Operational-level grievance mechanisms (OGMs) are procedures that companies use to investigate and remedy harms caused by their own operations. The concept of OGMs has been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, and companies are increasingly using them to address community grievances.
Unfortunately, OGMs are often designed and executed by the companies with little input from affected communities. As a result, they reflect corporate priorities and interests rather than the needs and preferences of the communities. ERI has seen from firsthand experience that OGMs rarely give adequate remedies, can sometimes weaken the legal position of the people who use them to claim remedies, and may re-traumatize victims.
The goal of our Community-Driven OGMs Project is to reverse this trend.
We are developing a new OGM model for corporate human rights abuses. Under our model, affected communities—not the companies—will be largely responsible for designing and executing the mechanism. Unlike traditional OGMs, the Community-Driven OGM puts affected communities at the center. After all, OGMs exist for them, not the company.
It makes no sense that a corporation that has violated basic human rights should be able to design the system through which its victims can seek justice. That power should belong to the affected communities who need to use the system to claim their rights. A successful Community-Driven OGM will amplify the voices of the affected communities. It will ensure that remedies are culturally appropriate. It will guarantee that complaints processes are accessible and legitimate. It will put power back in the hands of affected people.
The traditional OGM model empowers corporations but disempowers affected communities. Now is the time to challenge that model. We want to set a better standard for providing justice. Here's how we're going to do it:
First, we are creating a practical toolkit and a set of Foundational Principles. These two elements can be a starting point for developing Community-Driven OGMs anywhere.
Next, we are launching pilot initiatives with community partners. This will help us test the model in the real world—not just in theory. Our role will be to educate our partner communities on the ways that OGMs are typically structured, their rights as users of an OGM and their right to remedy under international human rights law. But it's the communities themselves that will be in the driver's seat, and it is they who will decide how the OGM works. Then, we will help them to engage with the companies whose operations affect their lives and livelihoods, to make sure that the OGM is put into practice according to their vision.