More details on the project

The IGMs project is a study in law and about law. The starting point of the project is that though international law was primarily intended only as the legal framework of inter-state relations, made by and for states, it is more and more called upon to regulate a number of transnational activities, not necessarily performed by states. In addition, in a global governance context international law-making mobilizes actors other than states. At the same time, for lack of direct legal connection between the varied actors involved in transnational activities, people affected by these activities often have no appropriate remedy at their disposal to ask directly some transnational actors to account for their impacts. In other words, decisions taken at the international / transnational level (or lack of) can have consequences that are disregarded by the system. The IGMs project intends to explore what can be seen as regulation and justiciability ‘gaps’ in international law and decision-making through an in-depth study of certain international mechanisms that seem to fill some of these gaps. The project focuses on international grievance mechanisms (IGMs). IGMs are not tribunals. They are permanent international mechanisms created by non-binding international instruments that nevertheless allow people affected or potentially affected to ask directly some entities – either public or not – to account for the impacts of their activities when no international responsibility / liability mechanism can be triggered.

There are two types of IGMs that meet this definition:

– Grievance mechanisms created by international organizations. Currently, only development banks have created IGMs: the Inspection Panel and the Compliance-Advisor Ombudsman for the World Bank Group; the Independent Review Mechanism for the African Development Bank; the Accountability Mechanism of the Asian Development Bank; the Project Complaint Mechanism for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism for the Inter-American Development Bank. They examine the requests of people affected or potentially affected by the development projects that these banks support.

– The grievance mechanism set up by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (‘OECD’) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The Guidelines provide for the creation of National Contact Points (‘NCPs’) in adhering countries. NCPs can examine « specific instances » relating to the implementation of the Guidelines by enterprises operating on and from the territory of adhering countries, raised by the business community, worker organizations, other non-governmental organizations and other interested parties.

This project makes the hypothesis that an in-depth study of these ‘off the beaten track’ mechanisms can contribute to the understanding of the mutations international law and justice are experiencing in the global governance context. Consequently, the project requires to study the whys and hows of the IGMs, both by analyzing their constitutive instruments and the cases they have examined, and by exploring the perception the different actors of the IGMs (creators / reviewers of the mechanisms, practitioners « sitting » in the IGMs, plaintiffs and entities implicated by grievances) have of the IGMs’ role, via an interview campaign.

Besides the scholarly contributions and presentations it will give birth to, the project is expected to provide all kinds of actors involved in the IGMs with a better understanding of the functioning, role and specificities of the studied international grievance mechanisms, and of the role they play in the current international governance of transnational activities and could play in the future. It will also result in a database of the cases brought before the studied mechanisms.

Want to know more about (legal) technical details? Click here to download a more detailed version of the initial project.