We assist communities to defend their rights through complaints to accountability offices tied to projects that cause harm. For example, through complaints requesting dispute resolution and investigations, we have supported communities to prevent abuses in Mexico, compel redesign of a project in Papua New Guinea, and assist with a complex community-company dialogue processes in Mongolia.
How Do We Select Our Cases?
Accountability Counsel’s assistance to communities begins with a request for support from the community itself or a local NGO, followed by initial factual research and a needs assessment. We do not solicit communities for cases – communities must demonstrate that we are a wanted and trusted partner by reaching out to us. Nearly all cases come to us through referrals through NGO networks, with often one or two degrees of separation between local communities and Accountability Counsel. Of the requests we receive, cases must:
- implicate environmental and/or human rights,
- relate to an internationally-financed project for which there is an accountability office (we estimate this represents $500 billion worth of projects each year),
- involve a trustworthy local partner with whom we can closely collaborate,
- have the likelihood of leading to a positive result at the community level, and
- have the likelihood of creating systemic change at the institutional level.
Our Respect Based Approach
Our approach pays particular attention to gender impacts of projects and to raising the voices of women, children and other marginalized groups. This Code of Ethics also guides our approach in our work in communities.
How Our Community Lawyering Works
Our cases range from involving intensive and comprehensive assistance to local communities and their partners throughout a complaint process, to providing more targeted support with daily case work conducted primarily by local partners.
Typically, we conduct trainings in local communities about all options for addressing human rights and environmental abuses associated with internationally-financed projects. If the community decides to move forward with a complaint to an accountability office as one of their options, we work with our clients and their partners to develop a strategy using a number of other methods as well. The accountability offices we support communities to use may involve dispute resolution and/or compliance reviews.
We assist with factual research, drafting of the complaint, support with the filing of the complaint to the accountability mechanism, and assistance throughout the dispute resolution and/or compliance review process. Importantly, we are committed to the implementation of agreements reached and compliance findings that translate into action plans — we therefore continue to support our clients after formal processes are complete to ensure that complaints result in accountability change on the ground.
San Francisco and South Asia
Our Communities program is currently divided among our San Francisco-based Strategic Support attorneys, and our South Asia-based attorneys, who run the first of what we plan to develop into a global set of offices based in regional hubs.
Please visit our Communities case pages for current and past cases. We have also provided support to communities in Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Kazakhstan, Malawi, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Serbia, assisting with a diverse set of grievances, such as involuntary displacement without compensation, water contamination, gender impacts of livelihood destruction and harm to critical ecosystems. These cases relate to projects financed by each of the world’s international financial institutions.