Establishment and Maintenance of a Grievance Mechanism
Financiers should not only maintain an independent grievance mechanism for all the projects that they fund but also require Developers and Contractors to establish a grievance mechanism in order to collect and address queries, concerns, and complaints from all stakeholders in a predictable, timely, and transparent manner. Each grievance mechanism can serve as an objective official process for companies to answer queries related to proposed or ongoing projects; resolve concerning issues and disputes caused by such projects; and review complaints regarding their compliance with internal policies and procedures, as well as the laws and regulations formulated by Chinese Industry Associations and Regulators, and the Host Country Government. Financiers’, Developers’, and Contractors’ grievance mechanisms should be gender-sensitive, culturally appropriate, and readily accessible to Affected People, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)/Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs), the Media, Researchers/Experts, and other key stakeholders.
The establishment of formal grievance mechanisms ensures that key stakeholders have the option to bring queries/concerns/complaints — either openly or anonymously — to the attention of the Financiers, Developers, and Contractors that are backing, designing, implementing, and operating each project. In turn, maintaining grievance mechanisms throughout the project life cycle enables Developers, Contractors, and Financiers to receive and resolve any queries, concerns, and complaints from Affected People, among other key stakeholders.
For Overseas Projects:
- Call on Developers and Contractors engaged in projects with significant environmental and social risks to set up a grievance mechanism in order to promptly respond to “demands” from Affected People, CSOs/NGOs, and other key stakeholders.1
- Establish an “appeal response mechanism” for credit granting or investments involving major environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks.2
- Proactively share complete information related to this mechanism in a timely manner.
- When necessary, engage a qualified and independent third party to attest to, evaluate, or audit Financiers’ activities in fulfilling their ESG responsibilities.
Contractors and Developers should:
- Create a transparent, “easy-to-use” grievance mechanism that is mindful of community members’ education levels and that allows for both open and anonymous submissions.3 The mechanism should cover business practices and adverse impacts on human rights throughout the life cycle of a project.4
- Review complaints in accordance with relevant regulations.5
- Actively respond to and manage complaints from Affected People and other stakeholders.6
- Allow any interested party to voice concerns without fear of retaliation.7
- Develop predictable and clear procedures to categorize queries/concerns/complaints, equip a diverse team for resolving issues, and collaborate with CSOs/NGOs on ensuring responses and solutions are culturally appropriate. Each step (e.g., submission, acknowledgment, response, and resolution) in the process should have a predetermined time frame.8
- Provide training to management and relevant staff to ensure proper compliance and integrity while implementing the grievance mechanism.9
- Designate personnel or departments to record and address queries/concerns/complaints in a timely manner.10
- Appoint community liaisons to regularly collect queries/concerns/complaints, as well as feedback on the grievance mechanism, from local communities and other host country stakeholders.
- Clearly define the authority of all personnel, including community liaisons, or departments since some issues may be time sensitive.
- Regularly review procedures and leave room for complainants to pursue other avenues for appeals.11
Chinese Industry Associations and Regulators should:
- Establish industry-wide grievance mechanisms to safeguard the rights and interests of people affected by BRI projects in host countries.12
- The Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) operates an "Overseas Business Complaint Center for Chinese Enterprises," which provides policy information and consultation services on how to protect the rights and interests of Chinese enterprises and individuals.13
- A similar mechanism could be set up for Affected People.
- Establish and maintain an independent grievance mechanism to respond to and resolve Affected People’s queries/concerns/complaints.
- Through two separate offices, the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Accountability Mechanism assists Affected People in finding solutions to their problems and reviews projects’ compliance with internal policies and procedures. ADB also maintains a public registry with up-to-date information about the status of each complaint.14
- The Complaints-resolution, Evaluation and Integrity Unit (CEIU) independently reviews submissions to the Project-affected People’s Mechanism (PPM) from Affected People who believe they have been or are likely to be adversely affected by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s (AIIB) failure to implement its Environmental and Social Policy (ESP). Affected People can access the PPM when their concerns have not been addressed through either the project-level grievance mechanisms or the AIIB’s management processes.15
- Led by the Accountability Mechanism Secretary, the World Bank Accountability Mechanism is an independent body to which Affected People can express their concerns and seek recourse. Its Inspection Panel responds to complaints from Affected People regarding the Bank’s noncompliance with environmental and social policies and procedures. Meanwhile, its Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) facilitates the resolutions of disputes between Developers/Contractors and complainants in a voluntary, independent, and time-bound manner.16
- Require Developers and Contractors to establish a project-level grievance mechanism, which would focus on environmental and social impacts, including the management of involuntary resettlement and livelihood as well as the protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights, for each project.
Developers and Contractors should:
- During the pre-project planning phase, work with Affected People and other host country stakeholders to establish a project-level grievance mechanism, which would focus on environmental and social impacts for each project.
