Surveillance in Sri Lanka

About this Violation

About this Violation

What is Surveillance? 

Illegal surveillance includes unlawful monitoring by state or non-state officials that can take place using physical or online monitoring. Surveillance, conducted through diverse means, unlawfully limits your right to privacy. 

Protections of Privacy 

In Sri Lanka, the right to privacy is not included as a standalone right in the Constitution, but individual privacy is considered as a legitimate restriction to the right to information of others. Article 14A of the Constitution and the Right to Information Act restrict the right to information for reasons of privacy, among others.

Τhe Supreme Court has further recognised that even in the absence of a constitutionally entrenched right to privacy, “the importance which our Constitution attaches to the man's autonomous nature, through the guarantees of basic human rights (…) aimed at securing the integrity of the individual and his moral worth” would be violated by an invasion of the privacy of the individual, “assailing his integrity as a human being and thereby denying him his right to remain in society as a human being with human dignity”. Note that the Sri Lankan judiciary has protected the privacy of home more than other aspects of it.

Restrictions to the right to privacy 

Surveillance can be carried out in Sri Lanka by enforcement agencies insofar as specific legal procedures have been followed. 

A private person is not allowed to restrict your privacy. In reverse your personal data are protected and can be monitored, accessed and processed only upon your consent.

Examples

Wiretapping, eavesdropping, letter opening.

File a Complaint with the Police

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

File a Complaint with the Police

According to the Sri Lankan legal framework, you cannot be surveyed and monitored by any businessperson or business entity, because:

  • The Computer Crimes Act penalises unauthorised access to your computer and illegal interception of data.
  • The Criminal Code prohibits criminal trespass and house criminal trespass. 
  • The Personal Data Protection Act protects personal information against processing that can take place by companies that ‘offer goods or services to data subjects in Sri Lanka including the offering of goods or services with specific targeting of data subjects in Sri Lanka; or specifically monitor the behaviour of data subjects in Sri Lanka including profiling with the intention of making decisions in relation to the behaviour of such data subjects in so far as such behaviour takes place in Sri Lanka’.

Filing a criminal complaint

On that basis, you should inform the authorities. This can be done by:

  • Informing, orally or in writing a police officer or inquirer, by going to the nearest police station. You should be handed a receipt that the complaint is recorded, including date, name, and Complaints Reference Book number.
  • If illegal surveillance against you was carried out by cyber means, you can inform the Cyber Crime Investigation Division of the Criminal Investigation Department through 011 2432746 or 011 2337432 phone numbers or report@cid.police.gov.lk, dir.cid@police.lk and telligp@police.lk email addresses.
  • Filing a criminal complaint directly to the Magistrate. The Magistrate, after relevant inquiry, should order the police station to initiate an investigation. 

Who is responsible for the offence against you?

The responsibility for the offence against you lies with the person who perpetrated it. Beyond the specific person that threatened, intimidated or harassed you, the company director might also be liable, if he/she knew what was happening and did not take measures to avoid it.

What can you expect?

The police will investigate your case and arrest the suspect, once they identify them. The case will then go to trial stage. The court will hear the prosecution’s case, examine the accused and allow him to present their case. Then, it will make its judgment, either convicting the accused, if the case was proven beyond reasonable doubt or acquitting him/her for lack of evidence. The burden of proving the case lies with the prosecutor. 

What if you are not satisfied with the outcome?

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the trial, you can resort to a higher court for the purpose of obtaining a review and reversal of the lower court’s judgement, by filing an appeal. The appeal should be filed to the Court of Appeals within fourteen days from the judgment of the first instance court.

How can you get compensation?

Under article 17 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Court may order the person convicted, to pay compensation to the person affected.

Moreover, if the court orders the perpetrator to pay a fine as a form of punishment, then part of that fine can be given as compensation to the victim.

At the time of awarding compensation in any subsequent civil suit relating to the same matter, the court shall take into account any sum paid or recovered as compensation in the criminal trial.

File a Complaint with the National Court

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

File a Complaint with the National Court

Asking compensation from the business entity or businessperson

If you have suffered harm due to the illegal surveillance by a business entity or businessperson, and in the unlikely case of identifying the person who surveyed you, you can consider initiating a civil lawsuit for delict to ask compensation by the offender. 

What kinds of wrongs can you file for?

In case of illegal surveillance, you can file a lawsuit alleging wrongs to your reputation or nuisance.

Who can bring the action?

If someone (person or entity) has committed a wrong against you, then you can file a lawsuit for delict. Sri Lankan law does not explicitly recognise class actions. However, under section 16 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, parties who have a common interest in bringing or defending an action can do so with permission of the court and must provide notice of the action to all relevant persons.

Against whom?

You can direct your claim against the businessperson who wronged you. Also, depending on the circumstances, you might be able to bring a civil case for tort against the business entity. Companies can be held liable for torts committed by their agents or servants, when the tort is committed in the course of doing an act which is within the scope of the powers of companies. 

Where?

You should file the lawsuit at the District Court of your jurisdiction. In order to try your case, the court should have territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction and no other court should have exclusive jurisdiction. 

Time limit: you should file civil suits within two years from the time when the cause of action has arisen.

What should you prove

Your case will be acceptable if you demonstrate the following elements:

  • Conduct: your harm should have resulted from a person’s or an entity’s action or omission.
  • Wrongfulness: You should demonstrate that the act or omission was wrongful, namely it infringed a legally recognised interest.
  • Fault: the act or omission should have been carried out with intention or negligence. Negligence means that the perpetrator breached their duty of care and should not have acted that way, under common reason. 
  • Causation: Causation means that there must be a connection between the perpetrator’s conduct and your damage. 
  • Damage: You should prove that you suffered damage, either monetary or not, including pain and suffering, emotional shock, disfigurement, loss of amenities of life and shortened life expectancy.

What should you expect?

The court can award the following remedies:

  • Damages such as: 
    • actual expenses, e.g. medical 
    • damages for pain and suffering and disfigurement (if any)
    • expenses that you will have to incur in the future as a result of any disablement
    • loss of earnings during the period of incapacity
    • loss of future earnings if the disability is permanent.
  • Declarations (in the form of a court finding that the conduct of the defendant was wrongful);
  • Permanent injunctions (in the form of a court order requiring the defendant to do or cease doing a specific action; and/or
  • Specific performance. As a general rule, specific performance is only awarded where damages are deemed insufficient.

What if you are not satisfied with the outcome?

If you are aggrieved by the decision of the court, you can file an appeal to the Court of Appeals. Before filing an appeal, you should ask the court its ‘leave’ to file an appeal and convince it that the matter involves a substantial question of law or is a matter fit for review by the Court. 

Report it to the National Human Rights Commission

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

Report it to the National Human Rights Commission 

The National Human Rights Commission

As a human rights defender, you might be illegally surveyed and monitored, leading as such to a severe restriction of your privacy rights. You can therefore consider approaching the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), even if it was a businessperson or business entity involved in your illegal surveillance. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka is responsible for investigating human rights complaints and promoting human rights protection.

What can you report?

