Risk Management Process for Non-Review Country Visits
From 2022 onwards, the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) will carry out non-review country visits i.e. visits to countries not subject to a complaint received through the CORE’s Human Rights Responsibility Mechanism (HRRM) or a CORE-initiated study. This document outlines the risk assessment and management process that the CORE will follow when planning, implementing and following up visits to countries where communities or individuals may be affected by the operations of Canadian companiesFootnote1 working in the garment, mining and/or oil and gas sectors. This risk assessment process will be used by the CORE to inform both in-person and virtual non-review country visits.
These visits may serve several purposes:
- To raise awareness about the CORE, our mandate and how to submit a complaint to the CORE’s Human Rights Responsibility Mechanism;
- To gather information about conditions, including human rights conditions;
- To protect and promote the human rights of potentially impacted individuals, workers, communities and organizations at risk; and
- To meet with Canadian garment, mining and/or oil and gas companies to discuss responsible business conduct and share information about the CORE’s dispute resolution services.
The number of non-review visits undertaken during each fiscal year will be based on time, staffing and other resource opportunities and constraints.
Risk management objectives
The specific objectives of this risk management process are to:
- Identify potential unintended negative impacts (e.g. risks to the safety of local actors) that may result from engagement with the CORE prior to, during and after a non-review visit;
- Identify entry points for protecting and promoting the rights of potentially impacted communities and individuals; and
- Outline and implement the steps required to address potential risks so that the CORE’s engagement does no harm and seizes opportunities to have a positive impact.
The CORE’s risk management process is based on a conflict sensitive approach. This approach is aimed at: avoiding risks so that the CORE’s planned engagement does not result in harm to local actorsFootnote2 that the CORE engages with in-country, including risks of retaliationFootnote3 and reprisals; and identifies and seizes opportunities for the CORE to have a positive impact where relevant. CORE’s approach to retaliation applies in situations where local stakeholders may be at risk of or encounter retaliation as a result of engaging with CORE. The CORE will carry out a visit only when we are satisfied that our engagement will not put local actors at greater future risk of harm and/or retaliation.
Country selection criteria
The CORE will use the following criteria to inform its decision-making process when selecting countries to visit for a non-review country visit:
- Significant presence of Canadian garment, mining and/or oil/gas companies (and/or sub/contractors)
- Canadian companies operating on or in close proximity to Indigenous land and territories
- Weak national oversight of foreign company operations
- Countries where human rights issues may exist in the garment, mining and/or oil/gas sectors, including in relation to natural resource extraction, labour issues and threats to human rights defenders
- Security context, that is the ability of CORE to safely hold in-person meetings with industry, civil society and government representatives
- Potential risks posed to civil society as a result of meeting with the CORE, given the in-country context and potential human rights concerns associated with the sector
- Presence and ability of Canadian embassy to provide CORE with:
- Details regarding the number/names of Canadian companies present in the country by sector
- Country context including human rights context
- Risk assessment with regards to in-country travel in capital city and specific regions
- Logistical information regarding hiring local transport, interpretation, hotels, visa requirements, safety concerns
Prior to a non-review country visit, the CORE will contact the Canadian embassy/mission in the country (as well as other key stakeholders) in order to determine the feasibility of a non-review visit and potential political and security risks to local actors and the CORE/CORE staff. If the CORE decides to proceed with a non-review visit, the CORE will publish via our website our intention to visit a specific country. This information will also be sent via email to the CORE’s key stakeholders. This includes:
- Public: Global Affairs Canada (GAC), relevant Canadian embassy/trade commissioner, Other Government Departments and the National Contact Point
- Private: The CORE will inform the following industry associations, if the CORE determines that this would not result in increased risks for impacted people and communities that we are engaging: the Canadian Apparel Federation (CAF), the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), the Explorers and Prospectors Association of Canada (EPAC), the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), the Canadian Global Energy Forum (CGEF) and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce
- Plural: Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability (CNCA) and regional civil society working groups and coalitions such as the Americas Policy Group, Asia-Pacific Working Group and Africa Canada Forum
Prior to the visit, the CORE will inform the Minister of International Trade, and will also publish a tentative country visit plan, which will include a high level description of the meetings that are planned (subject to risk assessment, i.e. if we determine there are risks associated with naming who we will meet, names will be omitted from the plan).
