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Grievance mechanisms highlighted

The Dutch and German development banks, FMO and DEG, have created a new shared grievance mechanism called the Independent Complaints Mechanism, which came into force in February 2014. The Independent Complaints Mechanism enables communities affected by projects financed by FMO or DEG to file complaints and enter into mediation or to request an investigation by independent experts into whether FMO or DEG complied with its policies.

Several NGOs, including SOMO, provided input on the establishment of the mechanism. In a joint statement, Amnesty International, BankTrack, Both ENDS and SOMO describe several positive features of the mechanism, including the flexibility to conduct an investigation prior to mediation or vice versa. However, the report also highlights issues for improvement, including the need to extend the window of time in which communities can file complaints.

The Norwegian National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises has been peer reviewed by the NCPs of Canada, Colombia, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK. The report that was submitted to Norway’s NCP in January 2014 found it to be ‘highly effective at fulfilling its mandate’ in the two years since it was restructured into an independent body of experts, and found that it had ‘improved substantially since the shift to an independent structure’. The strong performance was attributed in part to the manner in which the NCP’s expert panel is chosen, the strong sense of ownership of the NCP among stakeholders, and dedicated financial resources as appropriated by the government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The report also noted that the NCP’s independence comes with the potential risk of isolation from the government, which could diminish its convening power.

The World Bank Inspection Panel is currently in the process of reviewing its operating procedures. In order to ensure that the new procedures continue to promote accountability and the protection of human rights for people affected by World Bank-funded projects, a coalition of CSOs submitted comments on the draft procedures. In their comments, 32 CSOs expressed concerns about the proposed changes to the eligibility criteria for investigation and the proposed pilot programme. Both could significantly weaken the process for complainants and thereby limit the accessibility and effectiveness of the inspection panel to provide affected communities with redress.

The EBRD is currently reviewing its Environment and Social Policy. In response to the bank’s consultation on the draft policy, CSOs have voiced strong concerns. In a joint statement, they point out that the draft policy removes some existing safeguards that protect against rights violations and fails to include other safeguards that are necessary for people affected by EBRD-funded projects. They urge the EBRD and its member countries to reconsider this backward step, and call upon the bank to ensure that the new policies prevent the bank from causing, contributing to or exacerbating human rights violations. The bank’s consultation closed at the beginning of March 2014. It now has an opportunity to revise the policy before sending it to the board for approval in the coming months.

Several other grievance mechanisms will be undergoing reviews in the next year. In the next few months, we expect the African Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to publish revised policies and procedures for public comment. We will provide more information about these consultations on our website as soon as we have it.