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12 Nov 2017

Roper Cleland, ICMM, Business and Human Rights Journal

Commentary: Do local grievance mechanisms work?

Operational level grievance mechanisms are part of the UN General Principles’ access to remedy pillar, yet their role has been called into question by some sectors of civil society. Ownership of grievance mechanisms by companies has raised questions about accountability and neutrality with critics suggesting that they lack adequate checks and balances, allowing the company to act as ‘judge and jury’. Their non-binding nature is also a concern for some...

[In terms of advantages,] local grievance mechanisms... are generally faster and more responsive... Well-designed grievance mechanisms also enable companies to continuously learn about the impacts its operations are having on local communities and find opportunities for improvement... The low cost compared to judicial redress is also a major benefit for complainants... [and they can] also enable better communication between local people and businesses... In order to tackle the potential for bias in favour of the company, communities and affected stakeholders should be included in the design of the process... A rights-based grievance mechanism helps address power imbalances by considering the issue from the perspective of the complainant rather than company... In the spirit of accountability, the process, timelines, outcomes and escalation process for complaints should be clear.