Information-sharing, consultation and consent
Consultations conducted too late or not according to international standards: facing a lack of social licence to operate
Verify whether there are any legal or regulatory requirements regarding consultation and consent.
- In particular, identify which methods of engagement with indigenous peoples are required (see 4.1.d.).
- Clarify whether consent is legally required. Where consent is required, do not proceed with activities until it has been granted. Note that even if companies are not required by law to obtain consent, seeking consent throughout a project’s lifecycle can nonetheless enhance a company’s social license to operate (see 4.1.d.).
Seek to ensure the government fulfils its responsibilities regarding consultations.
- Keep track of government-led consultations on issues related to the project, as they might have implications for future stakeholder relations.
Determine at what stages such engagement took place, what commitments and agreements were made, and what unresolved issues still exist that could impact the relationship with local communities.
Seek to participate in, or at least observe, government-led consultations with stakeholders, being careful not to create the perception of being on the government’s side.
- Consider providing logistical support (such as travel expenses) to government entities to ensure they are present and able to lead the consultations. To reduce any risk of being perceived as supporting a government that is not operating in the community’s interest, be transparent and clear in indicating to communities that the company is striving to improve the government’s capacity to lead the process in good faith.
Revisit prior consultation processes and seek to understand what mistakes were made and why.
- Review the project activities and timelines with relevant company departments to ensure ongoing and meaningful consultation with communities is well integrated into planning (see 4.3.b.).
- Note that stakeholders may have been consulted by third parties prior to, or without the involvement of the company, as often transpires in consultations over compensation for land acquisition carried out by government authorities, or previous consultation carried out by the owners of project-associated facilities. If there is evidence of lingering grievances, it may be necessary to address outstanding concerns.
- Engage with other companies in the area to understand their past/current approach and avoid misunderstandings or legacy issues.
When consultation did not start early enough, undertake an active consultation that can support joint analysis and inclusive decision-making from that moment forward.
- Support capacity development so that stakeholders with limited exposure to international corporate processes and structures are comfortable being actively involved in consultation processes and monitoring of the agreements made.
- If open consultations are difficult, adopt other strategies to maintain communication with the communities.
Discuss with the local government whether it would be useful to create elected village committees responsible for discussing company-community affairs.
Work with independent third parties (e.g. ombudsman institutions, NGOs, external experts, academia) that have the acceptance of all parties. These parties can accompany and support consultation or free, prior and informed consent processes.
Local communities’ consent: ensuring it is based on realistic expectations and a realistic understanding of impacts
Be transparent and upfront about decisions, policies and plans for the project.
- Provide relevant information to targeted stakeholders in advance of decision-making.
Communicate details of the stakeholder engagement and consultation process, as well as results of the baseline assessment and impact assessment, to relevant stakeholders in order to get feedback on findings. During public consultation, disclose any actual and potential risks and impacts identified thus far (e.g. cumulative impacts, operational impacts, social impacts, environmental impacts). Openly communicating these with community members can help the company avoid misperceptions that escalate into security incidents (see 4.1.a.).
Make technical and environmental information about the project available to communities through channels such as community representatives, town hall meetings and communications materials.
Disclose objective information. Avoid overselling the benefits of a project and minimising the negative impacts. Unrealistic expectations can lead to tensions and social conflicts that become security incidents. Be very clear about what the company can and cannot provide. As explained by the International Council on Mining and Metals, this approach can help address potential tensions (for example, resulting from the inability of companies to provide enough jobs for everyone) ‘by managing expectations through a better understanding of project requirements as well as the opportunities and constraints companies may face throughout the project cycle’.
Explain next steps and how the community will be involved and consulted going forward.
Clarify which project elements are fixed and which can be changed or improved.
- Share information in a timely manner, in languages that communities are able to understand and in a format that makes sense to the local population. Not sharing information may fuel misinformation that can damage a company’s reputation and undermine efforts to engage in an informed dialogue with stakeholders (see 4.2.c.).
- Communicate important information multiple times and in a variety of media to ensure that the message is received and absorbed.
- Communicate the company’s expectations and encourage stakeholders to share their expectations during consultation processes in order to ensure that all sides understand each other’s positions.
Clarify company and government responsibilities.
- Agree on the respective responsibilities regarding social investment and compensation with host government authorities at the national and local level (see 1.2.d.). Communicate this agreement to local communities, explaining what the company can and cannot provide. This will help to ensure that expectations do not become grievances, potentially leading to social conflicts.
During consultations, build understanding with the community on the issues at stake.
- Improve communities’ understanding of the project so that they have realistic expectations of the benefits that are available to them. In particular, explain the different phases of the project, what are the consequences and opportunities related to each stage of operations, the security and safety implications, and the timelines involved. Also explain the problems that may arise and how the company will work to mitigate them.
- Ensure communities fully understand their rights in relation to the company’s operations, security arrangements and impacts under both local and international law (including, for example, rights related to land, environment, labour, etc.). Also explain the respective responsibilities of the company, government and other stakeholders.
- Use a variety of channels to deliver information (e.g. booklets, videos, radio, theatre shows, bulletin boards, a public information office established in a nearby village and/or visits to each community) to show how operations will look at each stage and what areas community members cannot access, for safety or property reasons. Indicate where and how many security providers will be stationed, what uniforms they will wear and what equipment they will use. It is also useful to create a to-scale model to show how the site will look after closure, if relevant.
- Consider taking landowners to other sites of operations to gain insights on company operations and better understand their implications.
- Support indigenous communities’ capacity to engage in decision-making, for example, by providing access to independent expert advice where appropriate, capacity-building, facilitation and mediation, or involving external observers. Capacity-building efforts can be included as an element of an indigenous peoples’ development plan, which aims to enhance benefits and minimize the adverse effects of a project on significantly impacted indigenous peoples.
