PeaceNexus and MCRB Convene Design Workshop on Company-Community Dialogue and Mediation
On 29 and 30 August PeaceNexus and MCRB convened a two day ‘collaborative design workshop’ at Inya Lake Hotel, Yangon to discuss the need for, and shape of, a possible initiative – or initiatives – to build capacity of civil society and business for dialogue and mediation of business-related conflicts.
About fifty participants attended, drawn from local lawyer networks and paralegals, grass roots civil society organisations already working to support communities affected by investment, foreign and local businesses, and the Myanmar Human Rights Commission. International organisations with relevant programmes In Myanmar such as MyJustice, the US Institute for Peace, International Alert, Earth Rights International, American Friends Services Committee, Mercy Corps, and IDLO, as well as UNDP and the ILO, were also present.
Guest speakers from similar initiatives in neighbouring countries were invited to share their experience. This included the Centre for Social Excellence in Indonesia, an education facility that provides teaching and learning on how to initiate and sustain collaboration in the responsible management of natural resources in order to ‘harmonise companies and communities’, the Conflict Resolution Group Foundation (CoRe Group) of the Philippines which provides training in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Mediation Services and Policy Advocacy, the Community Legal Services (CLS) programme in Bangladesh which provides mediation, litigation and referral services at the community level, and a representative of KhmerLex Legal Solutions of Cambodia. PeaceNexus shared the outline of a new fund to promote dialogue and mediation in Morocco.
Participants heard perspectives from business on challenges in working with local communities, and from community activists on cases where they had supported communities, including through engaging government and companies, with varying degrees of success. Many of these cases related to the mining sector, on which MCRB will shortly publish a sector-wide impact assessment (SWIA).
MCRB presented on the existing Myanmar legal framework in support of company-community dialogue, and future opportunities including the potential for companies and communities to reach agreement on community development agreements/benefit sharing agreements which could cover a range of mutual interests and concerns.
The importance of transparency and provision of more information by investors was emphasised, as were the current weaknesses in the legal framework from protecting the people of Myanmar from negative impacts of investment, in terms of gaps in the law, weak implementation, and corruption. There was agreement on the need for training of, and support for, facilitators and mediators, and the value of joint training for companies and communities to build mutual understanding of one another’s interests.
A glossary of terms relating to ADR, mediation and facilitation in English and Burmese was also circulated.
MCRB and PeaceNexus will reflect on the main recommendations arising from the design workshop to come up with the next steps for taking forward initiatives to build capacity in Myanmar in this area. MCRB and PeaceNexus have previously worked together to train local companies on responsible business practices in Karen areas, and PeaceNexus has contributed to conflict aspects of MCRB’s sector-wide impact assessments.