Skip to main content

page search

News & Events Paving a path towards redressing grievances and holding investors accountable
Paving a path towards redressing grievances and holding investors accountable
Paving a path towards redressing grievances and holding investors accountable

Source: iied


Witten by:Thierry Berger

How can remote communities with little formal education hold investors to account and seek redress when their rights to land and resources are threatened? An IIED webinar examined the role of grievance mechanisms.

More than one billion people worldwide live on less than $1.25 USD a day, and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Many have been badly affected by the 'land rush' that has led investors, private companies and foreign governments to lease or acquire vast areas of land in Africa, South East Asia and Latin America. It's had "far-reaching implications for human rights", including their rights to their land, food and water. 

Large-scale land deals have led local communities to lose land, sacred forests and other important resources that their families have managed and farmed for generations. In many cases they are not adequately consulted about these changes to their livelihoods and their free and prior informed consent (FPIC) has not been sought. In these instances, how can local communities seek redress and hold investors to account? 

One approach is for them to bring claims before their national courts, but it is often difficult for marginalised groups in many countries to access and engage with the local justice system.

Non-judicial grievance mechanisms

Communities can also often pursue other non-judicial options in parallel by lodging a complaint against a company if there are mechanisms in place, established by international bodies, investors and companies or industry platforms for instance. 

The Committee on World Food Security has endorsed voluntary guidelines to promote secure tenure rights and equitable access to land and natural resources. There has also been a proliferation of 'standards' from financial institutions, such as the International Finance Corporation's (IFC) Environmental and Social Performance Standards, which define IFC clients' responsibilities for managing environmental and social risks.

The voluntary guidelines and these standards provide, among other things, that:

Affected populations should be given access to the means necessary in order to effectively resolve disputes in relation to their rights; and

The use of effective grievance mechanisms should be supported so that local communities that have been harmed can seek redress and hold investors accountable.

Where, for example, a project receives IFC financing, communities can bring their complaints to the IFC compliance advisor ombudsman. Likewise, commodity-based multi-stakeholder platforms, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), provide grievance mechanisms. The Organisation for Economic Cop-operation and Development (OECD) has established National Contact Points (NCPs) to ensure multinational enterprises promote and implement OECD guidelines in countries that have adhered to them. Companies also frequently have their own internal grievance mechanisms. 

But how effective are these mechanisms for ensuring harms are remedied and that accountability is established?

In November, an IIED Legal Tools webinar discussed 'Making use of grievance mechanisms for redress and accountability in agricultural and other natural resource investments'. The presentation can be viewed below and on IIED's SlideShare site.


Read the orifinal Blog post here