Burma/Myanmar conflict risk: how can investors respond?

If you would like further details, or to listen to a recording of the EIRIS CRN webinar held on Wednesday 9th June 2021, please contact Hetal Jani: hetal.jani@eirisfoundation.org

Yael Rosenfeld, Campaign Co-ordinator with EIRIS Foundation & Webinar Chair

There are numerous initiatives that investors are undertaking to respond to the crisis in Burma/Myanmar.

  • The Myanmar Centre for responsible Business engaged with issued a statement to express their concern and stressed the need to respect human rights, the rule of law, and the swift resolution of the crisis.
  • The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has publicly challenged companies to answer a series of questions.
  • Other investors have also supported a statement coordinated by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights.
  • EIRIS CRN has joined in by introducing a framework to systematically manage conflict exposure to Burma/Myanmar with the objective of promoting peace, stability, and a return to democracy in the country.

Bennett Freeman, former SVP Calvert Investments and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

  • Those involved with EIRIS CRN and its work on Sudan for more than a decade now feel that investor focus needs to widen to other conflicts across their portfolios.
  • Nowhere is the need for research and analysis more urgent now than Burma/Myanmar today, where there is a debate over the relative merits of divestment and engagement.
  • There is indeed a legitimate moral case can be made for divestment and exit by companies and investors in response to the deteriorating situation. But there is also a moral, political, and economic case for companies to remain if they make certain commitments, above all now transparency and accountability with respect to revenue payments they make to the regime. Plus, they must weigh the impact of their actions on the safety and security of locals, staff, and workers, and any inadvertent implications for continuing violence and conflict that may create a failed state situation.

Philippe Bone, Project Manager, EIRIS Conflict Risk Network

  • Companies operating in conflict-affected areas can reduce their downstream exposure to conflict risk by contributing to activities that promote peace and stability.
  • EIRIS CRN developed a free resource—with the input of experts on investment policy as well as Burma/Myanmar–for investors seeking to systematically manage their exposure to conflict risk in Burma/Myanmar.
  • EIRIS CRN can support investors seeking to manage exposure to conflict-related risks with our investor-tailored services.

Shin Furuya, Impact Investment Strategist at Domini Impact Investments

  • Although the Burma/Myanmar sanctions were repealed, Domini recognized early on that there was significant conflict and human rights risks in the country
  • Companies are not often very transparent regarding their activities and their links with “high-risk activities” in conflict-affected areas. This was the case with Burma/Myanmar.
  • Many companies showed no evidence of conducting Human Rights due diligence before moving into Burma/Myanmar.

Dr. Tara Van Ho, Essex University School of Law and Human Rights Centre

  • Risks of bad investments are significant; currently, Burma/Myanmar is being associated with some of the gravest IHL and Human Rights violations
  • Documented cases illustrate that the victims of abuses often seek reparations, often decades after the occurrence of the abuse
  • Risks to investors are significant as parent companies—and possibly investors–can incur liability for the actions of subsidiary companies and supply chains.
  • European laws are increasingly subjecting investors to the same rules as corporations.
  • To combat their risks, companies and investors must undertake heightened human rights due diligence, use their leverage to affect change, and mitigate their harms. Companies can mitigate the harms caused by their activities by working with humanitarian organizations providing relief to the victims. Mitigation is not the same as off-setting.