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22 Nov 2017

Jeff Conant, Friends of the Earth U.S., Business and Human Rights Journal

Commentary: Companies' ineffective grievance mechanisms can amplify consequences of human rights abuses

"Failures of redress, or when is a grievance mechanism not a grievance mechanism?", 22 Nov 2017

For people harmed by corporate practices, grievance mechanisms can provide a level of recourse and visibility that was, until recently, largely unavailable, but they are far from a panacea. They can be inaccessible for reasons of language, literacy and digital access; they can lead to targeting of complainants by companies and corrupt authorities; and they can provide the illusion of redress without actually providing redress. As Earthrights points out, grievance mechanisms designed and implemented by the very companies that are the targets of the complaints suffer from a significant power imbalance between the parties. 

For companies at risk of exposure to human rights abuses, developing a credible grievance mechanism can…be a fraught exercise…Given the nature of company-community relations and the dangers faced by impacted rights-holders in complex operating environments, the implementation of operational-level redress mechanisms faces serious structural challenges. Poorly designed or implemented grievance mechanisms can risk compounding a sense of grievance amongst affected stakeholders by heightening their sense of disempowerment and disrespect by the process.” 

[mentions Cargill, Wilmar International, Musim Mas & REPSA. See here RESPSA's response to allegations related to a toxic spill, the murder of human rights defender Rigoberto Lima Choc, and the kidnapping of three other human rights defenders.]