International human rights law affirms the right to an effective remedy when adverse impacts to human rights occur. Right to an effective remedy for social harms is also recognized in national laws and included in a myriad of voluntary commitments, certification programmes, and similar ethical supply chain initiatives and guidelines. “Adverse impacts to human rights” refers to instances where act(s) or omission(s) of another party remove or limit the ability of individual(s) or group(s) to enjoy their human rights.[1]

The right to an effective remedy is characterized by both a process to which aggrieved person(s) should have access and an outcome produced by that process.

  • Process: An effective remedial mechanism can be accessed by individuals and groups to present their grievances and complaints and secure a resolution (see Section 2). Such mechanisms should be responsive and tailored to the circumstances and to the legitimate expectations of the rights holders. Remedial mechanisms come in many forms. Examples of state and non-state remedial mechanisms can be found in Box 1 below.
  • Outcome: The product of an effective remedial mechanism is a fair and just remedy that appropriately addresses the harms done. Fair and just remediation can come in many forms, including apologies, restitution, rehabilitation, restoration, financial or non-financial compensation, punitive sanctions, injunctions, and guarantees of non-repetition.[2] See Sections 3 and 4 below for further discussion of what constitutes a fair and just remedy.

The terms “remedy” and “remediation” are generally synonymous and both are used throughout this document without distinction in meaning (see Definitions).

Box 1: Types of grievance mechanisms [3]

State grievance mechanisms can be judicial and non-judicial, including:

  • Administrative procedures before an executive agency or ministry
  • Criminal and civil litigation before the nation’s courts
  • Dispute resolution before a national human rights ombudsman

Non-state grievance mechanisms come in many forms, including:

  • Company grievance mechanisms
  • Mediation forums or arbitration
  • Grievance mechanisms of certification systems (sometimes in the forum of complaint panels)
  • Internal dispute resolution mechanisms of indigenous peoples and local communities (IP/LC) governed by customary laws
  • Grievance mechanisms provided as part of jurisdictional approaches

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