+ How do we know when things are going wrong?
Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Judge Navi Pillay, will Chair the panel leading the independent review
which was announced
on 4 March into allegations raised in the media in the context of international WWF’s conservation work.
WWF International President Pavan Sukhdev, said “WWF is committed to safeguarding a future where people and nature can thrive together. Any kind of abuse and the tragic impact it has on individuals is extremely disturbing and distressing. Respect for human rights is at the core of our mission, and we are taking these allegations seriously with an independent review, to be conducted under Judge Pillay’s leadership. Any shortcomings uncovered by the review will be addressed; we are committed to taking swift and appropriate action.”
These allegations follow the ‘complaint to the OECD'
lodged in 2016 by Survival International
. From a legal perspective, this complaint was unique, because it was the first to be filed by one NGO against another using OECD Guidelines
that had originally been designed to handle complaints against multinational companies.
Accountability of New Zealand’s international NGOs is helped by the CID Code of Conduct. All members of CID must become Code signatories which means they must prove they have policies and processes in place to prevent issues like this happening, and deal with them appropriately when incidents do occur.
WWF in New Zealand is a CID Code signatory.
Many sectors in other countries are entirely self-regulatory and lack compliance and enforcement mechanisms. The most structured mechanism is probably the CHS Verification Scheme that offers verification and certification processes operated by the Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative (HQAI)
Corporates have been held accountable for breaches of human rights since the early 1970s with the first OECD Guidelines, and more recently, there have been further efforts with the adoption of the UN Global Compact and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
By comparison, some argue NGO activities are currently under-regulated when it comes to respecting international human rights law.
The dispute between Survival International and WWF illustrates this regulatory vacuum since SI had to invoke an instrument - in the form of the OECD Guidelines - that was originally designed for multinational companies. In which case, how do we ensure that international NGOs comply with international human rights standards?