Step 2: Develop an Assessment Framework

The next step is to develop an assessment framework to help you understand whether the project has complied with relevant standards. The framework will guide you in designing your questionnaires, structuring your report, and analyzing whether the project has breached the commitments and obligations of actors along the investment chain.

Many organizations choose to conduct human rights impact assessments, because human rights standards are universal, bind governments, and are relevant to companies and financial institutions. Viewing the adverse impacts of projects as a violation of specific human rights can also be empowering for affected communities. Other frameworks used to analyze compliance include national laws, environmental and social policies of multilateral development banks, and company or industry standards and codes of conduct.


To develop an assessment framework, consider the main advocacy targets that you have identified in your investment chain analysis.

For example, if you have discovered that the International Finance Corporation has financed the project, it will be helpful to use its Performance Standards as your framework. If a company that has a strong code of conduct or internal policies is upstream or downstream along the investment chain, it would make sense to use these policies in forming your framework. You may decide to use more than one set of standards that are applicable to your case. For example, you may have found links to the International Finance Corporation, but you may also think that using human rights and national laws in your assessment will be effective in influencing advocacy targets including the company, investors and governments.

Once you have chosen the set of laws, policies or standards to use for your assessment, you can start to develop your assessment framework. Identify the specific provisions or sections that are most relevant to the main issues and impacts on the community that you found during your scoping.



List the issues and impacts that you identified during the initial scoping. Underneath each of these, list the relevant provisions from the set of international and national laws, policies and standards that you’ve chosen to use. This is your assessment framework. It will guide you when you develop your questionnaires, organise your data and structure your report.

You will need to describe your assessment framework in the report, including an explanation of why you used the particular framework, who is bound by or has responsibilities under the framework, and the particular human rights, laws, and standards that are relevant to the case.

Box 7: Case Study

A human rights impact assessment of rubber plantations in Ratanakiri, Cambodia: Building the assessment framework

NGOs working to help more than 15 villages in Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province defend their land rights decided to conduct a human rights impact assessment. The project consisted of three large-scale rubber plantations that had encroached on their land and productive resources. The plantations were all owned by a Vietnamese company operating through various subsidiaries.

Screening of the main issues showed that there were major problems with the development of the project, such as a lack of information and meaningful consultation of affected communities. There were significant losses of land, forest and water resources. The main impacts appeared to be on the communities’ food consumption, income and livelihoods, as well as their cultural traditions and spiritual practices. Many of the affected communities were indigenous people, with a customary form of land tenure and food and livelihood systems that were being obstructed by the project.

The main actors responsible for the project and its impacts were the Cambodian government, the company and investors in the company. The company and some of its investors had committed to a set of standards that required compliance with national laws. The NGOs therefore decided to use both human rights and Cambodian law as the assessment framework.

  • Because many of the affected communities were indigenous, the right of self-determination was assessed. This right is recognised in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Under these guidelines, indigenous people have the right to give or withhold their free, prior and informed consent for any project affecting their lands, territories or resources. Information about the consultation processes and losses of lands, territories and natural resources were collected and analysed with reference to this right, as well as Cambodian Land Law provisions that recognize and protect indigenous land rights.
  • Information about impacts on food systems and consumption, and impacts on incomes and other aspects of livelihoods, were collected and analysed with reference to the human right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food recognised in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights..
  • Information about impacts on traditions and spiritual practices due to the loss of sacred sites was collected and analysed with reference to the right to practice cultural and spiritual traditions recognised in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These impacts were also assessed against Cambodia’s Land Law and Forestry Law, which provide protection for indigenous communities’ customs and traditions.
  • Information about the attempts of affected communities to complain and the responses they received, including inadequate compensation as well as threats and intimidation, were collected and analysed with reference to the right to an effective remedy recognised in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • The particular impacts on women’s rights were assessed in relation to each of the issues and impacts above.

To see the assessment framework for this case, along with another case involving sugar plantations in Cambodia, please see IDI’s website.