Comments on Corporate Human Rights Benchmark Draft Indicators

On September 30, 2015, MSI Integrity submitted comments to the public consultation on the proposed indicators for the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark. Consistent with our expertise, our submission focused solely on the indicators relating to multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs). Our full submission is publicly available on the CHRB consultation feedback website, and can be downloaded here.

We support the CHRB’s underlying aim of “incentiviz[ing] better human rights performance over time” (CHRB Framework Paper) and see the value of measuring companies on their human rights performance. However, the proposed indicators relating to MSIs may risk undermining that objective. This is because they are not sufficiently connected to human rights performance or outcomes. Instead, they ask whether companies are members of an MSI, without considering the quality and rigor of that MSI and whether it has the potential to improve a company’s human rights outcomes. We are concerned about the incentives this could create, including a race to join or form MSIs without considering whether initiatives are sufficiently designed or implemented to encourage human rights protection.

We submit that if the CHRB wishes to include MSI-specific indicators, the indicators must entail an assessment of whether an MSI has the potential to be effective as a human rights instrument, and therefore whether membership in that MSI is a sufficient proxy or indicator of human rights commitment or leadership. This entails examining whether the MSI meets international good practices for effective MSI design. We would encourage CHRB to examine utilizing reliable measures of MSI effectiveness, such as the seven core components of MSI design in MSI Integrity’s MSI Evaluation Tool. In addition, the CHRB should measure a company’s performance in the MSI, including their compliance with the MSI’s standards and/or whether grievances are pending in the MSI.

We recognize that building robust indicators is not an easy task. We are always eager to share our research and experiences regarding evaluating MSIs and developing indicators to avoid anyone needing to reinvent the MSI wheel. We hope our input will ensure that MSI-related indicators in CHRB or any other benchmarks are robust and advance the aim of improving human rights protection.

Gaining Focus: Stakeholder discussions on MSI effectiveness

Over the last few months, MSI Integrity has participated in a range of different discussions that all came back to the same theme: the effectiveness of MSIs. Participating in these dialogues—coordinated by organizations that ranged from universities to donor collaboratives to scientific communities—has made it clear that stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds are converging around the need to answer the very questions that MSI Integrity was established to research: whether, how, and when MSIs can be effective at addressing human rights issues.

While it may sound unbelievable now, this marks a sea-change from when MSI Integrity was first launched. It signals a willingness of stakeholders to use a more critical eye towards ensuring that existing efforts to protect human rights are, in fact, working. We hope these conversations prompt MSIs to openly work with independent researchers and organizations interested in assessing the effectiveness and impact of MSIs on the ground, as well as to encourage researchers and stakeholders to start to work cohesively on understanding what makes MSIs effective.

Recent conversations and upcoming reports on MSI effectiveness

Earlier this year, MSI Integrity participated in a workshop convened by the University of Denver and the Sie Center for International Security and Diplomacy. The workshop report that was released last month details the vibrant discussion about many complex questions that MSI Integrity has been posing about MSIs, such as:

  • What’s the effect of having numerous MSIs addressing a particular indutry or issue? Does it create an upward race to improving that issue/industry, or does it risk creating confusion and therefore watering down efforts to address the issue/industry?
  • How can MSIs set global standards that thoughtfully address the concerns of actors at different local levels?
  • How can MSIs better engage and involve affected communities?
  • How can we measure the effectiveness and impact of MSIs?

The Transparency and Accountability Initiative hosted a workshop looking at MSI effectiveness in February 2015, building upon discussions at Wilton Park in 2014 on the same topic. The workshop focused on public governance MSIs, and presented preliminary findings of a study into the current evidence relating to the effectiveness of MSIs that is due out in final form next week. The preliminary findings highlighted the lack of evidence currently available about the effectiveness of public governance MSIs, a trend that we believe holds true for other types of MSIs as well. The effectiveness of MSIs was also discussed by a panel MSI Integrity participated in at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Human Rights Coalition Meeting in July 2015, along with hopes that scientists would contribute to methodologies to assess their impact.

