For over sixty years Burma (Myanmar) was a military dictatorship, cut off from international engagement and suffering through the recurring violence and systematic abuses by the government force. 2011 and 2015 saw historic democratic elections that brought long-imprisoned democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the Burmese parliament and a lifting of the long-standing U.S. government sanctions. Although this move towards democratization has helped to bring much needed foreign investment for growth in the country, Burma continues to struggle with serious challenges including:
- Persecution of ethnic and religious minorities such as Rohingya Muslim communities
- Weak rule of law, including a weak judicial system
- The continued imprisonment of political prisoners
- The potential financing of notorious human-rights violators
We believe that responsible investors can play an important role in Burma’s progress towards democracy and prosperity by shifting from a strategy of avoidance and divestment to one of careful scrutiny and engagement. Because of this, Domini has long urged any companies operating in Burma to conduct human rights risk assessment regarding their activities in Burma and report publicly of their efforts to prevent and mitigate any negative human rights impacts while enhancing positive impacts.
Domini has released an issue paper on Human Rights and Democratic Reform in Burma which outlines the factors we consider when evaluating the eligibility of companies for our portfolios that operate in Burma. We hope that it will help to illustrate how Domini addresses these key challenges, as well as provide guidance to other investors and corporations.