May 2011

CSR Counsellor review process seeks conciliatory approach

Consultation drives creation of dispute resolution process

By Heather Ednie

The Canadian Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor has, after an eight-month period of extensive consultation and best practice research, launched a new dispute resolution process to enable companies and communities to build solutions to CSR-related challenges. In the course of creating the mechanism, says Marketa Evans, the CSR Counsellor, one of the fundamental questions that various stakeholders and the Office had to address was: Given that the review process is voluntary, how should the Office proceed?

Building the process

“I began with a lot of informal outreach to civil society, to industry and to socially conscious investors, and from there, began a formal consultation process,” explains Evans. “At the same time, we benchmarked dispute mechanisms globally. There are a lot of mechanisms out there – we aimed to identify key lessons from those examples, to understand the critiques of the various processes and determine what best to model ourselves on.”

The main complaints about other mechanisms included ineffective processes, poor outcomes, perceived bias and weak infrastructures. “We really tried to do our homework, looking at all angles,” Evans adds. “The broad consensus demand was for a process that could deliver results on the ground.”

The review process applies to individuals, groups or communities that believe that they have been adversely affected by actions of a Canadian mining, oil or gas company. As well, if a Canadian extractive sector company deems that it is the subject of unfounded accusations with regards to its conduct abroad, it may make a request for review.

The process is based on performance standards endorsed by the Government of Canada including: the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards; the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights; The Global Reporting Initiative; and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

It is designed to promote dialogue among the stakeholders to find solutions to disputes between parties utilizing a cooperative problem-solving approach. While the Office of the Extractive Sector has no adjudicative reach, it can conduct reviews and provide advice on the endorsed standards. Its goal is to act as an honest broker that brings stakeholders together to address problems and resolve disputes.

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