Primarily, you can report human rights violations by state officials and state agencies. However, the HRCSL interprets their mandate broadly and include business induced violations in their work.

Who can complain?

You and your lawyer. The law also allows ‘any interested party’ to file a complaint.

How can you complain?

You can lodge your complaint in person, sent by post, by email, by fax or by giving information through the HRCSL hotline. For more technical information, see here.

What should you expect?

The commission has the power to investigate and recommend compensation. However, it cannot enforce its recommendations. After an allegation is proven to the satisfaction of the commission, the HRCSL may recommend financial compensation for victims, refer the case for administrative disciplinary action or to the attorney general for prosecution, or both. 

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    Environment

    If you belong to the Vedda indigenous population and you believe that you are illegally surveyed by a businessperson, you can consider informing the Wannietto trust. The Trust was created by the Presidential Cabinet order "to protect and nurture Veddha Wannietto culture." By informing them about your case, you will not receive a remedy, but they can potentially offer precious advice on how to achieve redress. Importantly, by informing the Trust, and having your case registered, you will have proof of the attack, in case the situation escalates in the future. 

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    Gender

    If you are a woman human rights defender, and you believe that you are illegally surveyed by a businessperson, you can consider approaching the National Commission on Women, under the administration of the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment. The Commission has the power to investigate complaints of violations of the rights of women and gender discrimination and refer them to a governmental and civil society organisation for redress, legal aid and/or mediation services.

    Note that there is a Women Help Line 1938. For more information you can check this website.

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    Trade Union

    The Department of Labour has established a complaint mechanism where you can file any sort of complaint in relation to your employment, by the private or public sector. You can use that mechanism when your employer has filed a SLAPP against you.

    You can lodge your complaint online here.

    You can also find a detailed list of potential complaints and how they are resolved here.

Report it to the Company Mechanism/to the Shareholders

Warning: Before taking any of the steps listed below, you can strategically assess the risks involved with taking certain actions and make sure that you prioritise your physical and psychological safety and security. 

Report it to the Company Mechanism/ to the Shareholders

Some companies have established their own grievance mechanisms for receiving and investigating complaints by workers, local communities or NGOs. The aim of those mechanisms is to provide actual or potential victims of adverse business-related human rights impacts with an easy and accessible way to report risks, demand action from the company and claim a remedy. 

Report it to the shareholders

If a business or a business officer is violating your rights, you might consider informing the shareholders or the investors of that company. 

Lately, shareholders and investors have increasingly monitored human rights performance and raised concerns over companies’ environmental and social practices where issues are found. Divestment has evolved into a powerful leverage tool, capable of influencing management towards rights complaint behaviour. This new trend among shareholders who influence a business’ behaviour by exercising their rights as partial owners, is known as ‘shareholder activism and advocacy.’

Given the different structure of each business, identifying the shareholders may be a difficult process. You can begin by trying to identify the major shareholders of the company and sending them a letter detailing the business-related human rights abuses you have witnessed/suffered. 

The awareness of investors on, socially and environmentally responsible investment is steadily growing. Responsible investment is where social and environmental factors are considered before making an investment. For example, the Norwegian Pension Fund excludes companies that are engaging in abuses from potential funding. Similarly, the Green Climate Fund supports investments in low-emission and climate-resilient projects.  In addition, several countries (as well as the EU) have put in place strict public procurement rules which protect human rights in government purchasing. 

The United Nations has supported this development by promoting the adoption of the Principles for Responsible Investments (PRI), which require potential investors to base their choices on environmental, social and governance concerns. 

If the investors in the company violating your rights have signed those principles, then you can also inform the PRI Executive. You should frame your complaint according to the criteria listed on the website. You can check whether the investors at issue are signatories here.

The PRI Executive will conduct an initial review to decide if the complaint is substantive, falls within the remit of the policy, and/or if there is a relevant historical precedent. If the complaint is not substantive or outside of the remit of the policy, the party raising the matter will be informed and no further action will be taken on the matter by the PRI Executive. 

A complaint that is substantive and within the remit of the policy will be sent to the signatory investor(s) in question, with the right of first reply. After the signatory’s reply has been received the PRI board will decide whether it is a serious violation. If it is a serious violation, the PRI board will decide either to formally engage with the signatory, monitor and/or terminate the investors signatory status.

Report it to the Business

Companies were encouraged to build ‘grievance mechanisms’ by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (‘UNGPs’). The UNGPs state that those mechanisms should be able to deliver an effective remedy. Principle 31 recommends that in order to be effective, operational-based grievance mechanisms should be: 

EFFECTIVENESS CRITERIA

Legitimate

enabling trust from the stakeholder groups for whose use they are intended, and being accountable for the fair conduct of grievance processes

Accessible

being known to all stakeholder groups for whose use they are intended, and providing adequate assistance for those who may face particular barriers to access

Predictable

providing a clear and known procedure with an indicative time frame for each stage, and clarity on the types of process and outcome available and means of monitoring implementation

Equitable

seeking to ensure that aggrieved parties have reasonable access to sources of information, advice and expertise necessary to engage in a grievance process on fair, informed and respectful terms

Transparent

keeping parties to a grievance informed about its progress, and providing sufficient information about the mechanism’s performance to build confidence in its effectiveness and meet any public interest at stake

Rights-compatible

ensuring that outcomes and remedies accord with internationally recognized human rights

A source of continuous learning

drawing on relevant measures to identify lessons for improving the mechanism and preventing future grievances and harms

Based on engagement and dialogue

consulting the stakeholder groups for whose use they are intended on their design and performance, and focusing on dialogue as the means to address and resolve grievances


Industry Associations can be very important for human rights defenders, since various companies have committed to respect and not to retaliate against human rights defenders supporting human rights! 

How to proceed?

You should first think of whether you want to use such a mechanism, if it is applicable for your situation and whether the remedy that the company usually provides through those mechanisms is satisfactory. 

Then, you should search online on the website of the company which harmed you and identify whether the company has established any such mechanism. Usually there is an online form, an email address, or a phone number that you can use to directly send your complaint. Some companies will have a dedicated officer to receive complaints. 

It is a good idea to also try to reach out to the company and inquire whether they have any grievance mechanism to receive complaints on human rights abuses. Once, you have identified whether there is such a mechanism, you should follow the instructions of the company on how to file a complaint. Remember that if that process takes a very long time, you might miss the deadline for filing a complaint with the state!

+ The positive aspect of those mechanisms is that they do not have the workload of the courts and therefore can solve a case faster and with less cost. 

However, those mechanisms are not like courts. They are voluntary, which means that their effectiveness depends solely on the will of the company. Similarly, if you submit an application to those mechanisms, a remedy will only be delivered if the company chooses to do so. 

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    Note That

    If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you can always approach state mechanisms, such as the courts or the National Human Rights Commission.

Report it to a financial institution

Report it to a Financial Institution

To grow, expand or simply operate, corporate entities often borrow funds from financial institutions, including private banks, investment funds, development banks or export credit agencies.

