Engaging parties in mediation to resolve responsible business conflicts was the main topic when Norway chaired the 13th Annual Meeting of OECD National Contact Points in Paris from 19 – 20 June.


The parties to the Cermaq case, here represented by from left: Jan Thomas Odegard (Friends of the Earth Norway), Gunhild Orstavik and Siri Luthen (ForUM) and Lise Bergan (Cermaq), presented their experiences with mediation in Paris on 20 June. The parties agreed on a joint statement after mediation in the Norwegian OECD NCP in August 2011. (Photo: NCP Norway)

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Engaging parties in mediation to resolve responsible business conflicts was the main topic when Norway chaired the 13th Annual Meeting of OECD National Contact Points in Paris from 19 – 20 June.

– Mediation can lead to more concrete and lasting results when companies are alleged to have failed to respect human rights or the environment, says chair of the meeting and Head of OECD NCP Norway Secretariat, Hege Rottingen.

OECD National Contact Points increasingly succeed in resolving responsible business conflicts through dialogue and mediation; however, only a minority of the 44 national contact points have yet to achieve such results. Norway is one of these. In Paris, stakeholders such as the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the World Bank all pointed to the OECD NCPs as an important non-judicial grievance mechanism in efforts to prevent companies worldwide from causing or contributing to violations of human rights, as well as to solve conflicts related to alleged violations of human rights that involve companies The 44 national contact points can in certain circumstances also handle complaints against companies in countries without an NCP. For example, the Norwegian NCP has handled a case against a Norwegian-owned company in the Philippines.

The discussion in Paris showed that OECD National Contact Points are starting to operate as effective grievance mechanisms, and that we do so most effectively when we operate as an impartial but constructive problem solver, says Hege Rottingen.

However, both the Norwegian NCP and other NCPs have a long way to go before we can be satisfied. We still have much to learn, and it’s important that the NCPs move forward collaborating with each other, she adds.

Shared mediation experiences

Norway is one of the few countries with recently concluded cases by mediation. At the Annual Meeting all NCPs participated in a mediation capacity building session moderated by David Plumb from the Consensus Building Institute (CBI). Norway presented its case together with NCPs Chile and Canada, and together with Friends of the Earth Norway, ForUM and Cermaq ASA. In addition, the British and the Dutch NCPs each presented cases that have recently been concluded with an agreement or a joint statement.

The session at the OECD showed that although the manner in which different NCPs and different parties achieve a mediated solution may vary, it is important for NCPs to act as problem solvers and to bring the parties into dialogue with one another, she adds.

In an open session the OECD’s advisory committees from business (BIAC), trade unions (TUAC) and civil society (OECD Watch) shared their views on the OECD Guidelines and the OECD National Contact Points. While BIAC highlighted that the NCP procedure should be presented as a mediation procedure, the OECD Watch underscored that not all cases are solvable through dialogue or mediation. Both BIAC, TUAC and OECD Watch called for improved measures to ensure functional equivalence between NCPs, and TUAC suggested a set of criteria that could be used to assess the work of the NCPs.

For the sake of improvement, the OECD encourages NCPs to sign up for voluntary peer review. The Netherlands were the first to be reviewed in 2010. This year Norway chaired the delegation of NCPs that evaluated Japan. Norway has signed up for a review in 2013.