ABOVE: OECD Headquarters
Privacy International, Reporters Without Borders, and three other NGOs filed complaints with the OECD against two companies alleging that their export of surveillance software and systems to Bahrain violated the human rights of dissidents in the kingdom that were, thereafter, placed under surveillance by the Bahraini government. This blog has reported on one of these companies and export issues surrounding its surveillance tools here.
It is probably safe to say that neither company subject to the complaint is quaking in its boots. Read this summary from the OECD of the complaint process and you will understand why. To begin with, the complaint process is, shall we say, completely toothless. An OECD complaint is filed with the National Contact Point (“NCP”) for the member state in which the company is located. That NCP has no power to impose any penalties on the companies involved or even to require any remedial action. The most it can do is issue a report and offer to mediate between the NGOs and the companies.
In fact, the companies subject to the complaint aren’t even required to participate. As the summary itself admits:
In 13 of the 45 NGO complaints submitted as of September 2005, companies refused the NCP’s offer of a dialogue. In one complaint filed with the US NCP, several companies never responded to correspondence offering to facilitate an informal dialogue.
Moreover, as the OECD itself admits in the aforementioned summary, the process may “take months, possibly more than a year.” And once the NCP has accepted the complaint, the proceedings are confidential. Finally, if the NGO is dissatisfied with any report issued by the NCP, there is no right of appeal to the Investment Committee of the OECD.
I don’t think there is any need to worry that the OECD will become a multinational export enforcement agency.