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The work of CSRI in relation to access to remedy encompasses parallel workstreams focused respectively on judicial mechanisms and non-judicial mechanisms.

  1. Judicial mechanisms:

States often point to their criminal and civil law systems to demonstrate that they are meeting their obligations under international human rights law to address corporate-related human rights abuses. However, significant barriers to accessing effective judicial remedy in this area persist. Most of these barriers are well known and are not unique to the business and human rights realm. In exploring legal and practical barriers that are particularly salient for individuals and communities affected by corporate-related human rights abuses, this workstream aims to develop a clearer understanding of (a) how such barriers can impact the ability of those with legitimate business and human rights-related grievances to access judicial remedy, and (b) the potential for addressing these obstacles through appropriate legal reform in order to improve corporate accountability.

The workstream on judicial mechanisms encompasses three projects exploring: legal barriers to accessing justice in the business and human rights field, practical barriers, and particular barriers for potentially ‘vulnerable’ groups. The project on legal barriers is closely linked to that on the extraterritorial scope of state duties under CSRI’s workstream on the role of the state. The workstream as a whole will feed directly into the ongoing work of Prof Ruggie in operationalizing the access to remedy pillar of the UN Framework for business and human rights.

Key documents:

Addendum to Prof. Ruggie’s 2009 report to the Human Rights Council: State obligations to provide access to remedy for human rights abuses by third parties, including business: an overview of international and regional provisions, commentary and decisions

Oxford Pro Bono Publico Submission to John Ruggie November 2008: Obstacles to Justice and Redress for Victims of Corporate Human Rights Abuse

Statement by Prof. Ruggie to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, May 2009

See also relevant sections of the UN SRSG’s reports to the UN Human Rights Council

b. Non-judicial mechanisms:

In January 2007, CSRI launched a new workstream to examine the strengths and weaknesses of existing complaints or dispute resolution mechanisms in the area of business and human rights and to formulate principles for effective, human rights-compatible grievance mechanisms. By the end of its first year, the project had published a guidance tool for companies and their stakeholders on designing rights-compatible grievance mechanisms; a mapping of existing grievance mechanisms in the business and human rights arena; as well as reports of two multi-stakeholder workshops (April 2007 | November 2007 ).  A further workshop entitled ‘Access to remedies for corporate human rights impacts: improving non-judicial mechanisms’ was co-organized by Oxfam America and CSRI and hosted by the law firm Foley Hoag in November 2008. 

In February 2009, CSRI launched an on-line dispute resolution community – BASES – focused on the mechanisms and resources available around the world to help companies and their external stakeholders resolve disputes. Launched in January 2009, BASES (Business And Society Exploring Solutions) is a global, interactive forum where anyone can find information, share learning or engage with others about business-to-society dispute resolution. The project is undertaken in collaboration with the International Bar Association and with the support of the CAO of the World Bank Group and JAMS Foundation.  For more on this project, click here or visit the site at

In June 2009 CSRI launched a project on behalf of the SRSG’s mandate and with the support of the International Organisation of Employers, International Chamber of Commerce and Business and Industry Advisory Council of the OECD, to pilot the Principles for effective grievance mechanisms set out in the SRSG”s 2008 and 2009 reports to the UN Human Rights Council.  Companies involved with this project are:
Cerrejon Coal (Mining sector - Colombia)
Esquel Group (Apparel sector - factory in Vietnam)
Hewlett-Packard (Electronics sector - suppliers in China)
Sakhalin II  (Oil and Gas sector - Russia)
Tesco (Food sector - producers in South Africa)

This project is undertaken with the support and facilitation of Doug Cahn of The Cahn Group, Luc Zandvliet of CDA Collaborative Learning Projects and the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program.  For more on this project, click here.

In June 2008 CSRI hosted an expert roundtable on conflict management and corporate culture in the mining industry as part of its project to explore the drivers within companies, other than grievance mechanisms, that predispose them to be effective or ineffective at managing conflict with communities.  The papers considered at this roundtable, and the report of discussions will feed into the development of the methodology for field research on this issue in late 2009 and 2010.

Report of June 2009 expert roundtable on conflict management and corporate culture in the mining industry

Papers from June 2009 expert roundtable on conflict management and corporate culture in the mining industry

Mining industry perspectives on handling community grievances | Summary and analysis of industry interviews

Embedding Rights Compatible Grievance Processes for External Stakeholders Within Business Culture

The inside track – how blue-chips are using ADR

November 2008 SRSG Consultation report: Access to Remedies for Corporate Human Rights Impacts: Improving Non-Judicial Mechanisms

November 2007 Workshop report: Corporations and Human Rights: Accountability Mechanisms for Resolving Complaints and Disputes II

April 2007 Workshop report: Corporations and Human Rights: Accountability Mechanisms for Resolving Complaints and Disputes I

Guidance Tool on Rights-Compatible Grievance Mechanisms

Mapping of Non-Judicial Grievance Mechanisms in the Business and Human Rights Arena


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