How We Work
Our team of lawyers specializes in non-judicial accountability offices established to receive community complaints. We focus on dozens of these offices, including those of multilateral development banks, export promotion agencies, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s National Contact Points.
Accountability Counsel is independent from the influence of governments, corporations, and other institutions. We are devoted to ensuring that the voices of communities are heard and respected.
We work only upon requests for assistance from local communities and in close partnership with grassroots and regional organizations in every case.
As part of our mission, the groups we train go on to continue long-term advocacy for accountability in development finance in their communities, regions, and countries.
How Do We Select Our Cases?
We assist communities to defend their rights through complaints to accountability offices tied to projects that cause harm.
Accountability Counsel’s assistance to communities begins with a request for support from the community itself or a local civil society organization, followed by initial factual research and 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 civil society networks, often with only 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; and
- Involve a trustworthy local partner with whom we can closely collaborate.
We also consider the likelihood of a complaint leading to a positive result at the community level and the likelihood of creating systemic change at the institutional level when assessing requests for assistance.
How Our Community Lawyering Works
Our case work has a wide range from 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 actual change on the ground.
Gender Sensitive Approach
Our work pays particular attention to women, children, and other marginalized groups, who are often the most deeply harmed by abuses. In our cases, projects in sectors like agribusiness, petroleum, and hydropower, have disproportionate impacts on women, children, and other marginalized groups.
Women are often the least likely to be consulted about a project that will impact them, yet bear the brunt of impacts such as denial of access to water, food security threats, and physical and sexual abuse. It is therefore imperative that the voices of women, children, and marginalized groups are heard through the complaint process so that those with the power to stop abuses and make change respect women’s rights and needs. Read more about our approach here.
Code of Ethics
We have adopted a Code of Ethics which describes our pledge to operate with mutual respect in the pursuit of equality, security, and dignity of our clients.
Accountability Counsel is independent from the influence of governments, corporations, and other institutions.
We are committed to working as good allies in an interdisciplinary and intersectional movement for justice.