The ICJ establishes advisory panel on company grievance mechanisms
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) announced on February 2017 the establishment of an expert panel of jurists to study and provide guidance on the effectiveness of grievance procedures provided by businesses to address and remedy harms arising from their operations. The Panel, composed of senior retired judges, academics and legal practitioners, will work with the support of a wider group of civil society organizations, lawyers, academic institutions and the legal profession.
Many large business enterprises and projects have their own internal procedures and mechanisms to address concerns affecting individuals and local communities that arise from their operations. Known as operational-level grievance mechanisms, these are an integral part of responsible business practices and a way to remedy real or perceived wrongs. The use of operational-level grievance mechanisms is recommended by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and global institutions, such as the World Bank.
However, poor design and/or implementation of these grievance mechanisms can result in further problems, aggravating the harm to individuals and communities and impacting on the company’s or project’s own sustainability.
The ICJ initiative has been prompted by concerns about recent cases where people the mechanisms were meant to help have been unaware of their very existence, the procedures have been unfair or unclear and outcomes have been inadequate for the kind of harm experienced. Most importantly some grievance mechanisms seem to stand in the way of meaningful access to justice for adversely affected people.
The panel members
The expert Panel is the think tank of the ICJ initiative. Besides holding wide consultations and site visits to specific projects, the Panel will advise the ICJ on preparation of a report and a guidance to support the work of practitioners and human rights defenders working in this field.
The members of the Panel, five of whom are ICJ Commissioners, are:
- Justice Ian Binnie (retired) formerly of Canada’s Supreme Court
- Sheila Keetharuth, Lawyer in Mauritius and currently UN special rapporteur on the human rights in Eritrea
- Justice John O’Meally (retired) formerly of the District Court of New South Wales and the Dust Diseases Tribunal in Australia
- Alejandro Salinas Rivera, lawyer and former legal advisor to the Government of Chile
- Professor Marco Sassoli, professor of international law at the University of Geneva
- Justice Ajit Prakash Shah (retired), formerly of the High Court of Delhi and presently Chair of the Law Commission in India
The Panel and the ICJ will receive advice for this work from a wider Consultative Group of practitioners and members of the legal profession. The Consultative Group includes individuals of long-standing experience and recognised expertise on the functioning of grievance mechanisms at the project or operations level. This initiative adds to the growing attention paid to remedy systems available to individuals and communities affected by business operations.
The final outcome of this initiative will be to provide guidance to making effective the remedial procedures systems available in cases of business-related human rights abuses in way that truly helps victims attain justice.