Myanmar’s transition from the military junta to democracy that started in 2011 gained ground when the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi took office in April 2016. However, the military elite still maintains extensive economic and political power. The military presides over the ministries of Home Affairs, Border Affairs, and Defense, and holds effective veto power over constitutional changes.
The legal and economic reforms that accompanied the transition have not yet addressed holdover problems from the military rule. The rule of law, including the administration of justice and law enforcement, remains weak. Corruption is endemic. Discrimination and abuses against women and ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities continue. Human rights abuses linked to business activities are routine. Meanwhile, the government is actively pursuing new economic opportunities and foreign investment, which has hit record high in recent years. It is thus urgent to close gaps in laws, policies, and practices so that businesses operating and investing in Myanmar do not further threaten human rights.
ALTSEAN-Burma and ICAR have partnered to support the development of a National Action Plan (NAP) on business and human rights in Myanmar by producing a “Shadow” National Baseline Assessment (NBA) to assess legal and policy gaps, and identify where further efforts are required. This NBA is developed based on the guidance under “National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights: A Toolkit for the Development, Implementation, and Review of State Commitments to Business and Human Rights Frameworks” (Toolkit), which was developed by ICAR and the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) in June 2014.2 In accordance to the Toolkit, the NBA analyzes the States’ implementation of Pillars I and III of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and focuses specifically on those Guiding Principles which represent obligations of the State.
The NBA is primarily based on desk research. The project team also conducted a number of consultations with select experts and hosted one workshop with representatives from grassroots organizations to ascertain preliminary findings, complete data gaps, and update the NBA in view of ongoing legislative and policy changes. The following presents a list of findings and recommendations to address critical issues and challenges.
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