Instructions and strategic considerations
Identify chapters and provisions of the Guidelines
need to cite the specific chapters and paragraphs the company is allegedly
violating in your complaint and explain in detail how the company is violating
specific provisions. It is not sufficient to state an enterprise is violating
the Guidelines without explaining who, how, what, why, when and where.
- Who (or what) is being harmed by the enterprise’s violations?
- How have the enterprise’s activities harmed the complainants, community members, environment etc.?
- What activities or behaviour is the enterprise engaging in that constitutes a violation of the Guidelines?
- Why are the activities a violation of the Guidelines?
- When did the alleged violation(s) occur?
- Where did the alleged violation(s) occur?
Format of the complaint
To guide complainants to write a clear, concise and persuasive complaint OECD Watch has furthermore developed a template complaint letter. You do not need to follow this format exactly, but it is OECD Watch’s experience that a well-written complaint includes all the information described below.
- Your identity, including a contact person, name or organisation, address, telephone number, fax number and email.
- The name and address of the NCP
- Short introduction to the case, including the company, the problem and the location of violation
- Explanation of your interest in the case and your purpose for writing
- Company information, including the company's contact details and company structure
- Information on about the broader background, context or location of violations
- List of chapter(s) and paragraph(s) in the Guidelines the complaint is breaching
- Detailed information on the alleged breaches and developments to date
- Other relevant (international) standards the NCP should take into account when considering the complaint
- Description of previous attempts at resolution of the case directly with the company or other relevant actors and/or institutions
- Outline of complaint goals, demands and requests from the company and/or NCP. Before filing a complaint, you should ensure that you have a clear view of what outcome you hope to achieve, as well as what results are realistically possible and likely.
- Confidentiality request, such as the names of individuals, sources of evidence or any documentation that cannot be shared with the company
- Statement of "good faith" to engage in the procedure. If you are pursuing multiple strategies, explain why you consider these activities appropriate and why they will not conflict with or undermine the complaint process.
- Attachments and/or appendices with more detailed information relevant to the complaint
Complaints should generally be written in English or the national language of the NCP receiving the case. If the complaint will be filed with several governments, consider writing it in a language that is understood all NCPs. However, if it is too burdensome to write the complaint in another language (or to provide evidence in another language), submit the complaint and evidence in your own language. Keep in mind, however, not translating the complaint could result in additional delays and the NCP may not be willing to translate (all) documents.
Time and resources
The Guidelines dispute resolution process is often a time and resource-intensive exercise. The Procedural Guidance recommends that NCPs should seek to complete complaints within one year, and some cases have been successfully concluded in less than six months. However, there are many more examples of cases that have taken several years to conclude.
The process may require you to spend significant resources, including on costs for personnel, translation, research and investigation, travel and consultant advice and support. If you are filing a joint complaint (with other impacted stakeholders or civil society organisations), remember it takes time and effort to coordinate with partner organisations locally and internationally. You may need to travel to participate in meetings with the NCP or company. Many complainants have also had to invest time to follow up and ensure the company is abiding by the agreement and/or recommendations resulting from the specific instance process.
Possibility of using simultaneous strategies
An OECD Guidelines complaint can be one of several strategies pursued simultaneously. An OECD Guidelines complaint can be used instead of, or in addition to, other advocacy strategies such as lawsuits, public and media campaigns and shareholder actions. Other institutional non-judicial grievance mechanisms or dispute resolution procedures may also be appropriate.
Keep in mind that the Guidelines’ specific instance procedure is largely a mediation/conciliation-oriented process designed to get parties together to resolve disputes amicably. NCPs expect parties to engage with a view to finding a mutually-acceptable resolution to the issues. The nature and expectations of this process have to be weighed against other actions and instruments available to address the problem. A complaint should support, and not undermine, existing efforts if simultaneous strategies are pursued.
Should you consider using simultaneous strategies next to filing an OECD Guidelines complaint, take note of NCPs' positions on the existance of parallel proceedings.