Investment and Respect for Indigenous People's Rights in Myanmar
Vicky Bowman participated in a consultation organised by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Bangkok on 2-3 May.
The consultation forms part of a series of meetings which the Special Rapporteur is holding to further develop the ideas in her August 2015 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to the General Assembly on ‘The impact of international investment and free trade on the human rights of indigenous peoples’. She will submit a follow-up report in August 2016.
Vicky Bowman highlighted the findings and recommendations made in MCRB's February 2016 Briefing Paper on 'Indigenous People's Rights and Business in Myanmar'. This Briefing Paper identifies emerging elements of a legal framework for protection of indigenous peoples rights in Myanmar including the new EIA Procedures and the 2015 Law on Protection of the Rights of Ethnic Nationalities.
In view of its location in an area with a high population of land-connected indigenous peoples, particularly the Kachin, Vicky Bowman used the example of the Upper Ayeyarwady Confluence hydroelectric dam projects (Myitsone) to illustrate the interaction between an investment agreement/MoU, national safeguards including EIA and a bilateral investment treaty (the 2001 Myanmar-China BIT).
Her presentation proposes ideas both for strengthening national safeguards for indigenous peoples rights, but also for finding a solution to the current suspension of the project which would protect indigenous peoples rights including the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
Together with Myo Ko Ko of Protection of Indigenous and Nature Together (POINT) a Myanmar Civil Society Organisation focussed on indigenous peoples' rights, Vicky also presented on the process currently underway to negotiate an EU-Myanmar Investment Protection Agreement (IPA) drawing on her inputs to the consultation workshop on the Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) for such an IPA.
Since December's workshop, a draft SIA had been published for consultation (deadline 19 April) although the draft IPA itself is still - like most such draft agreements - not officially available. This lack of transparency is something which the workshop noted inhibits rights-holders, including indigenous peoples, from having a voice in the negotiation process.