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Tuesday, November 17 • 11:45 - 13:00
Preventing retaliation through non-State-based grievance mechanisms

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Session organized by OHCHR

Interpretation will be provided in English, French and Spanish

Brief description of the session
For the third phase of its Accountability and Remedy Project (ARP III), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spent two years analysing challenges, opportunities, best practices and lessons learned with regard to a range of non-state-based grievance mechanisms in cases of business-related human rights abuse. In July 2020, OHCHR presented its findings to the Human Rights Council through a final report and accompanying addendum, in which several recommendations were made to enhance the effectiveness of different types of non-State-based mechanisms. Numerous recommendations concern how States and designers and operators of grievance mechanisms can prevent instances of retaliation against those seeking remedy, as well as people associated with them and people contributing to the effective functioning of grievance mechanisms (see relevant excerpts here). This session will provide an opportunity for different stakeholders to reflect on these recommendations and discuss how non-State-based grievance mechanisms can better ensure safe access to remedy.

Key objectives of the session
  • Enhance rights holders’ safe access to effective remedy in cases of business-related human rights abuse.
  • Explore the potential of non-State-based grievance mechanisms to prevent risks of retaliation when rights holders seek to access them.
  • Share good practices and methods for preventing risks of retaliation at company-based grievance mechanisms; grievance mechanisms developed by industry, multi-stakeholder, or other collaborative initiatives; and independent accountability mechanisms.
  • Discuss how best to implement the recommendations of the ARP III report and addendum with respect to preventing retaliation.

Key questions
  • How can the recommendations of the ARP III report and addendum help prevent retaliation when rights holders seek remedy through non-State-based grievance mechanisms?
  • What should designers and operators of grievance mechanisms be aware of and do with respect to risks of retaliation?
  • How could rights holders know what levels of risk they face when seeking remedy through non-State-based grievance mechanisms, and what can be done to mitigate these risks?

Background to the discussion

Retaliation and fears of retaliation (whether by State or non-State actors) pose serious barriers to remedy for business-related human rights cases in practice. Retaliation can take many forms, and can result in many different types of harm (e.g., physical, psychological or economic), the effects of which can be exacerbated for certain groups (e.g., women) as a result of entrenched social attitudes and discrimination. Further, it is important to keep in mind that those potentially at risk of retaliation may go beyond people seeking remedies directly and include people associated with rights holders (e.g., family members, friends, and human rights defenders), as well as people who contribute to the effective functioning of certain grievance mechanisms (e.g., interpreters and witnesses).

The Accountability and Remedy Project has therefore prioritised this issue for study at each phase of the project, noting that this risk is not confined to any one type of mechanism, but can seriously undermine the effectiveness of all categories of mechanisms relevant to remedying business-related human rights harms (i.e., State-based or non-State-based, judicial or non-judicial). In the latest phase of the project (ARP III), significant work went into (i) analysing the risks involved when grievances are raised in non-State-based mechanisms, and (ii) identifying ways of preventing retaliation from occurring in such cases.  The ARP III report and its accompanying addendum provide numerous recommendations for designing and operating grievance mechanisms in such a way to mitigate risks of retaliation (see relevant excerpts here).  The panel for this session will reflect on how these recommendations can be useful and implemented.

Additional background documents

The session will help inform the WG’s project ‘Business and human rights: towards a decade of global implementation' (also known as “UNGPs 10+ / Next Decade BHR”). Centred around the upcoming tenth anniversary of the UNGPs in 2021, the project is taking stock of practice to date, identifying gaps and challenges, and developing a vision and roadmap for scaling up implementation of the UNGPs over the course of the next decade.

Session documents

avatar for Jennifer Zerk

Jennifer Zerk

Legal Consultant, OHCHR Accountability and Remedy Project

avatar for Krishnendu Mukherjee

Krishnendu Mukherjee

Barrister/Indian advocate, Doughty Street Chambers
Krishnendu Mukherjee is a barrister and Indian advocate and currently practises in both jurisdictions. He has extensive experience in advising, litigating and using non-judicial remedies in relation to business-related human rights and environmental violations. Krishnendu has a particular... Read More →

Charline Daelman

Social Sustainability Expert, Amfori
avatar for Ganga Somasekarappa

Ganga Somasekarappa

Karnataka Garment Workers Union
Ganga is a labour rights activist based in Bangalore, India. She was actively engaged in labour movements against bonded labour in Punjab, India mainly in the brick kiln and agriculture sectors. For the past 2 years, she has joined hands with Karnataka Garment Workers Union “KOOGU... Read More →
avatar for Victoria Marquez-Mees

Victoria Marquez-Mees

Managing Director - Chief Accountability Officer, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Victoria Márquez-Mees, a Mexican national, is the first Chief Accountability Officer of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Managing Director of the Independent Project Accountability Mechanism which became effective on July 1, 2020. Before joining EBRD she served... Read More →

Tuesday November 17, 2020 11:45 - 13:00 CET
Plenary Room