Next steps: turning questions into answers

Asking questions about effectiveness and impact (and understanding the difference between these two concepts) is only the beginning. Obtaining answers to those questions will require, to begin:

  1. Comprehensive and intensive independent research, evaluations, and assessments of impact;
  2. A willingness from MSIs and stakeholders to participate in research and to critically reflect on their outcomes and impacts; and,
  3. An open and wide discussion of findings.

We hope the release of our pilot MSI evaluations and MSI Evaluation Tool will be first steps towards enhancing critical thinking on MSI effectiveness, and that they will be read and used by MSIs, researchers, and other stakeholders. However, the research and effort required is too much for any single institution. To address this, we are spearheading a new effort to discuss and coordinate academic research into MSIs: more details will be available soon.

By collating and sharing research findings, providing evaluative tools, and spearheading new assessments into the impact of MSIs on the ground, we hope in the future that questions about the effectiveness of MSIs are not only asked, but answered.

EITI Governance Report translated by Albanian EITI Secretariat

On July 10, 2015 the Albania EITI Secretariat translated and published an Albanian version of our report on multi-stakeholder governance in EITI, Protecting the Cornerstone. In publishing the report, the Secretariat stated on the Collaboration 4 Development EITI Community of Practice website that they “found this report very important”.

This translation offers wider audiences in Albania the opportunity to access the findings and recommendations of our report, and will hopefully encourage informed discussions about how to implement the recommendations in Albania’s EITI process. Similar discussions have taken place in at least 10 countries so far, including the Philippines, Tanzania, Cameroon, and the United Kingdom.

A copy of the translation can be found on the Albanian EITI homepage, or for download here in pdf format. Please note that MSI Integrity did not authorize this translation – it was done on the initiative of the Albanian EITI – and it has not been checked for accuracy by MSI Integrity.



Power, Participation, and MSI Governance: Food for Thought from Harvard Law Discussion of EITI Governance Report

On March 24, 2015, the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School hosted Amelia Evans and Stephen Winstanley from MSI Integrity for a lunch discussion about the recently released report, “Protecting the Cornerstone: Assessing the Governance of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Multi-Stakeholder Groups”. While the report focuses on only the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the students and faculty in the room quickly focused on the more general implications for multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs): that they have an inherent power imbalance amongst the different actors that participate, and internal governance rules have the potential to address some of those power imbalances.

HLS Event on EITI Governance ReportA number of questions were raised about how to ensure that governance rules empowered and facilitated meaningful participation from civil society and grassroots actors, as the actors that are the least well-resourced of the participants in EITI, without affecting their independence or motivation for participating. The discussion also focused on the interaction between local, national and global actors. Questions were asked about how the international organs of EITI could better incentivize or ensure that national and local actors comply with expectations, leading to conversations about the value of rigorous international monitoring and international grievance mechanisms.

The invigorating discussion rounded up with a provocative closing question from the audience: was the low compliance with governance rules and the lack of oversight from EITI at the global level a result of poor oversight… or because of willful ignorance? A heavy question to digest on a full stomach.

If you do it, “do it correctly:” DRC, Philippines, and USA experiences on the value of robust EITI governance

To kick off global discussions of MSI Integrity’s report Protecting the Cornerstone, PWYP hosted a panel discussion in Washington, DC on “Multi-stakeholder governance in EITI: opportunities and challenges” on February 12. The lively discussion included an introduction by Eddie Rich, Deputy Head of the EITI International Secretariat, who provoked much discussion with his views on internal governance in EITI. It was followed by testimonials from multi-stakeholder group (MSG) representatives from the Philippines, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United States, and other EITI countries, who shared their views on the value and benefits of establishing robust MSG governance processes.