- Design the grievance mechanism to suit the specific needs of local communities and vulnerable groups including, but not limited to, Indigenous peoples, women, and the elderly.
- Ensure their grievance mechanism — including the number of responsible personnel and the authority of such personnel to provide assistance — is scaled to the scope and risks of the project.
- Develop procedures to formally register, screen, categorize, investigate, respond to, and resolve queries/concerns/complaints.
- Determine the estimated time frame for each step in the process.
- Require personnel to record when complaints were received, when and what responses were given, when and what actions were taken, and whether these responses and actions were sufficient.
- Ensure that the language used to describe this process should be understandable to Affected People and other key stakeholders involved in or impacted by each project.
- Require personnel to publish responses and solutions on their websites on a designated database for the grievance mechanism, and redact personal information for complainants who request anonymity.
- Publicize procedures on their websites and social media accounts, as well as at the city/town/village/provincial halls on how to utilize the mechanism and the estimated time frame for each step.
- Offer multiple modes of contact for Affected People and other key stakeholders to submit queries/concerns/complaints.
- At least one mode of contact should be oral, such as a toll-free hotline for audio messages or phone calls.
- At least one mode of contact should be written, such as a physical suggestion box at the city/town/village/provincial halls or either a mailing address or fax number for written correspondence.
- At least one mode of contact should be virtual, such as an email address for virtual correspondence, an online form embedded into their website, or social media accounts or telephone numbers for direct text messages.
- Allow Affected People and other key stakeholders to utilize their preferred mode of contact.
- Offer at least one mode of contact for Affected People and other key stakeholders to anonymously submit queries/concerns/complaints.
- Designate specific personnel to be responsible for maintaining the grievance mechanism.
- Provide training to these personnel on how to ensure that queries/concerns/complaints are responded to and resolved in ways that are not only objective, consistent, and discreet but also mindful of the needs of Affected People — and particularly vulnerable groups.
- Disclose information about which personnel are in charge of reviewing and responding to queries/concerns/complaints.
Throughout the pre-project planning, project implementation, and project operations phases, Developers’ and Contractors’ Designated Personnel should:
- Directly inform Affected People and other key stakeholders of the availability of the grievance mechanism.
- Ensure that Affected People and other host country stakeholders do not incur costs nor face retribution for submitting queries/concerns/complaints and provide written assurances to this effect.
- Regularly check all modes of contact to collect and formally register queries/concerns/complaints in a public online database, according to the grievance mechanism’s official procedures.
- Commit to the predetermined time frames for each step in the process.
- Hire an Interpreter to translate queries/concerns/complaints from the local language(s) and dialect(s) into English or Chinese, as necessary.
- Draw upon prior training and follow official procedures for writing responses, identifying solutions, and ensuring that Affected People are able to meaningfully engage with the grievance resolution process. Maintain a record of each step in the process.
- Consider Indigenous peoples’ own forms of judicial recourse or customary dispute settlement mechanisms, if the project affects these communities.
- This could involve more verbal reporting, which would be complemented by written procedures and fully documented by Developers and Contractors.
- Work with an Interpreter to translate responses into the local dialect(s) and language(s), including Indigenous and minority languages, so that complainants will be able to understand the responses.
- Refer complainants to possible third-party avenues for appeals (e.g., a grievance mechanism run by a Financier, an industry-wide grievance mechanism that may be run by an Industry Association or Regulator, an organization that specializes in dispute mediation, and quasi-judicial or judicial systems in the host country), in case they are unsatisfied with the response or if a resolution cannot be reached successfully.
- Disclose reports with statistics, case studies, or other information about how queries/concerns/complaints were handled, while respecting the confidentiality of Affected People and other host country stakeholders.
- Regularly revisit procedures and policies for the grievance mechanism to identify room for future improvement.
- Consider allowing independent Experts to routinely verify records of queries/concerns/complaints.17
- During the pre-project planning phase, ask the Developers and Contractors about the availability of a grievance mechanism. This mechanism should be established and you should receive information about how it works before construction commences.
- If a formal project-level grievance mechanism is available, submit queries/concerns/complaints throughout the project life cycle.
- Determine the ideal remedy or form of redress.
- Research and collect evidence for each query/concern/complaint. Identify the Laws, Policies, & Guidelines that support your query/concern/complaint.
- Give yourself time to draft the query/concern/complaint. Consider collaborating with other community members or a CSO/NGO.
- Maintain a record of the date and content of your own query/concern/complaint to Developers and Contractors.
- Request written or digital confirmation of receipt from Developers and Contractors. If you submit a query/concern/complaint over the phone, keep a record of the contact details of the person who received your query/concern/complaint.