Sometimes, those financial institutions have put human rights standards in place and expect that they are respected by their borrowers. In practice, this means that if a business borrows money from them, then it should respect human rights standards, as required by those entities. To monitor compliance against those standards, several financial institutions have developed complaints mechanisms where you can report if a business, funded by them, is violating your rights.

After a complaint is filed those mechanisms usually ask the respective business to take measures to mitigate and prevent further harm.

Note also that those mechanisms can guarantee confidentiality, under certain circumstances. In addition, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman of the World Bank has established an “Approach to Responding to Concerns of Threats and Incidents of Reprisals in CAO Operations.” For more information see here.

Therefore, if a business is violating your rights, you should check whether it is funded by an institution that has in place a grievance mechanism of this kind. 

Below you can find a non-exhaustive list of grievance mechanisms by funding institutions.

Private Banks

The Equator Principles are a financial industry standard for environmental and social risk management in high-value projects funded by private banks. A financial institution committing to the Equator Principles should respect the standards and report publicly on their implementation.

The Equator Principles usually cannot be used as a legal basis for legal remedies but have been widely relied on for advocacy purposes. 

In addition, depending on the bank, it might be the case that the bank which is funding your project has put in place a grievance mechanism or a whistle-blower policy. On that basis, you should first acquire information on who the lender of the company that is violating your rights is. You should then find out whether that bank has any mechanism in place, as well as guidelines on how to approach it.

You should be cautious and protect yourself from potential retaliation by asking for confidentiality if this is provided.

Investors

Green Climate Fund (GCF) 

The Green Climate Fund was established in 2010 by 194 states, parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It aims to support investments in low-emission and climate-resilient projects and programs in developing countries. It provides investment to “accredited entities” such as public institutions, development or commercial banks, or private companies that implement climate-resilient projects.

It has in place a grievance mechanism called the Independent Redress Mechanism (IRM).

When and how do you file a complaint? 

Click here to watch an explanatory video on Youtube.

Who and why can file a complaint

Any person or a group of persons, or a community that has been or may be affected negatively by a GCF project or programme may file a complaint.

How to file a complaint?

A complaint with the IRM can be filed by:

For more information, visit the IRM’s website

Development Banks

World Bank Inspection Panel

For what kind of projects?

If the company that has harmed you, works for a project which is financed by the International Development Association (‘IDA’) or the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (‘IBRD’), both of which form the “World Bank.” 

For what kind of abuses?

To approach the Inspection Panel, the project should have harmed you or be likely to harm you or the environment in a direct and material way.

Who can file a complaint?

Complaints can be submitted by “any group of two or more people in the country where the Bank financed project is located who believe that, as a result of the Bank’s abuse of its policies and procedures, their rights or interests have been, or are likely to be adversely affected in a direct and material way.”

Note than one individual alone cannot submit a complaint, but an organisation or group of individuals can!

You should send your request to by post to:

The Inspection Panel 1818 H Street, 

NW Mail Stop: MC10-1007 

Washington, DC 20433 

USA 

Or by email to ipanel@worldbank.org 

The suggested format for a request for inspection can be found at www.worldbank.org.

What to expect?

The Inspection Panel will not provide any remedy but will facilitate the dispute resolution between the parties.

World Bank Compliance Advisor Ombudsman

In which case can you approach the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman?

The Compliance Advisor Ombudsman hears complaints regarding projects supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) or Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), where those projects have direct social or environmental impact.

Who can file a complaint?

Any individual or group of individuals who has suffered, or are likely to suffer, direct social or environmental impact by a project supported by the IFC or MIGA. Someone representing the people harmed can file a complaint on their behalf, provided he/she has authorisation.

How to file a complaint?

Your complaint should include your name and contact address. Note that you can ask for the process to be carried out confidentially.

You should describe the project, the harm it has caused to you or the environment and the performance standards that have been violated.

You can submit your complaint by post to:

Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) 

2121 Pennsylvania Avenue, 

NW Washington, DC 20433, 

USA Tel: + 1 202 458 1973 

Fax: + 1 202 522 7400 

Or by e-mail to: CAO@worldbankgroup.org

Note also that the CAO has established an “Approach to Responding to Concerns of Threats and Incidents of Reprisals in CAO Operations.” For more information see here.

What to expect?

The CAO will investigate your case and mediate the dispute between you and/or project-affected communities and companies and will aim to address any environmental and social concerns. It will further monitor how the IFC and MIGA are complying with the applicable Performance Standards in relation to social and environmental risks.

European Investment Bank Complaints Mechanism

For what abuses?

If your social or environmental rights have been abused by a business financed by the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Who can file a complaint?

Any individuals or organisation that are concerned with an EIB supported project. The complainant is not obliged to demonstrate that they are directly affected or that the policies are being violated by the specific project.

How to file a complaint?

In your complaint you should:

  • Include your name and your contact information.
  • Describe the circumstances of the complaint.
  • Mention what you seek to achieve through your complaint.

You should send by post to 

European Investment Bank Secretary General 

100 boulevard Konrad Adenauer 

L-2950 Luxembourg 

Or by email to complaints@eib.org  

Or online.

What should you expect?

The Complaints Mechanism will investigate if your complaint is well-founded and will attempt to facilitate resolution of the dispute. If it concludes that there was maladministration by the EIB, it might propose corrective or mitigation actions and recommendations or determine that the problem was solved during the complaints handling process and that no further action is required. 

If you are not satisfied, you can file an appeal with the EIB Complaints Mechanism or with the European Ombudsman.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - Independent Project Accountability Mechanism (IPAM)

What are the issues that can be dealt with?

Where you have suffered harm because a project supported by the EBRD did not respect the bank’s commitments to environmental and social responsibility. 

Who can file a complaint?

Individuals and civil society organisations who believe they are directly and personally affected by an EBRD Project.

How to file a complaint?

You should send it to IPAM's secure, encrypted online Request Form, available on the IPAM website.  In certain circumstances, IPAM can also consider complaints submitted by civil society organisations that are not directly or personally affected. These will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

EBRD Independent Project Accountability Mechanism

Attn: Victoria Marquez-Mees, Chief Accountability Officer

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

One Exchange Square

London EC2A 2JN

United Kingdom

Or by email to ipam@ebrd.com

What should you expect?

The IPAM will first attempt to achieve an agreement between you and the company that takes part in the project. It might also issue recommendations for the project and monitor their implementation. In addition, the IPAM also assesses the Bank’s compliance with its own policies, if the EBRD is found to be non-compliant, IPAM will propose changes to the project and the Bank’s procedures to address the non-compliance. 

Asian Development Bank Accountability Mechanism

Who can approach the ADB?

Any group of two or more people or a local representative of affected people, who are directly, materially, and adversely affected by a project supported by the ADB, including regarding the environment, involuntary resettlement, and indigenous peoples.

How to file a complaint?

A sample complaint form is available at www.adb.org.

You should send your complaint by post to:

Complaints Receiving Officer

Asian Development Bank (ADB) 

6 ADB Avenue Mandaluyong City 

1550 Philippines 

or by email to amcro@adb.org

What should you expect?

