“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
Grievance Redress Mechanisms (GRMs) around the world, whether they be those of big financial institutions, local banks, or governments, are there to handle complaints received from their project-affected people, staff, or other aggrieved persons. Many of them have good procedures in place, and they are ready to provide remedies to those experiencing adverse impacts. However, not all of them puts an equal amount of time and energy into communicating with their stakeholders, including the potential complainants who may be unaware that such GRMs exist to help them find remedies.
In fact, in 2020, the Independent Evaluation Unit published an evaluation report on the GCF’s Environmental and Social Safeguards and the Environmental and Social Management System. This report finds that “there is limited awareness of available grievance redress mechanisms,” including the IRM and the GRMs of the GCF’s accredited entities. While the concerns and grievances over GCF projects/programmes are likely to increase as the GCF portfolio grows, it is indeed worrisome that people who might need access to redress may not be aware of the existence of such mechanisms. This finding implies that carrying out targeted communications activities is a prerequisite for an “effective” mechanism. In this context, the fact that a GRM’s complaint volumes are low does not necessarily mean that there are no grievances. It might simply be the case that aggrieved people just don’t know where to go for a remedy.
The IRM has kept communications strategies in the past years. However, with a further recognition that awareness-raising is essential to fulfilling the IRM’s mandates, the IRM decided to take an aggressive approach towards enhanced communications with stakeholders in 2021. One of these efforts included hiring a communications consultant to assist the IRM to devise a communications plan for the next three years. Before anything else, this consultant’s first suggestion was to assess the current status of the IRM’s stakeholders’ awareness, understanding of and access to the IRM. To gain this information, the IRM distributed a communications survey to its stakeholders, and the consultant interviewed various stakeholders to design a strategy that meets their needs.
The IRM’s communications survey, which intended to discover the stakeholders’ awareness and understanding about the IRM and their preferred ways of communications, received over 100 responses in just one week. The IRM obtained very useful information that will guide the IRM’s communications efforts. For example, we learned that stakeholders who clearly understood the roles and functions of the IRM were mostly those working on grievance redress themselves on a daily basis. There were also some responses that implied a potential confusion between the GCF Secretariat and the IRM. We also found that the IRM’s activities were perceived by many to be one-off activities rather than continuous engagement with its stakeholders. There were also many stakeholders who were not aware of the IRM or simply did not know about its grievance redress function. These responses allowed us to learn that there is much room for improvement and to think deeply about the step-by-step measures that the IRM could take to address these issues.
There were also some questions concerning survey respondents’ use of social media. Facebook turned out to be the most common social media platform that the IRM’s stakeholders use, followed by Youtube and LinkedIn. With more than half of the people responding positively to the importance of social media in communicating the IRM’s work and mandate, the IRM will continue to use social media platforms to communicate with its stakeholders who have access to the internet. This year, the IRM hired a social media consultant to improve the IRM’s online communications with its stakeholders and the public, and the IRM has observed increased engagements on its social media channels. However, the IRM is aware that there are also many people who may need to access the IRM but do not have sufficient access to online communications channels. That is why we are exploring other channels such a community radio to diversify our communications efforts.
The IRM will soon finalise its strategies for the next three years and hopes to include necessary activities in next year’s draft Workplan and Budget. Thank you for responding to our survey and participating in our stakeholder interviews. Feel free to contact us if you have any further suggestions on how the IRM could improve its communications efforts!