- If you are unable to either understand the language in the grievance mechanism or access the modes of contact offered by the Developers and Contractors, reach out to a Community Leader or CSO/NGO for assistance.
- If you have received a response but a solution is ongoing, consider reaching out to a third-party organization that specializes in dispute mediation.
- If issues remain unresolved after you receive a formal response and the Developer and Contractor has taken action, revise your initial query/concern/complaint to address Financiers’ failures to fulfill major ESG responsibilities. Such failures could, for example, involve due diligence and oversight related to Developers and Contractors’ environmental and social assessment and management (ESAM).
- Maintain a record of the date and content of your new query/concern/complaint which you can submit to each Financier’s “appeal response mechanism.”
- If you are unable to either understand the language in the grievance mechanism or access the modes of contact offered by Financiers, reach out to a Community Leader or CSO/NGO for assistance.
- If issues remain unresolved after you receive a formal response and the Financier takes action to address your newer query/concern/complaint, look to additional avenues for appeals detailed below.
- If a formal grievance mechanism run by Developers and Contractors is not available, submit queries/concerns/complaints through your preferred mode of contact. See Stakeholders to identify the available mode(s) of contact.
- Request that the Developers and Contractors establish a grievance mechanism before construction can begin.
- Ask the Developers and Contractors about other possible avenues for submitting queries/concerns/complaints.
- If you are unable to communicate with the Developers and Contractors, reach out to a Community Leader or CSO/NGO for assistance.
- Consider tailoring the content of this query/concern/complaint for submission to Financiers’ “appeal response mechanisms.”
- Before pursuing other avenues for queries/concerns/complaints and appeals:
- Consult a Community Leader, CSO/NGO, Local Government Authority, and/or the nearest Chinese Embassy/Consulate on the availability of additional grievance mechanisms.
- Consult a Community Leader and/or a CSO/NGO (e.g., legal aid) on the possibility of seeking redress through quasi-judicial or judicial systems in your country.
- Consult a Community Leader, CSO/NGO, Local Government Authority, and/or the nearest Chinese Embassy/Consulate on the availability of additional grievance mechanisms.
- For Indigenous peoples, ask Developers and Contractors about using your community’s own form of judicial recourse or customary dispute settlement mechanism.
Establishing and maintaining an accessible project-level grievance mechanism that accepts anonymous and direct queries/concerns/complaints throughout the project life cycle would:
- Advance high-quality development along the BRI.
- Align Financiers’, Developers’, and Contractors’ practices for BRI projects with Chinese policies and guidelines for grievance mechanisms, as well as international best practices.
- Provide a clear and formal channel of communication between Financiers, Developers, and Contractors on the one hand, and local communities, host country stakeholders, and other third-party stakeholders on the other.
- Increase transparency and accountability of project-related operations.
- Build trust and understanding among local communities, host country stakeholders, and other third-party stakeholders.
- Encourage the fulfillment of promises, commitments, and requirements on ESAM determined in the pre-project planning phase.
- Improve the overall quality of each project. Ensure local and Indigenous knowledge, expertise, and practices inform project decision-making, implementation, and operations.
- Provide solutions to community concerns that could otherwise escalate and become major issues impacting a project’s success.
- Drive people-oriented progress and further green development.
- Reduce the risk of protests, damage, or other forms of conflict during the project implementation and operations phases.
- Curb significant commercial costs from delays caused by social upheaval, especially during the project implementation and operations phases.
- Bolster Developers’ and Contractors’ annual company rankings or credit ratings for observing host country laws and regulations; prioritizing ESG factors; and fulfilling other social responsibilities.
- Asian Development Bank (ADB), “Accountability Mechanism Policy,” 2012, View the PDF.
- Asian Development Bank (ADB), “A Sourcebook on the Compliance Review Function of ADB’s Accountability Mechanism,” June 2019, View the PDF, View the Guidebook for ADB Management and Staff, View the Guidebook for Private Sector Borrowers, View the Guidebook for Governments, or View the Guidebook for Affected People and CSOs/NGOs.
- Asian Development Bank (ADB), "Filing a Complaint," Accountability Mechanism, View the Website, View the Sample Complaint Letter, or View the Complaint Form.
- Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), "AIIB Policy on the Project-affected People’s Mechanism," December 7, 2018, View the PDF.
- Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), "File Your Submission," Project-affected People’s Mechanism, View the Sample Submission Form or View the Website.
- Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), "Terms of Reference for the Complaints-resolution, Evaluation and Integrity Unit," July 10, 2019, View the PDF.
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), "ESMS Grievance Mechanism - Guidance Note," Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS), Version 2.1, October 2020, View the PDF or View the Complaint Form Template.
- Inspection Panel, "Complaint (Request for Inspection) Form," World Bank Group, View the PDF.
