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December 16, 2016
Investors Target Chevron for Doing Business in Burma
by Robert Kropp
A shareowner resolution co-filed by Azzad Asset Management requests that Chevron cease doing
business with the government of Burma until state-sanctioned violence against the Rohingya minority
In 2012, the Obama administration dialed back economic sanctions against Burma, in recognition of
reforms that led to the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the opening of the electoral
process to opposition parties such as the one led by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu
At the time, wary sustainable investors and civil society organizations called
for the adoption of stringent rules against the use of forced labor and other human rights abuses,
as outlined in Amnesty International
guidelines co-authored by shareowner activist Simon Billenness.
What was probably
unexpected at that time was that a government essentially led by Suu Kyi would continue the
previous regime's practice of violence and other forms of repression against the Muslim Rohingya
minority, whose people are not recognised as citizens and are denied voting rights. This week, the
Human Rights Office of the United Nations condemned the Burma for its “abdication of the
government's obligations under international human rights law,” according to Human Rights
Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
Billenness is now Executive Director of the recently
formed International Campaign
for the Rohingya (ICR); the intention of the nongovernmental organization's No Business With
Genocide campaign is to “put effective pressure on corporations in key sectors – principally oil,
gas, timber, mining and banking – to stop supporting regimes complicit in genocide and crimes
against humanity.” Billenness helped arrange the first shareowner resolution addressing the plight
of the Rohingya people, which was co-filed by Azzad Asset Management and the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk.
The resolution requests that Chevron “halt its relationship with the government of Burma
(Myanmar) until that country ends the state-sanctioned violence against its Rohingya minority.” The
resolution will be voted on by shareowners at Chevron's Annual General Meeting in May, 2017.
“By conducting business with a government that is accused of committing grave human rights
abuses, Chevron has assumed significant legal, moral, reputational, and political liabilities
stemming from Burma's repression and violence against the Rohingya people,” Azzad CEO Bashar Qasem
Readers of SocialFunds.com are no doubt aware of the ongoing efforts of Billenness
to call Chevron to account for complicity in environmental and human rights abuses. His efforts to
persuade the oil giant from continuing its campaign to fight its liability for environmental
destruction in Ecuador was met with the unprecedented response of a subpoena in 2012.
Regarding the current situation in Burma, Billenness said, “Corporations such as Chevron that
choose to do business with the Burmese government run the risk of supporting a regime that, through
its repression and violence against the Rohingya, engages in ethnic cleansing and possibly even
genocide. History will not be kind to corporations complicit in such crimes against humanity.”
According to ICR, the goal of the No Business With Genocide campaign “is the adoption of 'No
Business With Genocide' resolutions and laws by universities, religious denominations, and local
and state governments.” Those who wish to join the advocacy are advised to contact Billenness at
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