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Sustainable business network offers companies in Myanmar seven practical steps on how to respond to coup

"How Business Should Respond to the Coup in Myanmar", 24 February 2021

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The challenge of respecting human rights while navigating business in Myanmar is significant: engagement with the new authorities risks conferring legitimacy on them and economically enabling their illegal seizure of power, while disengagement reduces leverage, hinders delivery of essential goods and services, and terminates needed jobs...How can business navigate these trade-offs and ensure respect for human rights?

Drawing on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), UN guidance for business in conflict situations, and BSR’s own experience working with businesses in Myanmar and advising companies on human rights due diligence in high-risk contexts, here are seven practical steps that businesses with a presence in Myanmar can take:

1. Prioritize staff safety and civil liberties.

Businesses with a presence in Myanmar should prioritize the safety, security, and mental well-being of their staff and support their human rights to freedom of expression, association, and political participation.

2. Be transparent in the short term, and document abuses for the long term.

Businesses whose services have been interrupted should seek to inform their customers about the reasons why as well as the scope and length of the suspension of services. Some businesses and staff may be subject to coercion and victims of violence themselves; in these cases, businesses can document and collect information for future disclosure…

3. Undertake rapid human rights due diligence on your business operations in Myanmar.

… should look in particular at risks to staff safety and how business relationships and activities may impact on the political context…will also require that businesses collaborate, share information, and engage in collective action with home governments, embassies, investment and trade associations, peer businesses, and (in a safe and secure manner) local civil society.

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4. Take proactive steps to respect human rights.

…In the immediate term, companies should consider making a statement voicing opposition to the coup and support for human rights, either alone or collectively (for example, by signing on to the statement organized by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business).

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5. Support targeted economic sanctions.

…Foreign companies operating in Myanmar can help to shape effective sanctions by assessing the impact of those under consideration and providing inputs to inform foreign governments’ planning, with a focus on demonstrating the impact of targeted sanctions on the ability of companies to invest responsibly and recommendations for mitigating that impact.

6. Terminate all military business relationships and minimize government contact.

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7. Exit responsibly, if you are unable to stay.

Businesses that choose to leave Myanmar should do so in a way that respects human rights. This includes providing reasonable notice to all stakeholders, ensuring staff continue to receive income or support to mitigate loss of employment, and ensuring the security of staff who cannot be evacuated.

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