Burma Campaign list persuades multinationals to halt operations

The Burma Campaign is celebrating another victory after four multinational companies agreed to withdraw their business interests from the country just two days after the organisation named them in its new 'dirty list' of companies operating in Burma.

The news has been welcomed by other groups, which say that the Burma Campaign's high-profile success proves how effective voluntary-sector lobbying can be.

"The Burma Campaign is a great example of how naming and shaming can work by pitting companies against each other," said Hannah Griffiths, corporates campaigner at Friends of the Earth, which also uses the technique.

"The shock factor both for the business being exposed and for the public can create a really good impact."

As the Burma Campaign has only four staff, its success is particularly encouraging for small organisations. "Naming and shaming can be effective even if you don't have many resources," said Mick Duncan, secretary at No Sweat, which campaigns against sweatshops.

Following the launch of the list, advertising giant WPP, Australian travel company Intrepid Travel, AA publishing, which produces a travel guide to Burma, and French clothing company PPR, which owns La Redoute, Gucci and YSL, all agreed to terminate their operations in Burma.

According to the Burma Campaign, several other companies, including travel firm P&O and professional services organis-ation PricewaterhouseCoopers, are also reconsidering their involvement in the country, which has one of the world's worst human rights records.

"We are absolutely delighted with the response so far - the list has been incredibly successful," said Burma Campaign director John Jackson.

"We now plan to identify those on the list that are refusing to budge and target them more specifically."

The Burma Campaign's dirty list has also gone further than its original goal of cutting off income to Burma's dictatorship by pressuring international companies to move out of the country.

The first list, which was released in December 2002, dramatically raised awareness of the organisation and the issue. Its increased profile has now led to a collaboration with TV music giant MTV to produce a Europe-wide campaign for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who is imprisoned by the Burmese dictatorship.

MTV and VH1 channels across Europe are showing a 60-second direct-response ad to a potential audience of one billion people over the next six weeks.

Viewers are asked to visit a website where they can send an email to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asking for intervention. The campaign has the backing of music icons such as Bob Geldof, Bono and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.

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