Practice: Organizational Governance and Strategy

Designing and Piloting a Global Grievance Mechanism for the United Nations Development Program

David Fairman

Strengthening and building capacity to provide effective grievance recourse and resolution.

The UN Development Program (UNDP) works in partnership with governments and civil society in more than 150 countries to strengthen democratic governance, reduce poverty, prevent and recover from crisis, improve the environment, and fight HIV/AIDS.

UNDP seeks to make people’s lives better, and puts a premium on participation and inclusion in its work. Nonetheless, its investments and partnerships can sometimes cause social disruption, with negative impacts on individuals, communities and social groups.

As part of its commitment to accountability and delivery of high quality results, UNDP has decided to create a global grievance mechanism. The mechanism will provide a channel for people and groups who may be adversely affected by UNDP-supported projects and programs to voice their concerns and receive a timely and constructive response from UNDP staff. The grievance mechanism will operate primarily through UNDP Country Offices, with support from a global grievance office.

UNDP has asked CBI to help design the grievance mechanism. To assist UNDP, CBI is drawing on our extensive prior work with other multilateral development agencies on grievance and dispute resolution systems. The key design features for UNDP include:

  • Strengthening of national partners’ grievance and dispute resolution systems as the “first line” of response to concerns, so that UNDP’s grievance mechanism is used only for situations that cannot be effectively resolved by national partners
  • Ease of access to UNDP’s grievance mechanism for people with low levels of literacy who are not accustomed to voicing concerns to government
  • Clear, simple and consistent procedures for UNDP staff to receive, assess, respond to and document grievances
  • A high degree of independence and impartiality for the staff at country and headquarters level who are directly responsible for grievance resolution, so that they can balance the concerns of UNDP with those of the people and groups filing grievances
  • A headquarters support system for UNDP Country Office staff involved in grievance resolution to ensure that they have adequate guidance and capacity for collaborative problem solving

CBI is currently collaborating with an internal team in UNDP headquarters, and with UNDP regional and Country Office counterparts to draft guidance on how to operate the grievance mechanism.

During 2013, UNDP plans to pilot the mechanism with CBI support in several countries where UNDP is an implementing partner for the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). In these countries, changes in forest management and land use to reduce deforestation and land degradation are likely to trigger conflicts with forest-dependent communities, timber companies, and other stakeholders. UNDP is required to establish its own grievance mechanisms in each country, and to strengthen the grievance mechanisms of national forestry, environmental and land management agencies involved in FCPF.

UNDP and CBI expect to learn a substantial amount from the pilot process about what kind of written guidance, headquarters and regional support, and local capacity building UNDP Country Offices need to be effective in grievance resolution. The design process and the dialogue with headquarters and field colleagues has already yielded important insights on how UNDP can provide effective recourse to people affected by its projects, while strengthening national capacities for effective grievance resolution.

For more information, please contact David Fairman, Managing Director.