Monday 3 November 2008

Support Burma's democrats: push Lloyd's to pull out

The global civil society campaign Avaaz and democracy campaigners in Burma believe they have found a pressure point on the Burmese Junta, which keeps the democratically elected leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi under house resist and so often seems to regard itself as immune to international criticism.

Avaaz have put out a call to action, asking supporters to put pressure on Lloyd's of London - as "the world's oldest, most respected insurer, which cares a great deal about its global reputation" - to stop insuring the Burmese Junta, to meet with campaigners for Burma to hear their concerns, and to disclose all Burma-related risks.

They recommend that we all write to Lloyd's chairman Lord Levene about the issue.

The Observer reported, on Sunday, cross-party political pressure on Lloyd's chairman Lord Levene, with Conservative John Bercow and Labour's Glenys Kinnock quoted. This should be an issue on which British political leaders and parties can unite: Gordon Brown has shown a strong interest in Burma, and the opposition parties have also been advocates of the democracy movement.

Several big insurers have pulled out - with Willis and Aon, and global reinsurer Swiss Re declaring earlier this year that they will cease their business relationships with Burma, as have Arab Insurance Group and others.


Here's my email to the Chairman of Lloyd's of London on the subject.


Dear Lord Levene,

May I introduce myself as General Secretary of the Fabian Society think-tank.

I am writing to you about the issue of Burma. I hope that you will instruct syndicates to cease insuring any risks linked to the military Junta's interests, and agree to meet with representatives of civil society campaigns seeking to hear and seriously consider their arguments on this issue.

There is a very broad and deep political consensus across all parties in the UK that engaging with this particular regime does nothing to create the prospect of opening up the country. I hope you will accept Lloyd's responsibilities and join several major insurers who have said they will not have dealings with Burma and its regime.

The Burmese government ought to be seen to have forfeited the right to engage in legitimate business with the syndicates of a business as well respected as Lloyd's of London -in imprisoning for so long the properly democratically elected leader of the country, holding political prisoners, and refusing all proper international norms and standards in their oppression of their own citizens. In such circumstances, I believe we all have a responsibility to do all we can to support the aspirations of Burma's citizens to decide their own future, and help them to bring about change so that they can return once again to the international community and the norms of international exchange.

With all best wishes

Sunder Katwala
General Secretary
Fabian Society

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