I note with deep concern the ongoing situation in Myanmar, following the military takeover of government on 1 February and the detention of elected politicians. There are also widespread reports of unlawful targeting and detention of civilians and civil rights activists, including of those connected with the EITI. The military should return to its barracks, and fulfil its commitment to uphold the country’s constitution, so that those elected in November can carry out the mandate given to them by the people of Myanmar.
The EITI in Myanmar has played an important role in strengthening extractive sector governance. Myanmar’s Multi-Stakeholder Group has been a platform for discussions on revenue sharing, state-owned enterprises, and the need for a unified mineral cadastre system. The participation of all EITI office holders in the reform process – including government, companies and civil society – has been essential to ensure that transparency can be translated into greater accountability and that Myanmar’s considerable resource wealth is used for the benefit of its citizens.
The military takeover will undermine the trust-building efforts which have been key to Myanmar’s natural resource governance reforms. It poses uncertainty around the continuation of the reforms the Government of Myanmar has been pursuing. Without strong democratic institutions, clear environmental regulations and governance, law enforcement and social safeguards, gains already made will be eroded and the potential for future progress will be undermined. Reforms enacted during the last year have included regulation to publish extractive contracts and the establishment of a register of the beneficial owners of many extractive companies.
In assessing Myanmar’s progress against the EITI Standard in October 2019, the EITI Board emphasised the need to clarify the status of military-affiliated extractive companies. It noted the need to improve the environment for civil society participation further, particularly at the subnational level. It emphasised the need for the Government to provide an enabling environment for civil society to engage meaningfully in all aspects of the EITI process without obstacles.
Constraints on the freedom of civil society to participate in the EITI and other governance platforms should be a factor in determining the response of the international community to the current situation. A military dictatorship precludes the ongoing free participation of civil society groups in building more transparent and accountable governance.
The EITI, a tripartite international organisation that includes both state and non-state participants, plays a key role in holding institutions accountable. It regards it as essential that the rights, safety and security of all citizens, including EITI office holders, are upheld.