassy, members of the Chamber of Commerce, and international agencies and will conduct trainings for worker's organizations on the reporting mechanism and international labor and workers' rights standards.