The National Contact Points of the
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
« The National Contact Point will contribute to the resolution of issues
that arise relating to implementation of the Guidelines in specific instances
in a manner that is impartial, predictable, equitable and compatible with the
principles and standards of the Guidelines. The NCP will offer a forum for
discussion and assist the business community, worker organisations, other
non-governmental organisations, and other interested parties concerned to
deal with the issues raised in an efficient and timely manner and in
accordance with applicable law » (*)
NCP’s are the grievance mechanisms set up by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD MNEs Guidelines). Complaints, called « specific instances, » can be brought before the NCP of an adhering country by the business community, worker organisations, non-governmental organisations, and other interested parties.
It is important to note that the multinational enterprises (MNEs) that might be pointed at are « enterprises operating on [the] territor[y of adhering governments] (…) wherever they operate (p. 17, emphasis added.) » Therefore, specific instances can relate to activities of MNEs that are conducted in non-adhering countries, provided that the MNE at issue is based in an adhering country. This country’s NCP will have mandate to examine the specific instance. In addition, because of the multinational character of the concerned enterprises and of the potential complexity of their structure, chain of command and/or supply chains, it is allowed to take the case before several NCPs in several adhering countries, for example about the operations of subsidiaries of a same parent company. An example of this possibility is the submission of a same complaint before the Dutch and Argentinian NCPs about the activities of the Shell Capsa oil refinery in Argentina. Likewise, it is allowed to bring a case before different NCPs about the same operation made by different companies originating from adhering countries, who jointly own a local company. For example, several specific instances were brought by several NGOs before the French, Luxembourger and Belgian NCPs against the companies Bolloré (France), Financière du Champ de Mars (Belgium), SOCFINAL and Intercultures (Luxembourg) who jointly control SOCAPALM, one of the main oil palm producer in Cameroon. When different NCPs are submitted like-complaints and if one of the NCPs believes the specific instance merits further examination, the triggered NCPs are expected to cooperate (Commentary on the Implementation Procedures of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, pp. 82-83.)
The specific instance procedure is a 3-step process:
- First step – initial assessment
When a complaint is submitted to an NCP, the NCP must conduct an initial assessment as to whether the issues raised by the complaint merit further examination;
- Second step – good offices, mediation, consultation
If the NCP determines that the case merits further examination, it endavours to help finding an agreed solution through good offices, mediation or consultation;
- Third step – final statement
The NCP issues a final report:
– if the NCP finds that the case does not warrant further examination, the report provides a reasoned decision why it is so;
– if the parties to the specific instance have found a negotiated solution, the report describes the issues at stake, the procedure and the agreed solution, in so far as the parties agree to make these elements publicly available;
– if no agreement was reached or if a party does not want to participate in the procedure, the report describes the reason the case merited further examination and the steps taken. The NCP can make recommendations on the implementation of the Guidelines.
In any case, the final report has no legal binding force in itself.
Although under the Guidelines adhering States commit to establish a NCP, the OECD Guidelines give an outline of the specific instances procedure but do not go into much detail, and the Commentary on the Implementation Procedures of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which follows the Procedural Guidance given by the Guidelines, is for indicative purposes only. Each adhering State’s NCP has its own mandate and structure. As a result, different NCPs in different countries may have quite different constitutions and powers. Unsurprisingly, NCPs’ practice is quite heterogeneous and all the more opaque than NCPs do not always clearly state the reasons why they believe the case is ineligible, not to mention the cases where the procedure remained stuck at the initial assessment step for no explained reason (1).
If you want to submit a specific instance to one or several NCPs, it is therefore highly recommended that you visit the website of these NCPs to check what their procedure is. You’ll find the links and contact details here.
It is also highly recommended to start your journey on the OECD Watch website, which provides very concrete help for filing a complaint , including tips on strategic considerations and an online Case Check tool to assist potential complainants in deciding whether the OECD Guidelines can be used.
Notes (*) 2011 OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, Procedural Guidance, para. C, p. 72. (1) See J. Oldenziel, J. Wilde-Ramsing, P. Feeney, OECD Watch, 10 Year On. Assessing the contribution of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to responsible business conduct, OECD Watch (2010). This report has also a French and a Spanish version.