An alternative to “see you in court.”

It’s a familiar story – businesses battling it out with other businesses, governments, individuals – all in court and at huge expense. But there are other forms of redress for those with grievances. Unfortunately, in the stampede for aggrieved parties to have their day in court, these alternatives are often overlooked.

John Ruggie, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. -  © UN / Jean-Marc FERRERecognizing this problem, John Ruggie, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises launched an inquiry two years ago to find out what other remedies were being sought, what was known about non-judicial options and what could be done to facilitate awareness and learning about this generally under-used approach.

The findings across the board were much the same. No one really knew or understood what was available outside the court system.

BASESwiki has been created to bridge the gap; to offer information about non-judicial remedies; to offer individuals, companies, institutions and government an opportunity to share their experiences and to offer access to a range of experts.

Where does the title come from? BASES stands for Business and Society Exploring Solutions – a dispute resolution community. And wiki? The most famous global wiki is Wikipedia, the on line user-driven encyclopaedia. BASESwiki has a similar philosophy. The site is democratic, interactive and all the material is user-generated. The site design reflects the view that a core element of human rights protection and promotion is empowerment, not passivity.

Through BASESwiki businesses can access information about strategies which help identify problems early on and offer ideas for dealing with those concerns. For aggrieved parties, there’s information about avenues that can be pursued that don’t involve costly legal action. And for all users there is information about the experts around the world who can help them find solutions.

Non-judicial alternatives include global mechanisms such as the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman of the World Bank Group and its counterparts in regional development banks, national mechanisms such as national human rights institutions and ombudsman offices, and company level and industry mechanisms.

Since its launch earlier this year, the site has gathered over 150 descriptions of grievance mechanisms as well as numerous research papers and expert profiles. Mechanism descriptions include a posting from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman of Australia which shows what can be done at a national and industry level; OECD Watch members have contributed information on National Contact Points; the multinational mining company, Anglo American, has posted its overall guidance to its companies on grievance processes; and Shell's specific grievance mechanism for its Sakhalin II project is described.

The site is currently accessible in English, Chinese, French, Spanish, and Russian; Arabic is due to follow. As a result of organizational interest, translation of the site into Korean and Japanese is also in train.

BASESwiki is an initiative of the Secretary General’s Special Representative on business and human rights, undertaken in cooperation with the Governance and Accountability Program of the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School and with the support and collaboration of the International Bar Association, Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman for the World Bank Group, and the JAMS Foundation.

August 2009