Improving local governance to enhance effectiveness: the low-hanging fruit

“We all expect – and think it is common sense – that corporate and nonprofit boards, as well as government and advisory committees, establish comprehensive governance rules before they begin making decisions. So…,” asked first speaker Amelia Evans (MSI Integrity), “why is this not being done in MSGs”? Good governance processes are even more critical in the complex and novel space of multi-stakeholder decision-making, which has to contend with power imbalances between different stakeholder groups; the likelihood of conflict arising among stakeholders with different interests and backgrounds; the need to manage unique challenges in ensuring that the voices of citizens and communities are included in decisions, and that civil society representatives are legitimate and effective.

Amelia highlighted that these issues can be addressed, if not resolved, by requiring that MSGs have sufficient governance processes. This includes requiring MSGs to consider how they will resolve disputes if the MSG becomes gridlocked, and defining what the EITI Standard requirement that representatives liaise with their constituents means in practice in each national context. Ms Evans pointed out that there needs to be better guidance at the international level, as well stronger enforcement, such as by establishing accessible and effective international grievance mechanisms. Given that many actors in EITI that took part in the study voiced a desire for improved governance, and wanted greater guidance and clarity from EITI, Ms Evans emphasized that these changes are the low-hanging fruits of progress for EITI.

EITI: Presenting the idea of “good-enough governance”

After welcoming the study and the “heroic” undertaking to research MSG governance, Eddie Rich (EITI Secretariat) offered unofficial views about how the report will help inform guidance notes, and inform the Board on how to update the EITI Standard. He noted many of the findings are helpful, pointing in particular to the report’s analysis of per diem practices, and pointed to an EITI blog post with more initial Secretariat reflections on the report.

Mr. Rich then offered views that set the stage for the evening’s spirited discussion and testimonials, arguing that countries do not need to agree to comprehensive governance processes before they release EITI reports. While acknowledging there was no excuse for poor governance, he asserted that requiring detailed governance processes would risk over-institutionalizing EITI processes and creating an enforcement-focused environment, which could undermine national ownership of the EITI process and may potentially diminish interest in joining EITI. Eddie suggested that the goal should not be to ensure robust governance at the outset but instead to aim for “good-enough governance” so that countries can move onto reporting and see “what EITI is about” by producing EITI reports, focus on ensuring good outputs, and adapting over time. His views were largely echoed in the EITI Secretariat response to the report that was released the following week.

Philippines: Establishing comprehensive governance – “it can be done”

According to panelist Tess Tabada, a civil society representative from the Philippines’ MSG, agreeing to good governance rules from the outset was instrumental in ensuring MSG members could work together effectively from the start. Ms. Tabada explained that “the success, in terms of getting the first reports done on time despite limitations, is actually partly because we were very clear on how we will operate. We agreed from the very start.”

Then Ms. Tabada recounted the inspirational story of how civil society held regional meetings and spread the word of EITI throughout the country before selecting their own representatives and set governance rules for themselves and the MSG. The process and outcomes, including specifying expertise, independence, and diversity criteria for representatives, is included in MSI Integrity’s Guidance Note for Civil Society as a case study of innovative good practice. These early efforts have paid dividends in benefits due to the legitimacy and credibility of the MSG representatives, and the EITI process in general.

Emphasizing that “the bottom line is that it can be done”, Ms. Tabada explained that if a country was going to embark upon implementing EITI then “you might as well do it correctly”, which means getting governance rules set up appropriately in the beginning. She proclaimed: “it’s not over-institutionalizing, you need governance mechanisms.”

DRC: Without good governance, civil society is doomed

Then Jean-Claude Katende, a civil society representative in the DRC MSG, took the floor and explained how written internal governance rules in the DRC (règlement intérieur) had enabled him to ensure his voice as civil society was heard in the MSG. Mr. Katende gave colorful examples of unproductive conflicts that had been avoided by being able to turn to the rules and show how the MSG had agreed decisions must be made. He also agreed with the report’s recommendation that there needs to be greater accountability for MSGs to meet their requirement to liaise with their constituents. Mr. Katende shared that the legitimacy and effectiveness of civil society participation on the MSG has improved due to a decision to be more consultative with other civil society throughout DRC, especially from areas of extractive activity, and also by adopting a civil society code of conduct.