The respective department will conduct an assessment and attempt to bring together the disputing parties. If an agreement is reached, the Mechanism will monitor its implementation. The Mechanism might also provide the ADB’s management with recommendations for remedial actions.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank - Project-Affected People’s Mechanism

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has established a complaints mechanism, called Project-Affected People’s Mechanism (PPM). 

Who can file a complaint?

A complaint can be filed by people affected by an AIIB funded project and who believe they have been, or are likely to be, adversely affected by AIIB’s failure to implement and comply with its Environmental and Social Policy (ESP) during the due diligence stage of the project, project preparation or during AIIB’s oversight of the project. This mechanism should be used when concerns cannot be addressed satisfactorily through any project-level grievance redress mechanisms or AIIB Management’s processes. 

Who can file a complaint?

Two or more Project-affected people (Requestors) may file a submission. Requestors may also authorise an in-country representative (Authorised Representative) to file a submission on their behalf. This representative may be a relative, trusted individual or organisation. Note that you can request that the process is carried out confidentially!

How to file a complaint?

You can file a complaint online here. You can find a form here.

What should you expect?

The PPM might mediate a dispute by engaging the parties in dialogue, information sharing and joint fact finding. It might also recommend to the Bank’s management adequate measures in relation to environmental and social issues arising out of its funded projects.

Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Japan International Cooperation Agency

Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) share a complaints process called “Objection Procedures based on Environmental Guidelines”. The process is handled by the Office of the Examiner for Environmental Guidelines.

When should you raise an objection?

When a project funded by JBIC or JICA is causing or is likely to cause substantial damage due to non-compliance with the Environmental Guidelines.

Who can complain?

A complaint/request can be filed by two or more residents of the host country who have suffered actual and direct damage, or who are highly likely to suffer damage in the future by the project in question. The request can also be filed by an authorised representative.

Where should you send your request?

Contact Information

Examiners for the Guidelines
Secretariat of The Examiner for the Guidelines
Japan International Cooperation Agency
Nibancho Center Building
5-25, Niban-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8012, Japan

FAX: +81-03-5226-6973

E-mail: jicama-jigi@jica.go.jp

You can find more information as well as a sample request here.

What should you expect?

The examiner will investigate the case and will attempt to encourage dialogue between the parties. He might also recommend possible measures to cure non-compliance issues to the Executive Committee of JBIC. 

Export Credit Agencies/Development Finance Institutions

Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) are institutions established by different states, with the aim of providing financial support to companies operating abroad. By way of illustration, the UK has the Export Credits Guarantee Department, France has the French Development Agency, the Netherlands has the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO), and so on.  Some of those agencies have established grievance mechanisms, which you could resort to if a business funded by them, is abusing your human rights. The main function of those mechanisms is to restore dialogue between disputing parties in relation to environmental and social concerns stemming from the projects they fund.

The French Development Agency (AFD) 

The AFD has established an accountability mechanism called Environmental and Social Complaint Mechanism. 

The Complaint is to be sent by email using this form and to: reclamation@afd.fr 

Or by post to: 

Agence Française de Développement 

Secrétariat du Dispositif de Gestion des Réclamations Environnementales et Sociales 

5, Rue Roland Barthes 

75598 Paris Cedex 12 

France 

Or be delivered by hand at the headquarters or the agency.

The Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) 

The FMO has established the Independent Complaints Mechanism, which ensures the right to be heard for Complainants who feel affected by an FMO-Financed Operation, to enable resolution of disputes and assist FMO in drawing lessons learned for current and future operations. 

You may submit the complaint via e-mail: complaintsoffice@fmo.nl 

Or by mail/post to: 

Complaints Office

Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden

 N.V. P.O. Box 93060 

2509 AB, The Hague

The Netherlands

Or through the website: online form.

The German Investment Corporation (DEG) 

The DEG has developed an Independent Complaints Mechanism, open to individuals, groups, communities, or other parties to make a complaint if they believe they are, or may be, negatively affected by a project financed or planned by DEG. If requested, DEG will not reveal the identity of the complainants to the project sponsor and will jointly agree with the complainants on the process for handling the complaint. 

You may submit the complaint via the online form

Or by mail/post to: 

Complaints Office

DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH

PO Box 10 09 61

50449 Cologne

Germany 

Or by email to complaintsoffice@deginvest.de. You can find more information here: How to file a complaint.

The Canadian Export Development Agency 

The Canadian Export Development Agency as put in place a Compliance Officer to address complaints alleging violations of the funded company’s declaration on social responsibilities, which includes business ethics, environmental issues, transparency, employee engagement and community investment. Any individual or group may submit a complaint to EDC’s Compliance Officer when they have been, or are likely to be, affected by EDC’s policies on public disclosure of information, environmental reviews, human rights, and business ethics. 

You can send your complaint by post to: 

Compliance Officer

Export Development Canada

151 O’Connor Street

Ottawa ON K1A 1K3

Canada 

Or by email to complianceofficer@edc.ca 

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)

The DFC is a U.S. government agency that supports the private sector in development projects around the world. It has established the Office of Accountability to address environmental or social concerns and conflicts that emerge around DFC-supported projects, including environmental impacts, human rights, indigenous rights, and labour rights issues. The Office of Accountability provides an avenue for affected stakeholders (e.g., nearby communities and project workers) to raise such concerns and seek to have them addressed. 

You can send your request by email to accountability@dfc.gov. You may fill out this form and send it as an attachment to an email to accountability@dfc.gov

You can also post your complaint to: 

Director, Office of Accountability

 U.S. Development Finance Corporation

 1100 New York Avenue

NW, Washington, DC 20527 

USA

The Australian Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) 

The EFIC provides financial solutions and advice to Australian businesses and their overseas buyers. It has established the “Complaints Mechanism” to solve potential disputes out of the projects that it finances. 

You can make a complaint online by using the respective online complaints form, by emailing your complaint to complaint@exportfinance.gov.au.

Or by post to: 

Attention: Chief Risk Officer & General Counsel

Export Finance Australia

Level 10, 22 Pitt St. 

Sydney, NSW 2000 

Australia

Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) 

The NEXI is the official export credit agency of Japan. It has developed the Office of the Examiner for the Guidelines on Environmental and Social Considerations in Trade Insurance, to hear complaints regarding violations of the Guidelines through an Objection Procedure. 

You can file your request to the Examiner by post to: 

Chiyoda First Building 

5th Floor 3-8-1,
Nishikanda, Chiyoda-ku 

Tokyo 101-8359

Japan Nippon Export and Investment Insurance

Or by email to: kankyosinsayaku@nexi.go.jp

Visit the NEXI Examiner’s website

File an international complaint

File an International Complaint 

The abuse that you suffered may be committed by a business that is linked to another country. This might take place when the abuse you suffered was committed by a business which is not headquartered in Sri Lanka or a Sri Lankan business which is the local Sri Lankan subsidiary of a foreign corporation.

In those cases, you should consider whether it would be feasible to seek redress from the courts of the respective foreign state, OECD National Contact Points or the United Nations Development Program. 