The CORE will look to the Canadian embassy in-country to determine whether, when and how national government authorities should be informed of the CORE’s planned visit. The CORE’s contact with national government authorities, if necessary, will be initially established by the Canadian embassy/mission. This includes the country’s embassy in Ottawa.
Risk Management Approach
The CORE’s risk management process comprises the following five steps:
- Analyze the context
- Assess the potential negative impacts associated with the CORE’s engagement as well as opportunities to protect and promote human rights
- Implement measures to avoid risks and maximize positive impacts
- Review engagement options
- Post-visit follow-up and reflection
Throughout the CORE’s five-step risk management process, the CORE assesses the potential for harm that could result from the CORE’s engagement, in particular the unintended negative impacts on disadvantaged individuals and groups including but not limited to women, children, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2 people, people with disabilities, and other minority groups (i.e. based on religion, race, ethnicity, language, age, etc.). In doing so, we follow Government of Canada standards, including GBA+ and Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders.
To prevent unintended negative impacts that may result from the CORE’s engagement, the CORE will carry out the following five steps:
Step 1. Analyze the context
Obtain information about the political, social, economic, and environmental context in the country in order to identify key factors that drive local grievances, human rights abuses, tensions and/or conflict. This step acknowledges that communities are not homogenous groups; tensions may arise alongside negative outcomes in a variety of ways, including through: economic relations, political or religious disagreement, geography or demographic stresses – or from its promotion by outside interference. Identify potential risks for vulnerable groups, including women, children, Indigenous peoples, the elderly, LGBTQ2 groups, human rights defenders and environmental activists. This analysis recognizes that that human rights defenders have intersecting identities (such as race, age, disability, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity), and may experience numerous and concurring forms of discrimination, harassment and marginalization, and that they may be subject to specific risks and threats.
Draw upon the wide range of existing contextual analysis produced by other organizations. Key sources may include: Global Affairs Canada, International Crisis Group, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Global Witness, ACAPS, Human Rights Watch, Search for Common Ground, International Alert and Saferworld.
Step 2. Assess potential negative impacts associated with the CORE’s engagement and opportunities to protect and promote human rights
Consult local stakeholders to obtain up-to-date information on existing and potential risks faced by human rights defenders and their ability to operate effectively and safely. Inform them of the CORE’s planned visit and check with them to identify if there are any potential risks to their safety that could result from engaging with the CORE and how these risks could be avoided.
Given the current context in the country, assess the potential unintended negative impacts that could result from the CORE’s planned engagement, including the potential for risks or retaliation to local actors, including vulnerable groups. Identify opportunities to protect and promote the human rights of local actors, including opportunities to provide for their safety. For example, are there organizations, movements or networks in place working on human rights and social justice issues, and if so, what capacity do they have? Are there local or national government institutions working on human rights? What national legislation is in place to safeguard human rights? Analyze the entry points that exist to strengthen social cohesion and respect for human rights such as: markets, infrastructure, historical events, common day-to-day experiences, shared attitudes, and associations. Consult local actors to obtain their views on potential entry points.
Step 3. Implement measures and steps to avoid risks and maximize positive impacts
Identify and implement practical measures that the CORE can take before, during and after the visit in order to avoid harm, and seize identified opportunities to promote inclusion and human rights. This includes mapping out where to visit, when, with whom, how best to engage with local actors, and how to relate to local authorities. Consult local actors when deciding on risk avoidance measures and maximizing positive impacts.
Step 4. Review engagement options
During the visit, review engagement options and check with local actors to see if modifications are needed to address changing circumstances in an evolving context.
Step 5. CORE post-visit follow-up and reflection
Contact local stakeholders once the CORE visit has concluded to check that they have not encountered threats or other harm as a result of the CORE’s engagement. Review how the country visit was planned and implemented, as well as the results, and identify whether there are areas for future improvement and lesson learned.
At the end of a visit, the CORE will brief the Canadian Ambassador or representative in the mission on the main findings of the visit, including risk-related issues, where relevant. The CORE will publish a report outlining the findings of the visit on the CORE’s website. The CORE will also conduct an internal review to determine how to address concerns that may have arisen during the visit, lessons learned from the process and recommendations for strengthening the process for future non-review country visits.
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