SOMO, Cividep India and Business Watch Indonesia have jointly organized an advanced training programme on “Business and Human Rights & Grievance Mechanisms” in Jakarta from 9-12 September 2013. NGOs and trade unions from Asia region like Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Indonesia, China, Nepal and India had participated in the programme. Sankar Pani of Natural Justice has participated and shared his experience of engaging with the OECD Mechanism.
The training focused on the use of different non-judicial grievance mechanisms and tools to address corporate misconducts and human rights violations. In the era of globalization, many developing and under-developed countries are getting significant international investments from various international and regional financial institutions like Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, JICA amongst others. Sometimes these investments contribute or lead to the process of involuntary displacement, abuse of human rights and grabbing of resources restricting the access of communities to local resources. So as to deal with situations where international investments lead to human rights violations, each of these financial institutions have independent redressal mechanisms. Some of the grievance mechanisms used are the CAO (Compliance Advisory Ombudsman) and World Bank Inspection Panel instituted by World Bank to look into the human rights violations caused by business houses. In a similar fashion, the ADB has a grievance redressal mechanism to deal with the issues of human rights violations arising out of their investment in various projects.
The companies who are operating or have their parent company in Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries (34) and 10 more non-OECD countries who have adopted the OECD Guidelines for Multi National enterprise have to respect the guideline for responsible business conduct. Anybody who wishes to file a complaint for violation of human rights against the brand company or its supply chain can file the complaint with National Contact Points where the company or its supply chains are operating.
However most of these non-judicial grievance mechanisms encourage mediation or negotiation between the parties and leave no choice for parties who think their rights are non-negotiable. In some cases the mechanism allows for compliance of guidelines and directs the companies to exercise due diligence of respecting the human rights in their business operation. More often the recommendation or directions or statements have no legal obligation on the parties. Similarly all the states have adopted the UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights which is based on the Protect, Respect and Remedy frame work. This frame work mandates that the state protect its citizens against human rights abuses by third parties, corporate to respect human rights and victims to remedy against the human right violations. Though the UN Guiding Principles are backed by UN members they are not legally binding, have no grievance mechanism, no extra territorial obligation or direct reference to indigenous communities.
Despite several limitations, non-judicial grievance mechanisms are gaining acceptance for many reasons – less expensive, wider scope of jurisdiction like filing of complaints in all countries along the supply chain of the company, prompt response from NCPs and quicker settlement where the parties have agreed to enter into mediation.