File a complaint with a foreign court

The abuse that you suffered may be committed by a business that is linked to another country. This might take place when the abuse you suffered was committed by a business which is not headquartered in Sri Lanka or a Sri Lankan business which is the local Sri Lankan subsidiary of a foreign corporation.

In those cases, you should consider whether it would be feasible to seek redress from the courts of the respective foreign state. 

This might be beneficial for your case because:

  1. You can seek civil remedies in the foreign jurisdiction, by filing a claim in tort. Through this claim you can seek compensation for the damage you have suffered.
  2. In some cases, the Sri Lankan subsidiary which violated your rights may be insolvent, hence, pursuing the parent company who may have more resources to provide relief, may be more successful. In this case, you can, resort to making a claim in the jurisdiction of the parent company.
  3. The foreign jurisdiction might have specific laws for business wrongdoing, which might lead to criminal remedies. For example, many jurisdictions in Europe, where large companies are headquartered and their parent companies are based, have adopted corporate criminal liability legislation. This means that a corporate entity can be held accountable in a criminal court for different crimes, exactly like a natural person can. 
  4. Note also that different laws have been adopted and some are still developed in various countries, including the California Supply Chains Act, the UK Modern Slavery Act, and the French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law. 
  5. Depending on the jurisdiction, those laws might provide different options for your case, either at present or in the near future, given that the legal framework is evolving. 
  • In California, Australia, and the UK there are laws (the California Supply Chains Act, the UK Modern Slavery Act, and the Australia Modern Slavery Act) that require businesses to take measures to tackle forced labour and human trafficking and address any abuses during their operations.
  • In France, the Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law requires certain businesses to report on steps taken pursuant to a vigilance plan in relation to human rights and fundamental freedoms, health and security and protection of the environment. The law allows victims to seek damages if the company’s noncompliance has caused loss.
  • Germany and Norway have adopted laws requiring due diligence in relation to actual or potential adverse human rights impacts.
  1. In some cases, the Sri Lankan subsidiary that violated your rights may be insolvent, hence, pursuing the parent company, which may have more resources to provide relief, and that may be more successful.
  2. Sometimes, states prefer to take a soft stance on investors and corporations, even when they commit human rights or labour abuses, due to their pivotal role in the country’s economic development. This might result in a negative situation for a human rights defender trying to seek redress, including injustice. In this case, you may want to consider bringing you case abroad. 
  3. It might be the case that some jurisdictions suffer from longstanding corruption issues that influence and direct judges’ decisions and the overall delivery of justice. By resorting to a foreign jurisdiction, you might avoid that issue, provided that the jurisdiction scores well on the anti-corruption indexes.

However, you should be aware that resorting to a foreign jurisdiction will be a long process. It will necessitate resources, including financial resources and human resources such as experienced domestic lawyers who can collaborate with foreign lawyers from the jurisdiction in question. NGOs are another key player to contact, as they can potentially recommend pro bono lawyers and institutions willing to fund a case. 

Most cases never proceed to trial and are instead settled out of court. 

You may face legal and evidentiary hurdles along the way. However, you should always keep in mind that victims can resort to a foreign jurisdiction to seek redress, despite the handicaps. Even if not remedied through the court process, this strategy often provides international coverage on the issues and has at times resulted in an out of court settlement in favour of the victims. 

File a complaint with a National Contact Point

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has 38 member states. 

The member states of the OECD have adopted the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which regulate the activities of corporations headquartered in the member states both within the state, but also abroad, in cases where those corporations conduct activities in other countries. They include guidelines on human rights, labour rights, and the environment.

Member governments and non-members that adhere to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises (of which the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are a component) are required to establish a national contact point (NCP). 

NCP functions include promoting the guidelines, handling enquiries, and facilitating the resolution of problems arising from the non-observance of the guidelines. In this last function, the NCP receives “specific instance” complaints and provides a mediation process for the complainants, often civil society organisations or trade unions, to reach a settlement with the multinational enterprise.

Therefore, if you have suffered harm by the activities of a foreign corporation and this corporation is headquartered or operating from a country that has an active NCP, you can file a complaint (‘specific instance’) before that NCP.

You can find out which countries have NCPs, here

Who can submit a case?

Any individual or organisation with a legitimate interest in the matter can submit a case to an NCP regarding a company, operating in or from the country of the NCP, which has not observed the Guidelines.

What is the geographical reach of NCPs?

The Guidelines are addressed by adherent countries to ‘enterprises operating in or from their territories’ which enables NCPs to handle cases involving companies headquartered in other countries.

How to file a case within an NCP?

Filing a case with an NCP is very easy. Many NCPs provide a form to do so on their website. NCPs may however have different requirements for the initial submission. To find out more about the specific requirements of an NCP, make sure to visit the NCP’s website where you will find all the information needed.

Is representation necessary?

It is not necessary to be represented by a lawyer when filing a case to an NCP or when engaging in the specific instance process as a company. You can however seek legal representation and submit claims assisted by lawyers, NGOs, or trade unions.

Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC), Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC)  and OECD Watch are platforms of representative organisations that represent business, trade unions and civil society at the OECD, and may provide guidance or assistance in relation to specific instances.

Is there a fee for submitting a case?

No. As the NCP process is meant to be as accessible as possible, NCPs do not charge you when filing a case. 

What can be expected from an NCP submission?

NCPs are not courts. Participation in the process is voluntary and the NCP does not have the authority to order any remedial measure.

What NCPs will do is offer their “good offices” to the parties and seek to facilitate an agreement between the submitter and the company through non-adversarial methods such as mediation or conciliation. Regardless of whether an agreement is reached, NCPs can make recommendations to the company with respect to the Guidelines. Some NCPs also make explicit determinations as to whether a company has observed the Guidelines or not in the case at hand.

Most NCPs also follow up after the conclusion of the case to verify that any agreement and/or recommendations have been implemented.

In practice, NCPs have been able to facilitate such remedies as monetary compensation, in-kind reparation, changes in company policy, etc.

Afraid of retaliation?

Submitters of an NCP case should not be subject to undue pressures or adverse consequences. This was restated by the OECD Working Party on RBC in March 2020. If you fear retaliation, the NCPs can take measures to protect your identity in the process. Make sure to inform the NCP of your situation in such a case. 

United Nations Development Program 

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) develops programs in different parts of the world with the aim of eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities and exclusion. It has established two mechanisms to receive complaints related to its projects:

  1. The Social and Environmental Compliance Unit (SECU) where you can apply if you believe that the environment or your well-being may be affected by a UNDP-supported project. You can file your complaint by calling 001 (917) 207 4285, by post to: SECU/SRM, OAI, UNDP1 U.N. Plaza, 4th Floor, New York, NY USA 10017 or by email to: project.concerns@undp.org and secuhotline@undp.org (in any language).
  2. The Stakeholder Response Mechanism (SRM) helps project-affected stakeholders and UNDP’s partners (such as governments, non-governmental organisations, and businesses) to jointly address grievances or disputes related to the social and/or environmental impacts of UNDP-supported projects and programs. You can approach this mechanism if you have already raised your concerns with the implementing partners and/or with UNDP through standard channels for stakeholder consultation and engagement and have not been satisfied with the response. The request must relate to a UNDP-supported project and a possible environmental or social impact. You can file your request by phone calling 001-917-207-4285, by post at: SECU/SRM, OAI, UNDP 1 U.N. Plaza, 4th Floor, New York, NY USA 10017; or by email to project.concerns@undp.org

Complementary Strategies

Complementary Strategies

Achieving justice and remedy for the abuses that you suffered as a human rights defender working on business-related human rights abuses can be a lengthy and difficult process. It may require a combination of patience and strategy, and you may have to call on different resources to achieve your goal. A comprehensive approach may include using legal remedies together with other kinds of complementary strategies such as strategic campaigning, shareholder accountability strategies, grassroots mobilisation, coalition building or gaining media attention. 

