Empowering Communities as a Strategy for Holding Corporates Accountable
This post was originally featured in Oxfam America.
The Business and Human Rights Community have consistently focused on stronger regulations, norms and practice of the private sector in holding corporations accountable for human rights violations and achieving access to remedy for the victims. But another strategy for gaining access to remedy is to empower affected communities by providing more financial resources and requiring the participation in human rights due diligence laws.
Local communities are at the forefront of investment projects but too often face a power imbalance with the key stakeholders: companies and government. In fact, local communities suffer from a lack of financial resources to undertake thorough consultation as well as a lack of opportunities to participate in decisions affecting their lives. At the same time, focus is often on companies with an expectation for them to engage in due diligence processes. But companies face several constraints. such as time and lack of cultural knowledge that limit their ability to conduct meaningful consultations with local communities and marginalized groups.
To overcome these challenges, it is crucial to empower communities to enable them to participate in decisions affecting their lives. The UN Guiding Principles specify that the obligation to put in place human rights due diligence processes should involve meaningful consultation with potentially affected groups and other relevant stakeholders. But to talk about meaningful consultation, a key element must be in place: communities need capacity and resources to engage in such a consultation.
The first pillar of the UNGP includes the obligation to take appropriate steps to prevent, investigate and redress human rights impacts. To fulfill this obligation, states should ensure the involvement of those specifically concerned by the impacts. This could happen by states providing adequate funding to enable local communities to meaningfully participate in decisions affecting their lives, either by effectively participating in companies due diligence processes or leading their own processes. To do so, a fund should be established to support community-based organizations working directly with local communities. This fund would be used to develop local capacities in terms of human rights and business. It would allow the implementation of consultation processes that would be both inclusive and meaningful. Funds could be established nationally, by sectors and globally.
With adequate resources, local communities could either engage in a thorough assessment of the human rights impacts of private investments or participate in existing company processes. Documentation of the situation from a community perspective would enable an early identification of human rights. Finally, the involvement of communities in the implementation of solutions could result in the identification of concrete and appropriate mechanisms to redress the situation.
Irit Tamir is Co-Director (Acting) in the Private Sector Department.