Creating a safe space to complain

  • Article type News & articles
  • Publication date 26 Mar 2021

Ahmed and his family were forcibly removed from their home to make way for a new rapid transit system. There are powerful supporters of the project and Ahmed and his family are concerned that something bad will happen if they complain. Their biggest concern is that Ahmed, who works for the government, could lose his job. This fear of retaliation for people like Ahmed undermines the effectiveness of grievance mechanisms like the IRM and is the reason that grievance mechanisms are paying more and more attention to the protection of complainants from retaliation and threats of retaliation.

The IRM developed supporting operating procedures (SOPs) to minimise the risks of retaliation in its processes. These SOPs were published in early 2020 for public comment and the IRM engaged extensively with stakeholders. The IRM has written on this topic in two previous blogs (accessible here and here) and has kept abreast of developments internationally.

To further cement the IRM’s commitment to creating a safe environment for complaints handling, the staff of the IRM undertook training at the end of 2020 on how to develop an effective anti-retaliation programme, confidentiality, communications and overall risk management. Following the lessons learnt in this training, improvements have been made to the IRM’s SOP on retaliation. The improvements relate mostly to the inclusion of a risk matrix to assist the IRM in its risk assessment, the development of a communications plan, and additional procedures relating to confidentiality. The SOP is a living document that the IRM plans to improve upon over time and integrate lessons learnt, both through its own handling of complaints and in response to international good practices.

The latest version of the IRM’s retaliation SOP is available on the IRM website, and we encourage any comments at any time. Comments can be sent to