Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Obama urged to lift sanctions cautiously


Burma will remain a volatile area for business investment if the Obama Administration broadly relaxes U.S. sanctions, according to a dozen investors collectively managing more than US$ 115 billion in assets.

The E.U. Parliament has suspended sanctions against Burma for one year.
The E.U. Parliament has suspended sanctions against Burma for one year. Photo: europarl.europa.eu
In a letter to President Obama, the investors cited concerns about the risk of derailing progress toward democracy and respect for human rights, stating that “without the rule of law or constitutional assurances that the judiciary will protect property or investments, Burma remains a volatile area for business investment.”

According to Kathy Mulvey, Director of the Conflict Risk Network, “Despite pressure from some elements of the business community, now is not the right time for a rush into Burma. Conflict continues to rage in Burma’s resource-rich ethnic national states. Investment is likely to exacerbate human rights abuses and undermine any progress that has been made toward democracy.” Last month, Conflict Risk Network released a briefing paper, Not Open for Business, warning investors that high risks remain.

The letter comes as a key Executive Order prohibiting U.S. investment and the provision of financial services is set to expire on May 20, 2012. The investor letter follows a similar initiative several weeks ago by human rights groups urging the Obama Administration to exercise caution regarding removal of sanctions on Burma.

“Before sanctions are rolled back, the U.S. government must have systems in place to identify individuals and entities that are responsible for human rights abuses, contribute to corruption, or are otherwise acting to obstruct political reform. Otherwise, the risks of investment are too great.” Mulvey said.

Investor groups signing on to the letter include Conflict Risk Network, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Calvert Investments, Domini Social Investments, Boston Common Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management, Newground Social Investment, The Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge, Investors Against Genocide, Mercy Investment Services Inc., Lighthouse Hospice Inc., and Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.

Conflict Risk Network – a project of United to End Genocide – is a network of institutional investors, financial service providers and related stakeholders calling upon corporate actors to fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights and to take steps that support peace and stability in areas affected by genocide and mass atrocities. CRN’s goal is to increase such behavior by corporate actors and thereby reduce conflict risk.

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