It can be overwhelming to think about these considerations right after an abuse has taken place. Before thinking about the strategies, you want to use, try to make sure you are both physically and mentally safe and strong. 

Remember that you are not alone in this situation and that there are a range of organisations that can help you and provide you with immediate support in case of an emergency or financial, legal and psychological difficulties. See Resource Hub.

Building a Strategic Campaign

The first thing you may want to consider is building a strategic campaign. A strategic campaign aims to exert pressure on the different strategic relationships of a business or state actor. To develop a strategic campaign, you should carefully analyse your situation and decide which actions will have the most positive impact for your case. 

For example, you will have to decide whether you want to deal with your case publicly or privately, loudly or quietly, in a manner that takes into account the political and other sensitivities that exist in your country. The purpose of the strategic campaign is for you to get a clear picture of the situation, the direction you want to take your case and the concrete actions you can attempt to take to achieve this result. 

This whole process will be demanding on your resources and your mental and physical health so do not hesitate to reach out and ask for help from organisations that are used to dealing with similar cases! There is no shame in doing so and they can provide you with valuable expertise. See Resource Hub.

To build a strategic campaign you and your collaborators can follow these five steps:

1- Identify your objectives and overall goal: You can do this by asking yourself questions such as What do I want to happen? What do I hope to achieve?

Your overall goal will be the long term and general outcome that you want to achieve. To reach this goal you will need to identify smaller steps and specific milestones that need to take place, these will be your objectives. 

! When deciding on your objectives, make sure that they are SMART:

  • Specific - well detailed, well defined and action oriented;
  • Measurable- meaning that you can quantify and have an indicator of progress;
  • Achievable- meaning that they can be realistically accomplished in the proposed time-frame and with the resources you possess;
  • Relevant- meaning that they are relevant to your overall goal and work;
  • Time-Bound- meaning that you have set a clear deadline. 

2- Take the time to do a policy analysis and identify your audience: You can identify the policies and regulations that need to change, the key actions and stakeholders who can influence decisions and understand the overall political context that will influence your overall goal. You will further need to identify the stakeholders that can help you achieve your objectives. For example, who are the decision makers involved in the issue? What are the power dynamics at play? You should understand why and how each audience you approach can play a role in reaching your goal or can hinder it. Do not forget, when considering actors that could hinder your goal, to be as specific as possible and write down all details you can find on them including their names and functions. 

! Note that if some corporate actors can hinder your goal, other business representatives might help you achieve it! Businesses do not all have the same policies and attitudes when it comes to the respect of human rights and the environment. By interacting with business representatives and industry groups you might find valuable allies that can provide you with support in a variety of ways including testifying on your behalf, paying for bail and fines, or speaking up on your behalf. 

3- Identify your strengths, weaknesses and your message: It will be helpful for you to reflect on your internal strengths - skills, knowledge, resources, past experience - and weaknesses - missing networks, capacity for lobbying, contacts in the media or funding. Once you have identified these, you can search for opportunities that exist around you and will enable you to tackle your weaknesses and achieve your objectives. You should further consider the threats that could prevent you from achieving your objectives by asking yourself who are your opponents? Is there a negative political climate around your objective? Identifying them early will enable you to minimise the damage and safety risks they can present.

Once you have reflected on your strengths and weaknesses, you will need to identify what your audience needs to hear and present your message in a persuasive and appealing way. At their core, your messages should be the same, however, depending on the audience you will target, you will need to adapt the way they are framed. Most of the time, advocacy messages have two major components: (1) a calling for what is right and (2) a calling for the audience’s self-interest. You can find different methods to develop advocacy messages by using the key words “advocacy message” and “effective” on google.

4- Identify your tactics and activities: Depending on your situation and objectives, you will have to use different strategies and tactics to reach your goal. To choose the appropriate tactics for you to use, you can develop a ‘results chain’. The chain will start with your overall goal and outline the small steps you will need to take to get there. In your chain you can describe the assumptions you are making about the impact of the activities you plan on doing. This will help you reflect on your logic and might show you missing activities. It will further help you understand the kind of resources, be it financial or volunteers, that you will need to put your campaign into action. There are various organisations that you can reach out to for financial support. See Resource Hub. 

A few examples of activities include one-to-one meetings with high level representatives, the organisation of workshops and conferences, the drafting of a letter to international civil servants, a mass participation event engaging members of the community, social media posts or petitions. 

5- Monitor and Evaluate: Finally, you want to make sure that you are keeping track of the efforts you are putting into your campaign to ensure that they are working. You will also want to organise meetings to monitor the campaign and make sure it is going in the direction you want. 

Grassroots Mobilisation

Grassroots mobilisation is about bringing together individuals - in your district, region, or community - to influence a specific outcome. It is one of the key elements in successful campaign strategies. Grassroots mobilisation can be highly effective, as we have seen with the #SaveAru movement, because it uses collective action at a local level to influence outcomes at the national level. When every member of the community is participating in ways that they can, and are equally responsible and invested in the cause, the movement is truly powered by collective leadership. The costs of the movement are further distributed between all members of the community and thereby become more affordable. 

To build grassroots mobilisation, you and your collaborators can follow five simple steps: 

1- Identify the cause you want to address and make a plan of action;

2- Find supporters and volunteers to join your campaign; 

3- Reach out and partner with local organisations and community leaders;

4- Implement your plan of action; and

5- Regularly evaluate your progress. 

! Do not forget that, when it comes to mobilising members of a community, listening and understanding is more important than influencing and persuading. Having several short conversations will be more efficient than a one-off long speech to a general audience! 

To get started, you should identify the cause you want to address 

(1). The problem that you want to tackle most probably has a root cause. For example, it can be the lack of respect for human rights and the environment by a company which operates in proximity to your village and has threatened you; the absence of legislation by the government to protect people defending the environment; or the inefficiency of local government officials to implement a law, among other potential root causes. You need to identify the root cause you want to tackle so that you can clearly define the actions and steps you want to take to resolve the issue. Defining the outcome, you are looking to achieve will also be crucial to give your movement a clear direction. 

Once you have identified the cause you want to address, you can start creating awareness about your campaign and get interest from individuals in the community 

(2). Communication will play a key role here and you can use different approaches such as door-to-door canvassing, face-to-face conversations, emails, phone calls or social media to reach as many community members as possible. Having a campaign website or a Facebook page can be a useful tool to speed up this process and will make you gain important visibility online! It will further constitute a good opportunity to start building the next step by building a list of potential partner organisations. 

