OECD National Contact Points
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organization made up of member countries. The OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises define standards for, among other things, socially and environmentally responsible business conduct. The guidelines are non-binding recommendations from OECD governments and adhering countries to multinational companies that are operating in or from their countries.
The guidelines cover a broad range of issues including human rights, labor rights and the environment. The guidelines recognize the human rights due diligence and other responsibilities of enterprises at all levels in the investment and supply chain. The OECD has developed guidance documents to support implementation of the guidelines in various sectors, including the financial, extractive and agricultural sectors.
Although the guidelines are voluntary for companies, OECD and adhering governments are responsible for ensuring that they are implemented and observed. Among other requirements, governments must establish National Contact Points (NCPs) to receive and handle complaints (called “specific instances”) about breaches of the guidelines. You can find the contact details for NCPs in each country here.
Any interested individual or group may complain to an NCP in the location where a company is based or where it operates (the home or host country). If the company managing a harmful project, or another company in the investment or supply chain, is headquartered in an OECD country, you can bring a complaint to the NCP in that country. For example, if the project affecting the community you are supporting is owned by a German parent company, you can file a complaint with the German NCP. If the project itself is in an OECD country, you can file a complaint to the NCP in that country. You can use this tool to help determine whether you can file an NCP complaint and which NCP to use.
A complaint to an NCP should explain how the company breached the OECD Guidelines and what harm resulted from those failures. It should include evidence to support the claims and should explain your desired outcome. Here is a template that you can use for writing a complaint.
Each NCP adopts its own procedural rules for handling complaints, so it is important to read the rules published by the NCP you intend to use. In general, once an NCP receives a complaint, it conducts an initial assessment to evaluate the complaint according to admissibility criteria established in the OECD Guidelines’ Procedural Guidance. If the NCP accepts the complaint, it will attempt to help the parties resolve the complaint through mediation or another form of dispute resolution.
If dispute resolution fails, the NCP may investigate the alleged breaches and issue recommendations. At the end of the process, the NCP should publish a final statement about the complaint, any resolution reached, and any determinations and recommendations made by the NCP. Some NCP’s will ask the company and complainant to report to the NCP after a period of time, usually one year, on progress in implementing the recommendations.
The quality and effectiveness of NCPs vary widely and change over time. In some successful cases, complaints have resulted in mediated agreements between companies and communities. In others, NCPs have published fairly strong final statements that find that companies breached the OECD guidelines and made recommendations to the company to improve their policies or practices. In other cases, however, NCPs have been very slow and inefficient, and some have shown bias towards the company. It is important to seek the advice of experienced organizations that have knowledge of the relevant NCP to make sure it’s a worthwhile use of your organization’s resources. In most cases, it will be necessary to use complementary advocacy strategies, such as using the media and shareholder advocacy, alongside NCP complaints in order to hold the company accountable and obtain remedy. Like all non-judicial grievance mechanisms, NCPs should be viewed as one tool in a broader strategy.
Some NCPs have strict confidentiality requirements in their procedural rules and will discourage public advocacy alongside the complaints process, especially mediation. These rules are generally problematic for communities suffering human rights abuses and fail to take into account the serious power imbalances between communities and companies that need to be corrected in order to secure remedy and accountability. One way around this restriction is to form partnerships with other CSO allies who are not part of the complaints process and can continue other forms of advocacy, so long as it does not negatively impact genuine progress made through the process.
OECD Watch, a global civil society network, is an excellent resource for further information and advice. OECD Watch provides extensive and clear information about preparing for and going through the complaint process, maintains a database of NCP complaints, and tracks the performance of NCPs.
The OECD Centre on Responsible Business Conduct maintains a website with a number of useful resources, including translations of the Guidelines, contact information for NCPs, and guidance documents relevant to implementation of the Guidelines in various industries and contexts.