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Reforming the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Investment

Strengthening mechanisms for corporate accountably is a core priority of EarthRights International. As part of this effort, ERI is working  to reform the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (“Guidelines”), the only internationally agreed upon set of principles and standards for responsible business conduct in areas including human rights, the environment, and bribery.  The Guidelines apply to multinational enterprises operating in or from OECD countries. Although voluntary for companies, the Guidelines nonetheless have shown the potential to provide impacted communities opportunities to resolve disputes through the filing of Specific Instances. Filed with National Contact Points - the national offices responsible for encouraging observance of and promoting the Guidelines – these complaints can lead to mediated dispute resolution as well as adverse findings against companies for violations of the Guidelines. However, because too many NCP offices are non and low-functioning and fail to effectively apply the Guidelines, ERI has also been working to reform the U.S. National Contact Point.

The OECD Guidelines Update and Reform of National Contact Points

ERI has been campaigning since 2008 to reform the OECD Guidelines and National Contact Points. In 2010, a process to Update the Guidelines began that included OECD Watch’s participation in the Advisory Group to the chair of the update of the OECD Guidelines . On May 25th, 2011, new OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises will be released, providing more clarity for companies, communities, and governments on responsible business conduct.

ERI has also worked to reform low functioning National Contact Points so communities that suffer from corporate violations have effective national offices through which to resolve their complaint of violations of the Guidelines. ERI is working to reform the U.S. NCP, serving on the Subcommittee of the U.S. State Dept.’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Affairs (ACIEP), as well as speaking at public hearings and advocating for reform of the structure of the U.S. office. ERI has also worked to reform the low-functioning Korean NCP, submitting a report to the OECD Investment Committee - the body responsible for overseeing the Guidelines - documenting substantive errors in the Korean NCP’s interpretations of the OECD Guidelines, and requesting the Investment Committee to acknowledge the Korean NCP’s errors and clarifying certain aspects of Guidelines with respect to the Korean NCP’s decision in the Shwe case.

Specific Instances

In 2008, ERI on behalf of the Shwe Gas Movement and nine Korean groups filed a specific instance complaint with the Korean NCP alleging that Korean companies Daewoo International and the Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS) had and would continue to breach a number of the OECD Guidelines related to their activities in Burma associated with the exploration, development, and operation of their natural gas project in Burma known as the Shwe Gas Project. The low-functioning Korean NCP rejected the complaint in 2008.

In March 2011, MiningWatch Canada and two Papua New Guinea (PNG) organizations submitted a Request for Review to the office of the Canadian National Contact Point (NCP) over Barrick Gold’s mining operations in PNG. The complaint against the Canadian company concerns alleged breaches of the Guidelines regarding sustainable development, human rights and the environment in their Porgera Joint Venture mine. EarthRights International and Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) serve as advisors on this Request for Review.

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