Progressing Human Rights in Myanmar despite the COVID-19 Pandemic

16-10-2020

 

Myanmar benefits significantly from its preferential access to the EU market under the Everything But Arms status. Its duty free exports increased from EUR 573 million in 2015 to an estimated EUR 2.8 billion in 2019. Main exports (2019 estimates) to the EU are textiles (over EUR 2.2 billion) and footwear (EUR 176 million)

Despite the economic importance of the textile and garment sector in Myanmar, the working and living conditions of garment workers are still precarious. The COVID-19 pandemic has further weakened the sector. Apparel imports from the EU, Japan and the USA, the three main export destinations for Myanmar textile production, have dropped.

In an effort to support Myanmar’s garment and footwear factory workers who have been laid off or who have had working days significantly curtailed by reduced order demands, the EU has created a EUR 5 million (MMK 7.9 billion) emergency cash fund. As of the beginning of October, 70,546 cash support payments totalling over MMK 5.4 billion (over EUR 3.5 million) have been issued to Myanmar's garment and footwear factory workers.

In that challenging context, the Sixth European Union-Myanmar Human Rights Dialogue was held on 14 October 2020.

With regard to human rights issues, the EU welcomed the ratification of the International Labour Convention 138 on the minimum working age. The Convention is now expected to enter into force in Myanmar in June 2021. The EU also underlined the importance of continued efforts on the part of Myanmar to cooperate with relevant UN mandates and procedures, while inviting them to follow the requests of the ILO supervisory mechanism.

What is amfori doing

Since 2019, amfori is a partner in an EU funded project together with sequa Gmbh, the Centre for Economic and Social Development of Myanmar (CESD) and the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM). The Smart Textiles and Garment project, which will run until early 2022, aims to improve the working conditions of garment workers, promote working and environmental standards and reduce violations of workers' rights in the textile and clothing industry.

Through capacity building of producers and relevant stakeholders, the project contributes to improved transparency and compliance with social and environmental standards in Myanmar-based garment factories and textile SMEs. 

Our experts from the Advocacy team are monitoring social and environmental policy developments in Myanmar to help our members stay informed. Keep an eye on our website for further updates.

If you have questions about the Smart Tag project in Myanmar, please get in touch with Lorenz.berzau@amfori.org.