On 27 July 2021, the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) on behalf of 474 Myanmar-based civil society organisations submitted a complaint against Telenor ASA to the Norwegian NCP. The complaint contends that Telenor’s sale of its Myanmar business to the Lebanese company M1 Group fails to meet the standards of responsible disengagement set out in the OECD Guidelines, in three key respects:
1. Telenor has failed to conduct appropriate risk-based due diligence and has failed to seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts potentially arising from the sale of its Myanmar operations.
2. Telenor has failed to meaningfully engage with relevant stakeholders in relation to the sale of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group, including the Myanmar-based civil society organisations endorsing the complaint.
3. Telenor has not been transparent in relation to its decision to disengage from its Myanmar operations.
Telenor’s sale to M1 Group comes after the Myanmar military’s 1 February 2021 coup and brutal crackdown on peaceful protests, civil society and independent media, as well as heightened electronic surveillance. Civil society members involved with the complaint have explained their need for responsible telecommunications businesses that will push back, rather than collude, with repression by the authoritarian government. M1 Group is owned by the billionaire Mikati family, who have a history of business in authoritarian countries including Syria, Sudan and Yemen and face unresolved allegations of corruption and terrorist financing. The complainants do not trust that M1 Group will uphold their human rights responsibilities or do business with integrity.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Chapter II
- Chapter II Paragraph A10
- Chapter II Paragraph A14
- Chapter III
- Chapter III Paragraph 1
- Chapter III Paragraph 2 f
- Chapter IV
- Chapter IV Paragraph 1
- Chapter IV Paragraph 5
On 27 September 2021, the Norwegian NCP issued an initial assessment accepting the complaint for good offices.
On 28 October 2022, the Norwegian NCP published a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed between the parties. The parties have been engaged in mediation since June 2022. Following the mediation, the parties arrived at a preliminary MoU that captured the mediation discussions, the agreements and acknowledgements made by both parties, and a path forward for further mediation and agreement. The parties have taken steps to implement the agreements made in the MoU. Among other things, they will jointly select an independent researcher to conduct an ICT Eco-System Risk Study. Telenor is sharing its expertise and experience about risks to digital rights and freedoms in Myanmar under the junta and has commenced an internal review process with the possibility for the complainants to provide input.
The parties intend to reach a full agreement by the end of 2022 and to conduct regular meetings to implement the MoU. Telenor has also agreed to support the implementation of follow-up actions recommended by the ICT Eco-System Risk Study. One of these actions is exploring how an independent Myanmar digital security relief mechanism could be soon established to provide training and financial and legal support to Myanmar citizens at risk due to their digital footprint.
- Company in violation
- Affected people