Complaint mechanisms operated by international organisations can help in securing accountability for the human rights violations and unlawful activities of international corporations.
The Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are the principal voluntary instrument on international corporate responsibility. All 34 OECD countries and other adhering countries are required to operate a ‘National Contact Point’ to receive complaints regarding the international activities of corporations associated with the jurisdiction. The UK NCP is operated by the UK Government within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
OECD complaints may be brought by any person or group with an ‘interest’ in the issue, which is broadly defined. They generally fall into three phases: (1) initial assessment; (2) mediation; and (3) final statement by the NCP.
OECD complaints involve no direct litigation costs risk and can therefore provide a more cost-effective means of seeking accountability than traditional litigation. However, they are not without their limits. They are non-binding and rely on corporations agreeing to participate in the process and abide by any conclusions reached. If they do not, however, considerable public and governmental pressure can be applied.
Individuals, campaigning organisations and trade unions have successfully used the complaint process to address adverse social and environmental impacts caused by corporate misconduct.
We have represented complainants at all stages of the OECD process, before the UK NCP and other countries’ NCPs. We can advise on the drafting of complaints and on the mediation process which typically follows the acceptance of a complaint.
We acted for Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain their successful complaint against the Formula One Group regarding the human rights impacts of the Formula One race in Bahrain. They agreed to produce a human rights policy for the first time and agreed to a number of further steps in relation to the Bahrain race. We also represented Bahrain Watch in its complaint to the Korean NCP regarding the export of a massive amount of tear gas to Bahrain. The complaint was the focus for a successful campaign that succeeded in stopping the shipment.