United States: Governance takes time but is critical to “lasting change”

Paul Bugala, who represents investors on the United States MSG, reflected on the healthy tension between the desire to implement EITI quickly, and therefore racing to adopt governance and reporting rules, versus progressing more methodically and issuing reports that lead to lasting change.  While identifying that speed capitalizes on the government commitment to EITI by producing reports quickly, he insisted it is important that civil society is authentically involved, and that EITI “is institutionalized in a way that will [ensure it continues] beyond the very admirable commitment of [the Obama] administration to this type of disclosure.” The MSG must also take their time to ensure the content of the report is “responsive enough to the constituencies around the country”, or else — in response to Mr. Rich’s view that reports create the opportunity for public discussion — “the conversations that you are going to have aren’t going to affect lasting change.”

Mr. Bugala also described his experience of using both the EITI Standard and US-EITI terms of reference during MSG discussions to ensure that the requirements were being followed, concluding that “requirements matter” and that these documents are crucial to determining the quality and content of the EITI report.

From the floor: “good-enough governance for whom?”

The lively discussion continued as questions came from the floor, mostly focused on the value of governance in EITI processes. Civil society representatives from Tanzania, Nigeria, and Niger all shared examples from the ground and insights into why they need robust governance processes. Several comments highlighted that the goal of EITI is not just to issue reports, but also to achieve accountability towards citizens – and this requires practicing open and inclusive governance, with special attention to including those most affected by extractive activity.

Brendan O’Donnell, an international EITI Board member from Global Witness, closed a night of great discussion by responding to the idea that ‘good-enough governance’ should be the goal of EITI implementing countries with the question: “good enough for whom?”

“Protecting the Cornerstone” report on Multi-Stakeholder Governance in EITI Published

Today MSI Integrity released a landmark report on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), assessing whether national multi-stakeholder groups–the driving force in EITI–are operated and governed effectively. The report, “Protecting the Cornerstone,” comes at a timely moment for EITI as countries prepare for validation under the EITI Standard in 2015.

Follow this link to learn more about the report, and to download the full report, a brief summary report, or the guidance notes for developing robust multi-stakeholder group internal governance, or regarding good practice for civil society participation in the EITI. The summary report and both guidance notes are available in English, French, and Spanish.

A panel discussion has been organized by Publish What You Pay International and Oxfam America for this evening (5:30pm – 7:30pm) in Washington, DC, to discuss the findings and recommendations in Protecting the Cornerstone and to consider the challenges and opportunities for multi-stakeholder governance in EITI. RSVP for the February 12 event here.

Other events to discuss the report are being organized around the world, and we encourage anyone interested in holding a discussion on the report to contact us as we would be happy to see how we can assist or be involved.

MSI Integrity Special Page Launched on BHRRC

On June 13, 2014 the Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC) officially launched a Special Page dedicated to MSI Integrity’s tools, reports, and research and engagement projects.  The page will provide updated information about MSI Integrity’s evaluation tools, MSI evaluation reports, and details regarding current and past research projects and engagement programs.

We hope that this BHRRC special page will enhance public access to our tools and reports to enable stakeholders to better understand how MSIs can improve their capacity to protect and promote human rights.

Visit the page to learn more about MSI Integrity’s current projects, programs, and tools.

Country Visits to Independently Assess EITI Multi-Stakeholder Governance Complete

What does effective multi-stakeholder governance look like in practice? MSI Integrity co-founder Amelia Evans has recently completed in-country visits to the Philippines, DRC, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Azerbaijan to talk with civil society, community, government, and business representatives about their experiences with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Amelia has been listening to the successes and challenges that stakeholders have experienced both inside and outside of the national EITI multi-stakeholder groups (MSG), as part of our first externally-suggested independent research project: assessing the governance of EITI MSGs.


