Expert Meeting: “Sharing experiences and finding practical solutions regarding the implementation of the UNGP’s effectiveness criteria in grievance mechanisms”, 3 and 4 April 2014, The Hague, the Netherlands
On April 3rd and 4th 2014, ACCESS Facility held the Expert Meeting “Sharing experiences and finding practical solutions regarding the implementation of the UNGP’s effectiveness criteria in grievance mechanisms”. The expert meeting was co-organized by ACCESS Facility and the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, in cooperation with the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct.
With a view to enhancing access to effective remedy in the context of business and human rights, the objectives of the meeting were to (i) gain a more granular understanding of the challenges faced by users and operators of non-judicial mechanisms; and (ii) prioritize issues for further inquiry and action by operators of non-judicial mechanisms, their stakeholders, and ACCESS. The expert meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule to ensure a safe space to talk. It was organized in a small-group discussion format and the conversations were facilitated by professional facilitators. Participants were encouraged to proactively engage with each other and critically discuss the following overarching questions:
- To what extent are non-judicial mechanisms effective in providing justice and remedy?
- How do we know, and how could we know, that the remedies provided are actually making a positive impact for those individuals and communities that have been affected by business operations?
- What can be done to ensure that non-judicial mechanisms provide sustainable solutions and prevent new conflicts?
The meeting was attended by over 40 experts coming from all corners of the world. It included operators of non-judicial mechanisms, practitioners, facilitators, representatives from civil society organizations, business, government and academia. The diversity among participants contributed to rich discussions that integrated a variety of perspectives and experiences. It resulted in increased awareness on the possibilities and limitations of non-judicial remedy, revealed a lack of clarity about the contextual conditions for the use, applicability and scope of the effectiveness criteria of UN Guiding Principle 31, and a better understanding of the key elements for addressing the systemic contextual need for capacity building in order to increase the effectiveness of non-judicial grievance mechanisms in practice. At the end of two days of in-depth and constructive conversations, elements of a road map were identified that may contribute to build capacity and enhance access to effective remedy and increase the impact of grievance mechanisms on the ground.
The discussion and deliberations were extremely rich and diverse but all the same emerged with some consensus themes. Debate served to promote better understanding:
- That non-judicial mechanisms must be better situated within a broader system of remedy and access to justice and that relationships among diverse judicial and non-judicial mechanisms must be better understood and harmonized;
- That the needs, interests, perspectives and priorities of stakeholders in the processes and outcomes of non-judicial mechanisms must be more urgently assimilated;
- That further guidance is needed to support more rigorous data collection and evaluation of the effectiveness of the remedies provided by non-judicial mechanisms, individually and in the aggregate.
In general terms, participants voiced the need to continue organizing activities that advance understanding of the Guiding Principles as they apply within specific contexts. More exchange of ideas and experiences would be important. At the same time, participants warned against being too prescriptive. They highlighted the need to support and accompany affected parties as they develop their own interest-based, rights-compatible solutions.
The meeting was hosted by The Hague Institute for Global Justice and funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and co-sponsored by the Danish National Contact Point and the Dutch National Ombudsman.