Rights-Compatible Grievance Mechanisms: A Guidance Tool for Companies and their Stakeholders

The Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard Kennedy School) in January 2007 launched a project entitled 'Corporations and Human Rights: Accountability Mechanisms for Resolving Complaints and Disputes'. This guidance document represents a key output of that project. It refelects extensive consultations with representatives of companies from a variety of industries, international and lcoal NGOs, governments and investment funds as well as mediators, lawyers and academics in a variety of countries.

This guidances aims to help answer the question of what exactly makes a grievance mechanism effective. It provides a tool for companies and their local stakeholders jointly to devise rights-compatible, effective grievance mechanisms that maximise the opportunities to achieve sustainable solutions to disputes. The document is framed as a set of overarching Principles coupled with specific Guidance Points. These are broadly applicable across different sectors and contexts. In addition, it offers more detailed explanatory text, which is specifically geared towards those industries with a geographically-coherent set of stakeholders: sectors where a grievance mechanisms can be physically located at the most local level. The guidance also proposes a number of key performance indicators, combining quantitative and qualitative data, for assessing the effectiveness of grievance mechanisms designed in line with the Principles. These indicators will necessarily have to be interpreted in the context of other developments and variables that may affect the dynamics around grievances. The guidance does not seek to suggest a one-size-fits-all kind of mechanism. Any mechanism must be tailored to the industry, country, culture and stakeholders for which it is designed.

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