In the EITI, the implementation and reporting process is overseen and managed by MSGs in each country that must include government, companies and civil society and meet certain other EITI requirements. However, very little independent research has been undertaken to assess the governance of this process in EITI implementing countries.  The MSI Integrity research project is examining the selection, composition, governance, and operation of MSGs, with a particular focus on understanding the participation and inclusion of national and local civil society organizations within MSGs.

This project was initiated by the suggestion of Publish What You Pay (PWYP). It is being conducted independently of both PWYP and EITI, and in conformity with MSI Integrity’s commitment to transparency, human rights principles, and engagement and reflexive consultation with all stakeholders.


MSI Integrity welcomes receiving suggested research projects from any stakeholder or MSI on topics that deserve greater attention or require critical research.  Potential topics are unlimited, and could focus on anything from analyzing particularly innovative efforts by a specific MSI to surveying common challenges faced by many MSIs. We review all requests for research that are received, and will pursue projects based on resource capacity and how they further our mission to understand the human rights impact and value of voluntary initiatives.

For additional information about this project, or to provide input that may be valuable to our findings and recommendations, please contact:

MSI Integrity Attending Wilton Park Conference on Effectiveness of MSIs

MSI Integrity has been invited and will attend an exclusive conference at Wilton Park in London, UK, from April 28-30 on a topic that is at the heart of MSI Integrity’s mission: “Increasing the effectiveness of multi-stakeholder initiatives through active collaboration”. Wilton Park is a globally recognized forum for strategic discussion that organizes over 50 events each year focusing on international security, prosperity, and justice. Events at Wilton Park bring together leading representatives from the worlds of politics, diplomacy, academia, business, civil society, the military, and the media.

Amelia Evans, co-founder of MSI Integrity, was invited to attend the conference to contribute her knowledge and experience from investigating the impact and value of MSIs, and developing an MSI Evaluation Tool to assess the structural design and governance processes of MSIs from a human rights perspective. Amelia also presented as an expert panelist at the 2nd Annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva in December 2013, on the topic of MSI effectiveness for implementing the UN Guiding Principles. That presentation was briefly outlined in a Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC) blog post in December, reporting on events at the Forum.

More details on the Wilton Park conference can be found at the conference website.

Advisory Group Presents Recommendations and Considerations

MSI Integrity is pleased to announce that the Advisory Group officially presented the Board with its final report on October 16, 2013. The report contains considerations and recommendations for the Board, based on an extensive review of the feedback and comments received during the 2013 Global Consultation and Review Process. The report can be reviewed on our website.

Over 100 people participated in the worldwide consultation meetings or submitted individual comments.These participants represented views from: corporate social responsibility consultants, business, trade and labor unions, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, governments, national human rights institutions, international human rights organizations, MSIs, and academic researchers in fields such as law, business, and human rights.

Special thanks are owed to the host institutions for coordinating regional consultation meetings around the globe. MSI Integrity would like to thank: the Netherlands Embassy (Washington, DC), the Center for Business and Human Rights at NYU Stern Business School (New York, NY), the World Bank (Washington, DC), the Center for Applied Legal Studies at Witwatersrand University (Johannesburg, South Africa), La Trobe University School of Business (Melbourne, Australia), the Law, Governance and Development Initiative at the Australian National University College of Law (Canberra, Australia), the Australian Human Rights Centre at the University of New South Wales Law School (Sydney, Australia), Jindal Global Law School (Sonipat, India), Jorge Tadeo University (Bogotá, Colombia), and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Den Haag, Netherlands).

The Board of MSI Integrity is carefully considering the Advisory Group report this month, and will publish an extensive response in the coming weeks.