The Norwegian OECD Contact Point for Responsible Business has decided to address a complaint against Telenor in connection with the sale of the company in Myanmar.
Telenor has received heavy criticism for selling Telenor Myanmar to blacklisted Lebanese company M1 Group. Critical voices fear that the new owners will be able to hand sensitive mobile data to Myanmar’s notorious military junta.
The Research Center on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) recently, on behalf of 474 civil society organizations in Myanmar, filed a complaint against Telenor to the Contact Point for Responsible Business, which promotes OECD guidelines for multinational companies.
Read more about the background she has
The complaint will now be processed.
– It just means that we will process the complaint provided by SOMO. This is not a legal process. This is a process related to the OECD Guidelines for Responsible Business, in which the two parties initially meet for dialogue or possible mediation to find a solution to the issues raised. The head of the OECD’s Norwegian Contact Point for Responsible Business, Frode Elgesem, tells Nettavisen it is unclear what he will provide to Nettavisen.
– We will deal with this issue throughout the fall. That’s the most we can say for now, says Elgesem.
– I think the pressure on Telenor will increase
SOMO assures Nettavisen that its representatives will hold a meeting with both Telenor and the Norwegian OECD’s contact point later on Monday. He believes that handling complaints could increase pressure on Telenor and weaken the company’s reputation.
– I think the immediate consequences will be increased pressure from the Norwegian government and other shareholders against Telenor, and that Telenor will reconsider its approach to selling. I also think this could have consequences for Telenor’s reputation, SOMO’s chief researcher, Joseph Wild Ramsingh, tells Nettavisen.
Wild Ramsingh helped Myanmar civil society organizations formulate the complaint itself.
– Finally, I think the consequences could be more serious, but it depends on how Telenor reacts and behaves now, and whether they will enter into good faith dialogue and mediators with SOMO and other complainants from Myanmar. Hopefully we can come to an agreement, and Telenor decides to stop selling the M1 kit, says Wilde-Ramsing.
You expect Norway to respond
SOMO was surprised that the Norwegian government did not show greater commitment to Telenor sales in Myanmar. Among other things, Somo refers to a direct appeal to the Norwegian government from a former Myanmar minister who is now in forced exile in Myanmar.
– Now that the OECD Norway focal point has accepted the complaint, I would be surprised if the Norwegian government as majority owner does not respond, Wild Ramsingh says in a statement.
Norway has historically been a major supporter of human rights, and I expect the government to actively use its larger share of the stock to ensure that Telenor Group operates ethically and in line with international principles of responsible business, says Wilde-Ramsing.
The Norwegian state is the main shareholder in Telenor with an ownership stake of 53.97 percent, according to Telenors. Annual Report 2020. The Ministry of Trade and Industry together with Responsible Minister Iselin Nybø (V) manage this property.
Takes the complaint for further processing
“The complainants allege that Telenor did not act in accordance with the OECD guidelines for multinational corporations regarding risk-based due diligence assessments, stakeholder dialogue and transparency regarding Telenor’s withdrawal from Myanmar. The plaintiffs requested expedited handling of the case on the basis of the human rights situation and the security situation in country”, wrote Kontaktebükten in press release.
“The focal point decided to take the complaint for further processing based on the evaluation criteria at the initial stage. The focal point did not make any assessment of whether the company had acted in accordance with OECD guidelines. The point of contact will now offer the parties dialogue and mediation, with the aim of arriving at an agreed solution in each individual case.”
At the end of July I became Telenor Complaint to the OECD Contact Point Here in Norway. The complaint alleges, among other things, that Telenor did not perform a satisfactory company review of M1 Group, that Telenor did not adequately consult interest groups prior to the sale and that Telenor demonstrated little transparency during the process itself.
I do not agree with the criticism made in the complaint
Telenor has previously told Nettavisen that it does not agree with the criticisms made in the OECD complaint.
– But we share the organizations concerns about the grave situation the country is in and support the OECD point of contact with facts and clarifications, Telenor’s Director of Information, Tormod Sandstø, said to Internet newspaper advance this month.
Sandstø emphasized that Telenor has committed to comply with the OECD Guidelines for Multinationals and the United Nations Guidelines on Business and Human Rights, and that this is in line with Telenor’s values and standards.
Sandstu said that these are the same values that are now the reason why we had to leave Myanmar.
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