Fair Wear update on the ongoing situation in Myanmar

Six months after the military seized power and established an illegal government, the situation in Myanmar remains very severe. With armed oppression, weaponization of the Covid-19 pandemic, and no freedom of speech or of association, it is dire for all citizens including workers.

Following our statement directly after the coup, Fair Wear has been working in active support of workers and aligning guidance for brands with other MSIs in continuous contact with local stakeholders. We stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and with our friends and colleagues in local trade unions and NGOs during these extreme times.

As in any country, brands should adhere to the UNGPs and follow the OECD guidance for human rights due diligence and act accordingly. In a situation like that of Myanmar, this explicitly includes deciding whether to keep on sourcing there or not.

We have taken note of the call by IndustriALL Global Union, ITUC and the Myanmar Labour Alliance for comprehensive economic sanctions against Myanmar’s military junta, as made in their webinar on August 27th and of the statement of the Global Unions on the Global Day of action on Myanmar of September 15th. As legitimate trade unions are the representatives of workers, this is a highly relevant new development. Hence, we understand that it has led to uncertainty among brands that source from Myanmar and try their best to promote workers’ rights and wellbeing.

We have also taken note of the National Unity Government (NUG) on-line press conference in which the NUG’s acting president called on the public, the People’s Defence Force and ethnic armed organisations to rise up against the military regime.

We call upon the ILO and the OECD to provide guidance to stakeholders concerned on responsible business conduct in the given situation. Meanwhile, Fair Wear with our multistakeholder Board will assess the new situation, aiming to best guide brands in this complex situation. To this end, we engage in active stakeholder consultation to explore to what extent companies can continue to conduct responsible business in line with the UNGPs in Myanmar, what the impact of brands’ decision to further engage or disengage is on the garment workers of Myanmar and what considerations should be taken into account in the event of individual or collective withdrawal of sourcing from Myanmar. Moreover, to explore what would constitute responsible exit should that become applicable.

As the situation is complex and everyone is faced with dilemmas on how to best act in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights (UNGPs) we are commissioning an additional assessment to experts on the UNGPs to provide further insights in response to key human rights due diligence questions pertaining to trading with Myanmar. The assessment will be commissioned by ETI and FW.

Meanwhile, we would like to reiterate that the following statements and guidance remain applicable, and emphasize that brands should very carefully weigh all relevant aspects when doing their due diligence before placing new orders:

March 2th Statement by coalition of MSI’s and industry organizations

February 5th Guidance for brands on the military coup

Fair Wear Enhanced Monitoring Framework for Myanmar