Myanmar: Future lawyers introduced to the key concepts and benefits of responsible business practices

A presentation to law students excites interest in the benefits of improving conditions in Myanmar’s workplaces.

News | 11 January 2020
Law Students at the Asian Law Student Association training in Myanmar
Mandalay, Myanmar (ILO News) - “I just heard the word ‘CSR’ and today I feel I have learned a new word.”

Law student Nandar Hnin Htut is being introduced to key concepts in labour governance at a bespoke training session put together by the Asian Law Students Association (ALSA) -Myanmar and Law Students Associations from Mandalay University and Yadanabon University.

Nanda Hnin Htut, 3rd Year Law Student, Yangon University and Director, Legal and Organization of Training , ALSA (Myamar)
Presenting at the event is the Responsible Supply Chains in Asia (RSCA) programme, a joint collaboration of the EU, the ILO and the OECD to promote responsible business practices in Asian supply chains. The RSCA’s Aung Yi explains the goal of talking to law students, “The importance of good labour law and the effective implementation of those laws cannot be overstated when it comes protecting the rights of workers, resolving disputes and building competitive industries. Future lawyers like these students can play a really important role.”

The seminar, held at Mandalay University, introduced around 50 students to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and its unique tripartite structure. A key focus was underlining the ILO’s understanding of the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility in Myanmar’s development. It also canvassed International Labour Standards and the Fundamental principles and rights at work including conventions of Freedom of Association, Collective Bargaining and the right to work free from harassment and violence.

Teresa Nyein, 3rd Year Law Student, Pathein University
Student Teresa Nyein sees a growing potential for law graduates in the field as labour auditors, labour inspectors, and in settling labour disputes. “I am proud to be a law student as we can contribute now in the labour reforms process in the country,” she said.

And there is work to be done. Myanmar, like many countries in the region, is not free from incidences of child labour and forced labour, subjects also under discussion at the seminar. The country also needs engagement from international enterprises and investors.

Responsible business practices, as advocated by the RSCA Programme, can help. Expectations are outlined in a number of international guidelines, or instruments, including the ILO’s MNE Declaration. This tool provides direct guidance to enterprises (multinational and national) on social policy and inclusive, responsible and sustainable workplace practices. Students were introduced to the basics of the Declaration and its supporting role in making Myanmar’s industry more compliant with international standards. ILO experience has shown that in other countries this can have an impact on international interest in supporting businesses.

“We learnt the role of the guidelines in attracting FDI (foreign direct investment) and improving business operations in host countries. Such training is necessary for our future interests, especially in the labour component… after all, labour rights are human rights,” says Nyein. Fellow student Eaindray Thet Khaing was struck by the practical implications of the training. “I learnt the real definition of CSR and the way it connects to our society. Fundamental labour rights are far more important and most people say international standards are set very high. I have learnt a lot now.”