Large-scale agribusiness (particularly monoculture plantations such as oil palm and sugarcane) causes widespread human rights violations and environmental degradation in Southeast Asia. This pervasive industry was the focus of a workshop held from 4-6 November 2014 in Yangon, Myanmar, which was convened by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, with the support of the Forest Peoples Programme, RECOFTC-The Center for People and Forests, and the Rights and Resources Initiative.
With 65 participants from the South East Asian National Human Rights Institutions Forum (SEANF) and supporting civil society organisations, including from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand, the workshop addressed interlinked issues such as extraterritorial investments, migrant labour and human trafficking, and food security, and illustrated the range of experiences and modalities of each National Human Rights Institution. In addition to series of panel presentations, the workshop featured engaging break-out groups on transitioning from voluntary to binding standards for transnational and other companies, and on improving, scaling up and innovating upon conflict resolution mechanisms at various levels. On the final day, participants adopted by consensus the Yangon Statement on Human Rights and Agribusiness in Southeast Asia, which calls for (among other things) strengthened regional cooperation with the Association of South Eas Asian Nations (ASEAN) Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights, establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Court and effective national-level complaints and redress mechanisms, and active coordination with certification bodies such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.