Over 70 Myanmar CSOs express their concerns over the EU-Myanmar Investment agreement

26 March 2014

Over 70 Myanmar CSOs express their concerns over the EU-Myanmar Investment agreement in the below letter to European Trade Commissioner De Gucht.

Dear Mr De Gucht (cc  EU member states’ trade ministers )

 The undersigned civil society organisations have been informed that the EU and Myanmar will negotiate an investment treaty. Key element in such a treaty is the Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement  (ISDS) mechanism. This allows foreign investors to bring a claim against the host-state (Myanmar) in case new regulation impacts on the investment. This happens outside the national court, at an international arbitration tribunal such as ICSID. ISDS is a one way system. It only gives foreign investors the options to sue at these private courts.  Communities or governments can not sue investors when their environment or human rights are violated at the same private courts. At these private courts 3 lawyers decide on the case. There is no option to appeal against the decisions taken. Cases are very expensive for developing countries. UNCTAD estimates that an average case costs 8 million USD in legal fees alone. The awards and the legal fees have to be covered by public budgets and often constitute a substantial part of the annual health or education budget of a developing country. The biggest claim so far is from Chevron against Ecuador and is over 3 billion USD.

We are very worried about the potential impact of an EU-Myanmar Investment Agreement for Myanmar given its nascent state of democracy and the need to develop many new policies before Myanmar can embark on an inclusive and sustainable development path. Such a treaty might highly limit future policy making in the public interest. It could also lead to the Myanmar government shying away from the planned policy if this might result in a claim by an investor. It can also make public policy very costly as Indonesia has found out recently when it received a 2 billion USD claim by Churchill Mining. Indonesia is now following South Africa and is cancelling its investment treaties with EU member states.

We call upon the European Union and the Myanmar government to put in place a due process in which different stakeholders in Myanmar (government, members of parliament, CSOs, ethnic stakeholders, business community) can assess the costs and benefits of ISDS in the agreement. Such a process needs time so the signing of the treaty should not be rushed.

Yours sincerely,

1.      88 Generation ( Dawei )

2.      ABCD

3.      AD 2030 Vision

4.      Ann Area Development Foundation

5.      Badei Tha Moe Civil Society Organization

6.      Beelinn Network

7.      Chapter-8 Civil Society Organization

8.      Upper Chin Dwin Youth

9.      Colorful

10.     Comreg

11.     Dawei Development Association

12.     Dawei Research Youths

13.     Equality Myanmar

14.     FPPS

15.     Green Land

16.     Green Movement Resource Development

17.     Green Network

18.     Green Network (GNSEG)

19.     Green Trust (Pyin Oo Lwin)

20.     Grow Back for Posterity

21.     Guardian Network

22.     Alin sae Ta Man

23.     iGreen

24.     Kachin Legal Aid Network Group

25.     Kayar EITI

26.     Kayar Phu

27.     Kayar Women Affair

28.     EFMC ( English For  Myanmar Center )

29.     Kachin Women Peace Network

30.     Kyauk Phyu Social Network

31.     Land in Our Hands network

32.     Maw Chee Taung Paw Lu Nge Group

33.     Myanmar Coalition For Transparency

34.     Nadi Chin Dwin Myit Min Tha Lar

35.     Myanmar Green Network

36.     Mon Social Work

37.     MIDO ( Myanmar ICT Development Organization )

38.     Human right Defenders and Promoters

39.     Pan Nature

40.     Pa-Oh Youth Organization

41.     Paung Ku

42.     Pyi Myanmar

43.     Pyoe Pin

44.     Pyu Sin Myitta

45.     Triangle Women

46.     Sar Ka Baw

47.     SEAUA

48.     Sein Lan (Pyin Oo Lwin)

49.     Sein Yaung So

50.     Sein Yaung So (Aeti)

51.     Sein Yaung So (Kyauksel)

52.     Socially Engaged Monastic School

53.     Shan Literacy

54.     Shwe Gas Movement

55.     SNk Mining Watch Group

56.     Spectrum

57.     Tamar Yeik

58.     Teasang Institute

59.     TFYU

60.     Thuriya Sandar

61.     Twig Civil Society Organization

62.     Union of Karenni State Youth

63.     IFI Watch Myanmar

64.     Wan Lark Rural Development Foundation

65.     Yae Kyi San

66.     Youth Forum

67.     88 Peace and Open society ( Tainggyi )

68.     Pyoe Khinn Thit Foundation ( maubin )

69.     Mon Friendship Organization

70.     Shan State New Generation ( Shan State )

71.     Myat Dhana Social association

72.     Karen Environment and Social Action Network

73.     Kachin Peace Network

74.     Karen Human Rights Group

75.     CSLD ( Community Sustainable Livelihood Development ) Dawei

76.     Ka Lone Htar Village Development Committte ( Taninthary )

78.     Htee Chiek Network


See also the  CSO Statement on Myanmar investment treaties from June 21 2014: http://www.tni.org/declaration/cso-statement-myanmar-investment-treaties