Human Rights and Democratic Reform in Burma
Following a historic election that brought long-imprisoned democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi to Burmese parliament, the U.S. government announced the lifting of long-standing economic sanctions on Burma, and corporations announced that they would soon resume business there. In the second quarter of 2012, Domini participated in an in-person meeting with National Security Council (NSC) staff to share our concerns regarding the continued imprisonment of political prisoners; weak rule of law, including a weak judicial system; continuing violence against ethnic minorities; and the potential financing of notorious human-rights violators. Following our meeting, we worked with other members of the Conflict Risk Network (CRN) to develop and submit concrete recommendations to the NSC.
In the wake of the important democratic reforms and the lifting of economic sanctions, the U.S. State Department began work on a set of reporting requirements to ensure that companies doing business in Burma disclose sufficient information to allow the U.S. government to evaluate their impact on human rights and further democratic reforms. In September, we worked closely with the CRN on detailed comments to the State Department in support of its proposal to require such reports. In October, we then submitted our own letter to the State Department with our additional recommendations on reporting requirements. We were pleased to see that the State Department adopted at least two of our recommendations, including a reference to international human rights instruments and our suggestion to require companies that lack human rights due diligence policies to explain why they do not have these policies in place. Unfortunately, our most important concerns regarding public transparency were not addressed.
During the first quarter, we continued to work in coalition with other investors on a follow-up letter to the State Department from the CRN, which Domini signed. We were also one of the leading institutions inviting other investors to sign the letter through the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) network.