Myanmar: ICJ presents to civil society forum on land, investment and human rights

The ICJ addressed representatives of over 400 civil society organizations from all 14 states and regions of Myanmar at the MATA Forum held in the township of Pyin Oo Lwin, close to Mandalay.

Hosted from 28 to 30 November by the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA), the Forum featured seminars and discussions on the ‘The Role of Civil Society Organizations related to Democracy, Federalism, Human Rights and Natural Resource Governance.’

MATA facilitated presentations and discussions by a range of actors on these topics – including by Sean Bain, an International Legal Adviser from the ICJ.

The ICJ’s presentation began with a reflection about key legal concepts, noting the differences between ‘rule by law’ and ‘rule of law’ as understood in the Myanmar context.

MATA members helped facilitate discussion on the application of law in Myanmar, and on key rule of law principles of democracy, human rights, accountability, transparency and justice.

Participants in the Forum were presented with an overview of Myanmar’s laws governing land and investment, assessed in relation to the State’s international legal obligations to respect and to protect human rights.

In particular, Myanmar ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in October 2017 and its obligations under this treaty will enter into force on 6 January 2018.

It was noted that many national laws – including a proposed new Land Acquisition Bill – fall short on fulfilling the State’s international human rights law obligations.

There was also discussion about how applying the principle of non-discrimination in law and practice is critical for Myanmar’s NLD-led government to meet its international obligations and fulfill its stated commitment to rule of law.

Historical examples were given of legal regimes in South Africa and Australia that legalized discriminatory practices of apartheid and the dehumanization of indigenous peoples. The law must no longer be used in Myanmar as a justification for discrimination.

The ICJ’s involvement in this Forum is part of ongoing engagement with civil society groups in Myanmar.

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