- Inspection Panel, "How to File a Request For Inspection to the World Bank Inspection Panel: General Guidelines," View the PDF.
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “Project-level GRM - Sample Terms of Reference,” UNDP Social and Environmental Standards, 2016, View the PDF.
- World Bank, “Grievance Redress Mechanism Checklist,” October 2020, View the PDF.
- Accountability Counsel et al., “Guiding Practice from the Policies of Independent Accountability Mechanisms,” Good Policy Paper, December 2021, View the PDF.
- Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), “10 Steps to Filing A Complaint,” View the Website.
- David Post and Sanjay Agarwal, “Part 2: The Practice of Grievance Redress,” in Feedback Matters: Designing Effective Grievance Redress Mechanisms for Bank-Financed Projects, Social Development Department, World Bank, View the PDF.
- Inclusive Development International (IDI), “Using Non-Judicial Grievance Mechanisms,” Following the Money, 2021, View the Website.
- Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), "Guide for Independent Accountability Mechanisms on Measures to Address the Risk of Reprisals in Complaint Management: A Practical Toolkit," 2019, View the PDF.
- International Finance Corporation (IFC), “Addressing Grievances from Project-Affected Communities: Guidance for Projects and Companies on Designing Grievance Mechanisms,” in Good Practice Note 7, September 2009, View the PDF.
- International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Inter-American Investment Corporation (IDB Invest), "Addressing the Risks of Retaliation Against Project Stakeholders," Good Practice Note for the Private Sector, 2021, View the PDF.
- International Finance Corporation (IFC), “Supporting Companies to Develop and Manage Community-Based Grievance and Feedback Mechanisms Regarding Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment,” January 2022, View the PDF.
- European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), "Grievance Management," Guidance Note, May 2012, View the PDF.
- Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO), “Advisory Note: A Guide to Designing and Implementing Grievance Mechanisms for Development Projects,” for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and Members of the World Bank Group, 2008, View the PDF.
- United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect, and Remedy’ Framework,” 2011, View the PDF.
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “Supplemental Guidance: Grievance Redress Mechanisms,” for Guidance Note: Stakeholder Engagement, UNDP Social and Environmental Standards (SES), October 2017, View the PDF.
- Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), “Company Response Mechanism,” View the Database.
- International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), “Dispute or Dialogue? Community Perspectives on Company-Led Grievance Mechanisms,” edited by Emma Wilson and Emma Blackmore, 2013, View the PDF.
- Keith Fitzgerald, “Building Capacity for Grievance Redress Mechanisms,” Complaint Handling in Development Projects, Office of the Special Project Facilitator, Asian Development Bank (ADB), April 2010, View the PDF.
1 China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) and China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) (now China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC)), “Guidelines on Regulating the Banking Industry in Serving Enterprises’ Overseas Development and Strengthening Risk Control,” January 2017.
3 SynTao and China International Contractors Association (CHINCA), “Community Engagement Handbook for Chinese International Contractors-北京商道纵横信息科技有限责任公司,” 2021. The following policies reference grievance mechanisms: China Chamber of Commerce Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers & Exporters (CCCMC), “Guidelines for Social Responsibility in Outbound Mining Investments,” 2017; China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG), "Sustainable Development Policy," 2017. The following guideline suggests the development of an “open and transparent complaint procedure”: CHINCA, “Draft Revisions to Guide on Social Responsibility for Chinese International Contractors,” July 2021.
4 CCCMC et al., “Guidance for Sustainable Natural Rubber,” 2017; CCCMC, “Outbound Mining Investments.”
5 Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina), “Announcement on Establishing Compliance Reporting Hotline and Email,” November 2017.
6 Sinohydro, “Sustainable Development Policy,” 2014; China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund (CAF), “Social Responsibility and Environmental Protection Guidelines for Investments in the ASEAN Region,” 2014.
7 Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) and Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI), “Cobalt Refiner Supply Chain Due Diligence Standard (version 2.0),” 2021; PowerChina, “Compliance Reporting Hotline and Email.”
8 SynTao and CHINCA, “Community Engagement Handbook.”
9 CCCMC, “Outbound Mining Investments.”
10 SynTao and CHINCA, “Community Engagement Handbook.”
12 Adapted from CCCMC, “Chinese Due Diligence Guidelines for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains,” 2015.
13 Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), “Complaint Center," View the Website.
14 Asian Development Bank (ADB), "Accountability Mechanism," View the Website.
15 Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), "Project-affected People's Mechanism (PPM)," View the Website.
16 World Bank, "Accountability Mechanism," View the Website.
17 International Best Practice is based on Asian Development Bank (ADB), "Safeguard Policy Statement," 2009; Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), "Environmental and Social Framework," 2021; World Bank, "Environmental and Social Framework," 2018.