In the next four years, SOMO will be working on the improvement of grievance mechanisms for victims of human rights violations by enterprises. To this end, the new human rights fund of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has granted SOMO over €1.5 million.

SOMO has accumulated considerable knowledge regarding grievance mechanisms with, among other things, research into multinationals and contributions to the so-called Guiding Principles for the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework of the United Nations, also known as the Ruggie Principles. Grievance mechanisms belong to the third pillar of the framework that UN special representative John Ruggie has composed.

‘Access to remedies means, as well, the right to compensation,’ says programme director Joris Oldenziel, who is leading the new programme. ‘For example, rehiring employees who lost their jobs unreasonably or compensation of losses suffered. The first step is an adequate grievance mechanism.’

In the new programme, SOMO will on the one hand focus on analysing and testing international grievance mechanisms, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the Performance Standard of the International Finance Corporation. Oldenziel: ‘These have their limitations. What we need is an effective grievance mechanism at a global level. The UN has created a working group for human rights and business in line with Ruggie’s framework. We will definitely make proposals to arrange improved protection of victims of human rights violations at the UN level.’ On the other hand, grievance mechanisms at business level are already being investigated. The companies concerned are from the sectors in which SOMO has been doing research on a regular basis, e.g. electronics, pharmacy and mining. New research into companies also continues to be developed.

What’s more, with 15 southern partners, SOMO contributes to the knowledge building of human rights issues in business of 300 southern organisations. Organisations also receive training sessions and support in effective use of existing grievance mechanisms. A relatively new feature in this process is the attention paid to the position of the defenders of human rights, who are threatened or arrested. ‘The important thing is that human rights defenders learn to operate in such a strategic way that they are less exposed to danger. To achieve this we organise expert meetings with local lawyers and experts, for example.’

‘Finally, this programme is intended to help reinforce grievance mechanisms in such a way that companies will really experience consequences when grievances are declared valid by arbitration boards, like national contact points of the OECD