United States: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) | U.S. National Contact Point (NCP)
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) membership of industrialized nations host the majority of corporations and export credit agencies that finance and guarantee projects around the world. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are guidelines for corporations operating in and from OECD countries and include standards on human rights, labor, and the environment. The United States is a member of the OECD.
The U.S. National Contact Point is the U.S. government’s corporate accountability office related to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The U.S. NCP remains one of the few avenues for communities around the world harmed by U.S corporations to seek accountability for that harm, and for communities based in the United States to seek accountability based on the conduct of foreign corporations. It is housed in the U.S. Department of State within the Bureau of Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs.
A complaint about conduct by an enterprise at the National Contact Points is called a “specific instance.” NCPs will consider all complaints they receive, which may be brought by a community affected by a company’s activities, a company’s employees, members of a trade union, an NGO, or an individual. A party filing a specific instance may act on behalf of other identified and concerned parties. Generally, issues should be dealt with by the NCP of the country in which the issues have arisen. Therefore, the U.S. NCP generally acts on specific instances that make allegations related to issues arising in the United States or regarding the activities of U.S. headquartered companies operating in countries that have not established an NCP.
The Accountability Office
National Contact Point
The Accountability Office: National Contact Points (NCPs)
Established in: 2000
Functions: Dispute Resolution
Submit a complaint to the U.S. NCP if:
- The company tied to the specific instance is headquartered in the United States.
- You have a specified interest in a case, are in a position to supply information about it and have a clear view of the outcome you wish to achieve.
- You can specify in the complaint which chapters or paragraphs in the Guidelines you consider to be breached by the company.
To see a flow chart of the process click here.
Accountability Counsel actively works to strengthen the NCP system so that it more effectively provides remedy to communities and individuals harmed by multinational enterprises.
Stakeholder Advisory Board
Accountability Counsel’s Policy Director serves on the Stakeholder Advisory Board (SAB) for the U.S. NCP. Comprising of leaders from business, labor, civil society, and academia, the stated objectives of the SAB are to provide recommendations on implementation of the OECD guidelines, “…Including their public promotion, collaboration between the U.S. National Contact Point and stakeholders to anticipate and address future challenges in a proactive manner, and the operations of the U.S. NCP.”
U.S. NCP Peer Review
The U.S. NCP underwent an NCP peer review in September 2017. Conducted by representatives of two to four different NCPs, a peer review assesses the NCP under review and provides recommendations for the NCP to operate in a more accessible, transparent, and accountable manner. Through our involvement with the SAB and as a member of OECD Watch, we contributed to the peer review process, including through participating in stakeholder consultations with the peer review team. Ahead of the review, we co-published an article with the International Labor Rights Forum and ICAR with specific arguments regarding some key outcomes the peer review should produce, especially the removal of the NCP’s strict confidentiality requirements for complainants.
The U.S. NCP’s peer review report was released in 2019. While the report did make some key recommendations, including around improving the U.S. NCP’s confidentiality practices, overall the report failed to include many civil society observations and recommendations. More analysis of the peer review report can be found here. Going forward, the U.S. NCP should fully implement the recommendations from the report, as well as those submitted by civil society during the process, so that it fulfills its potential in becoming a reliable and effective avenue for redress for corporate human rights abuses.
Click here to learn more about the NCP peer review process.
U.S. National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct
Several governments have produced National Action Plans (NAPs) to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights . Accountability Counsel was extensively engaged during the U.S. NAP development process. Our written submissions included several recommendations to improve the U.S. NCP, including changes to the NCP’s strict confidentiality rules.
The U.S. government published its first NAP on Responsible Business Conduct in December 2016. Though the NAP did not address all of the recommendations concerning the U.S. NCP, it did include a commitment to undergo a NCP peer review in 2017.
Remedy Remains Rare Report on NCPs
Accountability Counsel’s Global Communities Staff Attorney Caitlin Daniel served as lead author on Remedy Remains Rare , a 2015 OECD Watch report that analyzed the performance of the various NCP offices. The report found that the system is failing to bring accountability for corporate wrongdoing. In 15 years of service and more than 250 cases filed, only one percent have led to any improvement in conditions for the victims of corporate abuse. The report calls for a revision of the procedural guidance governing these offices to bring about specific improvements. See the full press release or visit OECD Watch’s website for more information.
- Past Advocacy
Documents by Release Date
June 2021 – Accountability Counsel submitted written testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs with recommendations to increase the effectiveness of the U.S. NCP.
Feb 2021 – Joint letter to the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, urging that he work to protect human rights defenders by, among other things, advocating for stronger commitments on human rights, labor, and the environment with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and ensuring appropriate training and resources at the U.S. NCP office.
Mar 2019 – The U.S. NCP peer review report was released. While the report included some key recommendations, overall the report failed to include many civil society observations and recommendations. More analysis of the report can be found here.
Dec 2016 – The U.S. government published its first National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct.
Jun 2015 – OECD Watch released Remedy Remains Rare, of which Accountability Counsel’s Senior Communities Associate, Caitlin Daniel, was a lead author. The report analyzed the performance of various NCP offices, and found that the system is failing to bring accountability for corporate wrongdoing.
Jul 2011 – Assistant Secretary of State Fernandez replied to Accountability Counsel’s letter, stating that the recommendations were considered and the new procedures and policies are consistent with them.
Jun 2011 – Accountability Counsel presented a letter, endorsed by 10 other civil society organizations, to Assistant Secretary of State Fernandez, expressing concern about the new rules of procedure. Accountability Counsel included a detailed annex to the 23 June letter, endorsed by 10 other civil society organizations, analyzing the deficiencies in the new rules.
Jun 2011 – The State Department published revised rules of procedure governing the U.S. NCP, which failed to consider the consensus in comments from civil society on most issues.
Jan 2011 – The Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy (ACIEP), investment subcommittee, of which Accountability Counsel is an appointee, produced a report advising the State Department on reform of the U.S. NCP.
Nov 2010 – Accountability Counsel, with 14 other civil society organizations, submitted joint comments on the review of the NCPs.
Oct 2010 – Accountability Counsel submitted comments on the review of the NCPs.
Apr 2010 – The State Department published a brochure regarding how the NCP processes complaints, one day before a meeting with Accountability Counsel.
Apr 2010 – As part of the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, Accountability Counsel submitted a report describing the urgency of OECD NCP reform.
Oct 2009 – Accountability Counsel submitted a joint letter to Secretary of State Clinton, urging reform of the U.S. NCP.
Oct 2009 – Accountability Counsel submitted a joint letter & memo, regarding key reforms required of the NCP in order for it to be a useful mechanism.