The Raoul Wallenberg Institute is holding a workshop this week on business, human rights and the environment for Southeast Asian National Human Rights Institutions.
Daw Than Nwe, a commissioner in the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission since 2011, shares some of her thoughts on the topics.
“We (the MNHRC) have not had a separate department working on the issue of business, human rights and the environment, but recently we decided to have a focal point specifically on business and human rights and that focal point is me. We have a lot to do.
“So far, we have addressed an important situation in our country which concerns protests against a copper mine operation – the Letpadaung Copper mine. We went there to investigate the situation, we studied the environmental and social impact and made a statement both to the public and press. Based on our report, a commission was established by the government to deal with the crisis.”
What challenges do you face when working with issues of business, human rights and the environment?
“After we got our enabling law adopted (in the end of last year 2014), we have more power to go ahead with conducting investigations. But given that Myanmar is going through a transitional period we have a lot to do and that is our challenge. We in the MNHRC need more capacity and knowledge when it comes to this specific area. If our knowledge and capacity is strengthened, we can do a lot more in the future thanks to our strong enabling law.”
RWI believes these types of conferences are important because the issue of business, human rights and the environment is very topical in Southeast Asia given the rapid economic growth in the region which unfortunately leaves much to ask for in terms of ensuring people’s enjoyment of human rights and the maintenance of a sustainable environment.
The Southeast Asian NHRIs are dealing with issues relating to business, human rights and the environment on a daily basis and this workshop provides a venue for them to discuss best practices and lessons learnt with each other.