The political, economic, and legal systems of a country interact and influence each other, affecting a country’s overall economic wellbeing” (Thomas M. Hult. et. Al. , 2016). Within the case we can see very clearly an unhealthy economy. With General Ne Win in power from early 1960’s to 1988, Myanmar saw incredible amounts of abuse from both the government, through state, and abuse as a result of interethnic tension (Case). The abuse ranged from suppression of freedom of speech to rape and where a significant part of the people of Myanmar’s lives everyday (Case). In 1988 when General Ne Win was finally pushed out of power a new election took place in attempt to halt the country-wide abuse. In 1991 when the election concluded, San Suu Kyi was voted in by majority vote, but the military of Myanmar, and General Saw Maung who was in control until the election was over, would not give up power. Myanmar was predominantly run by the military and continued to see multiple violations of human rights as well as continued abuse. Liberalisation slowly began to take over Myanmar’s in 2010 when Thein Sein was elected president and power was officially out of the hand of solely the military (Case). Although this seemed to be a step forward for the country Myanmar continues to see violations of human rights everyday. Myanmar consists of an incredible diverse country with 135 distinct ethnic groups which are primarily divided into Bamar, Chin, Kachin, Layin, Kayah, Mon, Rakine and Shan.
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These are the ethnic groups in which the government of Myanmar recognize. In addition to these groups, Chinese and Indian ethic groups are also present as well as Rohingya, whom the government have deemed not eligible to be citizens (case). With such a diverse country and a history of interethnic tension Myanmar is facing the issue of the Rohingya Muslims. The Rohingya Muslims are a group of approximately 800,000 Sunni Muslims living in the Rakhine State whom since 1977 have been subject to discrimination, violence and abuse. Since 1977 when the socialist Ne Wing began the Nagamin Operation, until now, approximately 300,000 Rohingya Muslims have left the country as the violence, abuse, and exclusion of citizenship has been enough to push them out. Rohingya Muslims are not only part of this systematic discrimination, but also part of a revaluating term we describe as ethnic cleansing.
Ethnic cleaning is described by the Marriam- Webster Dictionary as “the expulsion, imprisonment, or killing of an ethnic minority by a dominant majority in order to achieve ethnic homogeneity” (Dictionary, 2018). This extreme form of discrimination coupled with the diverse demographics are the core of Myanmar’s cultural and political battles. The Human Rights Watch has been present in Myanmar since 1990 when their Asian division began documenting the ongoing patterns of abuse within the country (Case). The Human Rights Watch initially came in with a focus on the government abuse until later in 1998 when they began to widen their focus outside of the government and military abuse. Although Human Rights Watch has been present within the country monitoring activity, Human Rights Watch needs to strongly consider their cross-cultural literacy when taking any action on violations. Cross-cultural literacy is “the understanding of how cultural differences across and within nations can affect the way business is practiced” (Thomas M. Hult. et. Al. , 2016) and is something that plays a large role in how Human Rights Watch should approach the country with violations. Because of Myanmar’s violent history these and the depth that this crisis has amounted to, Human Rights Watch needs to be aware the magnitude of the problem they are facing and the consequences that come along with acting on the crisis. While Human Rights Watch needs to be sensitive to Myanmar’s unstable political and cultural environment, they also need to consider their mission as a company. Human Rights Watch’s mission is to defend the rights of people worldwide (case), meaning that no matter the circumstances their bottom line should be to uphold their company mission.
Human Rights Watch Ethical Dilemma
The ethical dilemma Human Rights Watch is presented with is that of which has the repercussions of significant proportions. Human Right Watch has received a call from Myanmar that several Rohingya Muslim villages were on fire. Without eye witness on the ground and basing their decision to intervene solely on surveillance imagery could be controversial. The Human Rights Watch has access to photos from March 19th before any destruction, October 15th, when riots began by the Buddhist monks, and imagery from October 25th (one day after the call was received) (Case). The images from March 9th showed no damage, while the images from October 25th did indeed show damage and destroyed villages. One issue is that the images from October 15th were taken on a cloudy day resulting in inconclusive pictures of the village meaning that the fires could have been caused by previous riots. Human Rights Watch is faced with is not having any eye witnesses on the ground to prove that the fires were in fact due to the fighting in the Rakhine State. The Human Rights Watch is now in charge of determining who was attacking whom in the situation without any eye witness proof. Human Rights Watch needs to consider the possibility that releasing this imagery may more harm than good and create more riot making them the center of responsibility for the deaths of these people.