Establish a company-community committee that would help in managing the relationship throughout the project cycle and resolving conflict before it is exacerbated, as well as being a hub for information about the project.
Conflict-Sensitive Business Practice: Guidance for Extractive Industries, flashpoint issue 4:7 (International Alert 2005)
From the outset of community consultations, provide detailed information on existing or proposed grievance mechanisms and other mechanisms for accessing remedy (i.e. judicial and non-judicial mechanisms).
- Discuss these grievance mechanisms with community members to ensure they are accessible, appropriate and culturally relevant. Also discuss whether any additional mechanisms (e.g. trusted focal points, accessible complaints boxes) are needed, with special consideration to the needs of vulnerable and marginalised groups.
- Include any grievance mechanisms and remedy mechanisms relevant to the company’s security arrangements.
Use consultations as an opportunity to identify any actual and potential impacts that the company has not previously anticipated (see human rights due diligence). Update risk and impact assessments accordingly.
Actively involve communities in drafting impact mitigation and management plans, on the basis of identified risks and impacts.
Human Rights Impact Assessment Guidance and Toolbox, Phase 4: Impact Mitigation and Management (Danish Institute for Human Rights 2020)
- Before and during consultations, provide clear, detailed information on any mitigation measures the company has already proposed, designed or considered. Explain these in detail to ensure the community understands both the impacts and the management plan.
- Discuss proposed mitigation measures with different stakeholder groups to ensure they are appropriate, effective and culturally relevant. Ask whether any measures should be changed or whether new measures are needed. Negotiate appropriate solutions.
- As necessary, revise the impact mitigation and management plan to ensure community feedback and priorities are placed at the centre.
- Place particular emphasis on the feedback of groups most affected by the project, as well as vulnerable and marginalised groups (see 4.2.b. and 4.2.d.).
- Incorporate impacts and mitigation plans related to security arrangements.
Negotiate in good faith when engaging with communities.
- Ensure the terms of negotiations are mutually agreed in advance and conform to legal obligations, including the requirement of renegotiation when circumstances change.
- Make it very clear to the community who has the authority to make commitments on behalf of the company to ensure coherence in communications and avoid misunderstandings.
- Verify, validate and record all final agreements with those present during the negotiations.
When relevant and possible, support agreements with the use of pictures.
Make sure that agreements reached are then translated into local languages and made available to the relevant communities.
Publish minutes of meetings.
At all times, remain sensitive to literacy challenges and find other accessible ways of making information available to community members.
Determine the types of information that will be shared with communities as early as possible.
- Pre-define clear criteria for deciding what, when and with whom to communicate. Ensure these criteria are decided jointly among company departments.
- Provide relevant information to stakeholders early on, regularly and in a timely manner, ensuring consistency in messaging (see Navigating different stakeholders: avoiding inadvertently favouring or excluding sub-groups within communities and Working with Communities Information sharing, consultation and consent Local communities consent: ensuring it is based on realistic expectations and a realistic understanding of impacts within Stakeholder engagement strategy – Working with Communities).
Build communities' capacity to address security and human rights issues
( see Working with Communities Information sharing, consultation and consent Local communities consent: ensuring it is based on realistic expectations and a realistic understanding of impacts. [4.3.b.]).
- Use the appropriate language and methods to facilitate communities’ understanding (e.g. illustrations, real-life examples). It is important that local communities understand their rights and responsibilities, as well as the rights and responsibilities of security personnel, which include the right of self-defence.
- Engage with independent third parties (e.g. NGOs, national human rights institutions or academia) that can educate communities on security and human rights issues and act as intermediaries to facilitate communication.
Establish regular meetings to discuss security-related issues with communities.
- Organise different kinds of meetings for different purposes, including:
Large open meetings for information-sharing purposes (Navigating different stakeholders: avoiding inadvertently favouring or excluding sub-groups within communities within Stakeholder engagement strategy – Working with Communities).
Smaller meetings with community representatives to discuss security arrangements and find joint solutions to address related concerns and impacts (See Navigating different stakeholders: avoiding inadvertently favouring or excluding sub-groups within communities within Stakeholder engagement strategy – Working with Communities).
Joint sports or leisure events, such as sports tournaments between company security and community teams or occasional open houses where community members are invited to come into company compounds. Such events can develop trust and provide an informal setting for communities to learn about company operations, meet staff or bring forward grievances.
A multi-stakeholder forum to develop a standardised approach to discussing security and human rights issues with the community (see in-country working groups).
- Prior to embarking upon substantial consultations, determine the process to be followed and who is to be involved in the dialogue . Jointly agree on a set of principles to guide the discussions and ensure a constructive and effective exchange, such as the need to focus on security-related issues or a rule to speak one at a time.
- Keep in mind that any human rights or social challenge may become a security issue if left unaddressed. Guide stakeholders to other forums that might exist that address other issues at greater depth (such as environmental challenges).
- Encourage the participation of representatives of public and private security in community consultations, provided the community feels comfortable discussing security issues in their presence.
- In situations where community consultation is not possible, consider relevant alternatives, such as consulting credible, independent experts, including human rights defenders and others from civil society.
Listen carefully and provide feedback on inquiries (Navigating different stakeholders: avoiding inadvertently favouring or excluding sub-groups within communities within Stakeholder engagement strategy – Working with Communities).
- Ask stakeholders what type of information they want and need, and in what type of format.
- Allow communities to voice their concerns on security arrangements. However, remember that in certain circumstances, being involved in these kinds of discussions may present risks for local community members, and they may be not willing to talk. If that is the case, consult with credible third parties that may provide some insights into communities’ concerns. Make available confidential/anonymous avenues for participation. Inform stakeholders about the limits to the confidentiality that the company is able to provide.
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