Using your website and the networks of members from the community you can approach like-minded local organisations and community leaders. See Resource Hub.

(3). To reach out to them you could offer to give a short presentation about your campaign during their events or simply provide your help during their rallies to get to know like-minded people and talk about your campaign. Usually, civil society organisations have dealt with or assisted defenders in similar contexts in the past. They can share their valuable experience with you, guide you on what to do, explain the law and your rights, guide you on where to find support and identify pro bono lawyers that can help you plead your case or provide support in building an advocacy campaign. 

! You should not ignore community leaders! Community leaders can be valuable allies that you can collaborate with to convey important messages of your campaign. If a community leader endorses the changes and propositions you raise, they will be more likely to be accepted and followed by the community and your movement will gain traction. Examples of community leaders that can help you are religious leaders, local political office holders or village figureheads. 

Once you have built a solid basis of supporters you can start implementing your plan of action 

(4). You can take a variety of actions as part of your plan including rallies, outdoor events, in-house groups, training sessions, organising for a group of volunteers to exchange with the local representative or staging a demonstration. No matter the activity that you choose to conduct, the key to success will be having successful communication. You can keep your supporters up to date on actions conducted through SMS, WhatsApp, and encrypted apps such as Telegram and/or post your announcements for events on your campaign website and Facebook page. Do not forget to communicate with your organisers and volunteer team to make sure everyone has the same information including the date, time, and place of the events. 

During your campaign, you can organise regular meetings with your supporters to evaluate the success of your actions 

(5). This will enable you to reflect on what went well and what did not and give you avenues for improving your upcoming events. At the end of the campaign, it will also enable you to see if you have reached your objectives. 

Coalition Building

Reaching out to other organisations and talking about your case will give you the opportunity to build coalitions. A coalition is a temporary alliance of individuals, groups or organisations that want to achieve a common goal. Forming a coalition with other organisations that have similar values, interests, and goals as your own will allow you to combine your resources and thereby have more impact than if you acted alone. It can be of great help to shift the balance of power and increase the impact of each of your organisation's efforts. Actions taken by the coalition can be focused towards bringing attention to your and other human rights defender cases in the media, requesting for a motion filed by lawyers to be considered or request the international community to act. 

To successfully build a coalition you need to take a series of steps.

  1. Before anything else, you should define what your main goal is. Your main goal will be at the centre of the initiative and organisations that you are going to approach are going to ask about it regularly. Ideally, you want to be able to present your goal in a manner that is easy to understand and appears attainable. To do so, you can present it through bullet points illustrating the key ideas and goals and condense it to one sentence. 
  2. Then you should identify your key stakeholders, leaders, and players. You should be strategic when choosing the organisations to enrol in your coalitions, recognising compatible interests between you, your organisation and other groups or organisations. Stakeholders may include local civil society organisations, international non-governmental organisations and national or international trade unions. 
  3. Once you have identified who you want to be a part of your coalition, you can start approaching and trying to mobilise them. You may need to demonstrate to the organisations that your goals are similar and compatible. You can also show them how working together will have a positive impact on everyone’s ability to reach their objectives and that the benefits from building a coalition will outweigh the costs. 
  4. While attempting to mobilise partner organisations, you must keep in mind that building a coalition can be a long process and that your short-term goals might transform into longer-term battles. Keep committed to your objectives, with a little flexibility, so you can take advantage of new and innovative opportunities to reach your goals. Also take into account that the level of commitment of your partner organisations will differ, and although it is perfectly normal, you should hold tight to the organisations that are in it for the long haul. To do so you can see them as a steering committee for your coalition and regularly require their inputs. 
  5. Once you have gathered all members of your coalition, you can host an event to bring all of them together and connect with one another, collaboratively discuss your goals, and show them the actions you had in mind. Adding value to your event can help attract participants. For example, you could invite a guest speaker, provide training, or build the event around a known human rights celebration. 
  6. As you will move forward with your coalition, keep in mind to follow up with your members. Regularly thanking them for their input and recognising their efforts will keep everyone motivated and encourage initiatives. You can achieve that by using email newsletters, posts on social media or SMS channels and face-to-face meetings

Bring media attention to your case

Another complementary strategy for your case may be to gain visibility and attention by getting media coverage. Before deciding if you want to use this strategy, you should ask yourself whether you want your case to be publicly known and talked about or if you would rather go about, it quietly. Gaining media coverage can play a pivotal role in presenting your case, promoting it in public debate and positively shaping public opinion in your favour. However, this may expose you to further retaliation, as companies may use strategic lawsuits against public participation (see section on SLAPPs) to try to silence you. For example, the company could bring a defamation suit against you, the journalist who interviewed you and/or the organisation that published the article. Importantly, you must be careful that the journalist does not reveal your current location so as not to compromise your safety.

To attract media coverage, your story should be prepared in such a way as to catch the attention of readers. You can do this by highlighting why your organisation exists, how important your work is to society and by providing details about the abuse that you have suffered. If you can, try to link your story to an issue that is currently talked about in the public space as this will be more likely to interest the media. Finally, if you can show how your story affects other people and has an impact on wider society, this will increase the interest of newspapers. 

Once your story is ready, you can use social media to promote it by publishing blog posts, Instagram stories, Facebook posts and/or tweets. This will enable you to gain public attention and establish your cause before getting traditional media interested in what you have to say. 

If you want the attention of mainstream media, you can collaborate with other national and international organisations to contact reporters. You can reach journalists by email, through their social networks (such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter) or through partner organisations. You will have a better chance of getting your interview request accepted if you choose journalists who are used to covering the same kind of story as yours. 

! Be aware that journalists can receive a lot of requests so keep your emails short and to the point! 

If you don't get a response to your first contact request, you can follow up by tweeting the reporter or trying to contact them by phone. Don't get discouraged as getting media attention can be a long process during which you may end up sending your story to twenty journalists before one responds. 

When a journalist becomes interested in your story, they will most likely want to talk to you in person. To make sure you are well prepared for the interview, keep in mind three key points you want to make and practice answering questions with a colleague. 

Once the interview is over, do not forget to thank the journalist for his or her time. Following the publication of the article, you can forward it to regional or national newspapers thereby gaining exposure and/or circulate it among your partner organisations.

Bring attention to your case to other businesses and industry groups

Although business-related human rights abuses find corporate actors at the heart of the human rights abuses, you should not forget that businesses and industry groups do not all have the same policies, attitudes, and views when it comes to the respect for human rights and the environment. 

You might want to look for allies in the private sector by reaching out to business representatives and industry groups and explain the issues you are facing. Private actors might become valuable allies who can provide you with support in a variety of ways including by testifying on your behalf, paying for bail and fines, or speaking up on your behalf.

Bring attention to your case at the international level

Equally important is to make your case known at international level. 