The largest issue presented in the case is how Human Rights Watch can go into a foreign country with their own set of ethical norms without full knowledge of the ethics, morals, laws and values of this country (Myanmar) are represented. Although the basic human rights may be being breached there are many lines within these areas that are grey when looking at different countries norms. As the textbook states, “The ethical obligations of a multinational corporation toward employment conditions, human rights, corruption, and environmental pollution are not always clear-cut (Thomas M. Hult. et. Al. , 2016). From an international business perspective, what is ethical may be based on the country or regions cultural beliefs (Thomas M. Hult. et. Al. , 2016) making it incredibly difficult to infringe on a countries human rights when the line is so blurry. How Human Rights Watch Creates ValueHuman Rights Watch creates value in their company through many different streams. The non-governmental organization is incredibly small with only 400 full-time employees and an incredibly flat organization giving it flexibility in decision making and allowing it to operate so well. The organization derives most of its value and success from its partnerships with people on the ground in specific countries they work in. Over the years Human Rights Watch has complied a large amount of alliances with people such as lawyers, journalist and doctors in which help them to gain more inside information on cases. With a strategy of “investigate, expose, change,” One of Human Rights Watch’s tactics in order to gain a following, and raise awareness is the “expose” aspect (case). The “expose” aspect for the Human Rights Watch consists of the organization releasing what looks like a wire service story along with photos and videos that are easily converted to mainstream media in order to get their story out quickly to a large number of people with an emphasis on governments and international organizations (case).
The way that Human Rights Watch creates value through mainstream media to gain attention shows us that even though the non-governmental organization has power to make change they may still need to reach broader and larger sources such as governments and international organizations to implement true change within countries. To remain competitive in the human-rights industry and in any industry, whether the organization is non-governmental or a large corporation, “focusing on economic value and social value, can enhance their reputation with consumers, government, and community” (HBS). For Human Rights Watch one of their strategies for enhancing reputation is providing reliable reports. To do this and create value for their organization they continue to use new technologies such as GPS and forensics (case). Human Rights Watch Next StepsHuman Rights Watch has a lot to consider when determining whether or not they should release the surveillance imagery. They need to take into consideration the current state of Myanmar, who the imagery will affect, the repercussions it will have on them as an organization if they release wrong information and many other aspects about how this will affect all stakeholders.
As stated previously, the risk of releasing these images is large as there are no eyewitnesses as proof of who is attacking whom. On top of this risk of possibly accusing the incorrect group of people is the sheer time and money that would be incredibly significant. The main ethical issue presented as the unclear line in which Human Rights Watch has the responsibility to interject on the situation. In the past the organization has dealt many a times with the issue of their mainstream media essentially backfiring and being used against the organization itself. If Human Rights Watch decides to go ahead and release the report with the images they need to ensure they have the most reliable information and accurate reports or they will risk being questioned and ridiculed againIf Human Rights Watch does nothing they could also be subject to negligence.
If Human Rights Watch takes action without eye witness and relies on the surveillance imagery and the analysis of the imagery done by Josh Lyons they can build a strong reputable trust worthy relationship with the world ensuring that moving forward there will be more faith in the work the organization does.
Personal Conclusion On Next Steps
I believe that although there is a very difficult ethical issue presented and a very complex situation presented to the Human Rights Watch the best option would be to release the surveillance imagery. With the release of the report Human Rights Watch should ensure a transparent stance that there is no conclusive answer to who is attacking whom but give all details they have in terms of the history of the ethnic war currently going on.
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