In response to criticism over its presence in Myanmar, Total has always ensured that its local operations respect human rights and help to promote social and economic growth in the region. This commitment was recently recognised by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, which in December held its 2013 international conference in Myanmar, for the first time since the Forum was founded in 2005. As a “responsible investor” in this fast changing country, Total was invited to participate.
On December 6-7, policymakers, business leaders, academics and representatives from civil society gathered together to discuss key global socio-economic issues from a women’s perspective. Among the speakers were Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.
As the biggest Western investor in Myanmar and a strong proponent of women’s involvement in industry, Total also took part in the discussions, with Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie being asked to participate in a round table called “How to be a responsible international investor in Myanmar”. The invitation was a recognition of everything Total has done since it first arrived in the country in 1998, both in terms of its respect for human rights and compliance with international labor agreements, and in terms of its contribution to the social and economic development of the Burmese people.
Even before production began on Myanmar’s offshore Yadana gas fields, Total deployed a program to ensure access to health care and preventive medicine, promote education and support economic growth and infrastructure development for communities living near the pipeline linking the gas platform to the Thai capital Bangkok.
On December 7, after the conference was over, Christophe de Margerie visited the region to meet with program beneficiaries. It was an opportunity for him to look back on the origins of Total’s presence in the country and speak about his vision of shared development.
Total’s experience in Myanmar has made it more aware of the positive impact it can have, as a company, on social and economic development in its host communities. According to an external survey conducted in 2010, 94% of households in the pipeline region had received assistance from the program and 96% of them had a positive opinion about it.
Under international pressure, Myanmar has begun to undertake political reforms that have led to the normalization of relations with Western countries. U.S. president Barack Obama visited the country in 2012, for example, while the European Union lifted its economic sanctions in 2013.