National and international non-governmental organisations are allies in your strategic campaign and have a fundamental role to play in channelling information to relevant institutions abroad. One of their main tasks is to submit the so-called shadow reports to international bodies or during the Universal Periodic Review Process. Those reports analyse how and if the government is realising human rights at the national level and provide the necessary background information to international organisations. In turn, if the shadow reports reveal information on serious and systematic violations of the rights protected by the conventions in the country concerned, international institutions can initiate inquiries or visits to the territory of a State Party. By making your case known to NGOs and INGOs, it can be included in their shadow report. Although this will not give you a tangible remedy, you will have added your brick to the wall of human rights in your country. 

You can also bring international attention to your case through the various organisations worldwide that work to protect human rights defenders - including Frontline DefendersProtect Defenders and Peace Brigades International. You can register your case with one of them, and they will identify the best ways to support you internationally. Be aware that they may publish something on their website or link you with other victims or experts worldwide. If your case is widely known, the offenders might hesitate to retaliate against you in the future. There are also many organisations that work on business and human rights issues that can share legal resources with you, both domestically and internationally. Most importantly, both kinds of organisations can direct you on where to find funding and donors to continue your legal case and to propose other resources necessary for your work as a human rights defender.

Bring attention to your case in political spheres

You can also contact political figures to draw attention to your case. For example, you can ask a foreign diplomat - by contacting the foreign ministry of the country in question or the embassy - to listen to your story, to come to your trial or simply to have a photo taken with you. This will show your abuser that your case is being taken seriously at the international level and may make them think carefully about retaliatory actions in the future. 

If you are uncomfortable with contacting diplomats of foreign countries, you can contact international civil servants instead. International civil servants are not linked to a specific country but rather to an organisation. To contact them, you can look up the offices of OHCHR, UNDP or the ILO in your country. These organisations often organise informal events such as consultations and webinars during which you can have the opportunity to raise your concerns and build a support network. 

Report to a Multi-Stakeholder/Industry Initiative

Report it to an Industry or Multi-stakeholder Initiative

Businesses often establish self-regulatory initiatives in the sector in which they operate, sometimes establishing industry-level grievance mechanisms. Those mechanisms aim to promote relevant human rights standards within a particular industry, as well as to provide a grievance mechanism for the victims.

In addition, businesses may participate in multi-stakeholder grievance initiatives along with governments, civil society, and other stakeholders. Those initiatives seek to facilitate dialogue among different stakeholder groups and address complaints in relation to the activities of participating businesses.

If your rights have been violated by a business, you can consider reporting the issue to any relevant industry or multi-stakeholder initiative, such as the ones below. The list is not exhaustive but indicates some of the main initiatives that contain a complaints avenue.

UN Global Compact

The UN Global Compact is a UN voluntary initiative which supports companies to “do business responsibly by aligning their strategies and operations everywhere with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.” Various businesses participate in the Global Compact and commit to respecting its standards. You can bring an allegation of a human rights abuse against a business that participates in it, by sending a letter to Global Compact Office at info@unglobalcompact.org. 

The UN Global Compact is more useful as a dialogue facilitation rather than as a complaint resolution mechanism.

More information is available here.

Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative 

The Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (‘EITI’) is a coalition of governments, companies, civil society groups, investors and international organisations which supports improved governance in resource-rich countries.

EITI Compliant countries are required to promote the minimum requirements set by EITI, and EITI Supporting companies are required to disclose information on their engagements with governments.

Grievances concerning abuses by states or businesses can be submitted in writing to the Chair requesting that the Members' Meeting considers a matter.

More information is available here.

International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) 

The International Council on Mining and Metals is an industry body, consisting of various metal and mining companies. Corporate members commit to implementing several principles and performance expectations, including to respect human rights and the interests, cultures, customs and values of workers and communities affected by their activities. 

If a mining or metal company, that participates to the ICMM, has acted in contravention of your human rights and this has harmed you, then you can consider filing a complaint with the Council. 

The Council will monitor the responses by the company concerned and, in some circumstances, will launch their own investigation.

More information is available here.

Ethical Trading Initiative ETI 

The Ethical Trading Initiative is an alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs promoting respect for workers’ rights. All corporate members of ETI agree to adopt the ETI Base Code of labour practice, which guarantees freely chosen working environments, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, safe and hygienic working conditions, prohibition of child labour, payment of living wages, non-excessive working hours, non-discrimination, regular employment, and prohibition of harsh and inhumane treatment.

ETI has developed a complaints procedure for alleged abuses of codes of labour practice in workplaces supplying ETI corporate members. 

Reporting an abuse to the ETI is carried out through an ETI member and usually through a relevant trade union or a voluntary organisation. Therefore, you can approach a relevant organisation, report your situation, and ask them to act on it by sending a complaint to the concerned ETI corporate member, putting the ETI secretariat in copy (eti@eti.org.uk). 

More information is available here.

Fair Labor Association 

The Fair Labor Association (FLA) is a multi-stakeholder initiative, which includes companies, universities, and civil society organisations, committed to protecting workers’ rights through adherence to international labour standards.

It has established a ‘Third Party Complaint’ procedure which allows any person, group, or organisation to report serious abuses of workers’ rights in facilities used by any company committed to FLA labour standards. Outcomes include reinstatement of unfairly dismissed workers with back pay and recognition of trade unions. Other examples are the establishment of training and education programs for management and workers and improved relations between workers and management at factories.

More information on how to submit a complaint here.

Responsible Business Alliance 

The Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) is an industry coalition dedicated to corporate social responsibility in global supply chains. The RBA has also set up the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) and the Responsible Labour Initiative (RLI). 

  • RMI: the initiative seeks to contribute to mitigating the social and environmental impacts of extraction and processing of raw materials in supply chains, leveraging direct and indirect partnerships, and using international standards. 
  • RLI: is a multi-industry, multi-stakeholder initiative focused on ensuring that the rights of workers vulnerable to forced labour in global supply chains are consistently respected and promoted. 

Member companies are required to adhere to the RBA Code of Conduct, the RBA has a range of tools to promote accountability including requesting documentation proving compliance, requiring an internal audit, or removing the member from the RBA.  If the company which has abused your rights is a member of the RBA, you can send a complaint about the abuse via the “worker voice platform” which features a worker survey tool, audit support, a mobile learning app, and a grievance reporting mechanism. Complaints can also be reported by members of the public via this form.    

The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights 

The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights is a multi-stakeholder initiative, comprised of governments, non-governmental organisations and extractive companies that promote the implementation of a set of principles that guide companies on providing security for their operations while respecting human rights. Participants commit to conducting risk assessments and to ensuring that security provisions in extractive undertakings are consistent with human rights principles. 

Consequently, if any of your rights have been violated by a business that participates in the scheme, you can raise the issue with a participating NGO, such as The Fund for Peace, Human Rights Watch, International Alert, LITE-Africa, New Nigeria Foundation, Pact, Partners for Democratic Change International, Partnership Africa Canada, Pax, Search for Common Ground. The NGO can then raise the issue with the members of the Voluntary Principles. However, a tangible remedy for your individual case should not be expected.

More information is available here Why implement the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights: Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.