Avanzar :: Experience

Case Study: Community Relations Review

Newmont Mining received strong criticisms for the seeming problems it had with surrounding communities at a number of its sites around the world. The CEO of the company agreed to hire a credible, external party to oversee a world-wide review of the company’s community relations efforts and also agreed that this work would be overseen by a high profile external Advisory Committee made up of human rights specialists, NGOs and ethical investor groups. Avanzar was chosen as the credible, external party to oversee this worldwide review.

Based on its extensive experience in the area, Avanzar designed a unique tool that measures key areas of community relations performance across a number of indicators. It also measures the robustness of the company’s existing management system for ensuring the desired performance in the community relations area. Avanzar then identified 5 teams of well-respected specialists to carry out assessments at five representative sites in North America (Nevada), South America (Peru), Africa (Ghana), Asia (Indonesia) and Austral-Pacific (New Zealand). These reports were produced, publically released and the company has been implementing their recommendations. Click here to read more.

N.B. For work and health reasons, Rader had to resign as Study Director of this Community Relations Review before the final report was released. Sabater carried on in her role as advisor to the project, and Whellams carried on as a team member for the Peru assessment.


Case Study: Expertise in Auditing to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights

Avanzar specializes in auditing extractive company operations for their compliance with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. (VPSHR) Rader worked for five years as the Director of the Extractives Program at Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) in San Francisco, which was the Secretariat for the VPs from its inception in 2000 to 2010. This exposure gave him an intimate understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the VPSHR. It also gave him an intimacy with key company and human rights/NGOs actors who are members of the VPSHR forum. During this time, Rader oversaw a confidential study on what each member company of the VPSHR was doing in terms of implementing the VPSHR.

After leaving BSR at the end of 2005, Rader joined Avanzar. Avanzar developed a particular expertise on the carrying out of field audits of the VPSHR on extractive operations and refined an audit protocol that is based on the ISO standards for management systems (such as 14000) and on the AA1000 principles for assurance: inclusiveness, materiality, and responsiveness. The audit template is comprised of seven sections, or categories, of assessment. The majority of content (5 of the 7 categories) in the template directly tests conformance to the Voluntary Principles. The risk assessment template also includes indicators that draw on Avanzar’s experience in engagement with external stakeholders including local communities, Indigenous peoples and illegal miners. While the Voluntary Principles do not explicitly cover interaction with such external stakeholders, the nature and quality of relationships a company maintains with these groups will have a direct impact on the security and human rights risk environment that they face.

Avanzar has conducted over seventy assessments of company compliance with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Central Asia, and South East Asia.


Case Study: Grievance Mechanisms

Avanzar has worked with a number of extractive companies to assist them in bringing their sites into compliance with the IFC social performance standards. As part of this work, Avanzar has worked with sites to develop stakeholder grievance mechanisms that meet the IFC requirements and are based on Ruggie’s Guiding Principles, as well as Harvard University’s Rights-Compatible Grievance Mechanisms: A guidance tool for companies and their stakeholders. In other words, mechanisms that are: legitimate in the eyes of stakeholders, accessible to stakeholders, predictable, equitable, transparent, rights compatible, and promote continuous learning and improvement.

Avanzar has worked with three separate extractive companies to ensure that their sites’ grievance mechanisms are rights-compatible. One project was conducted in Albania at an oil and gas operation where Avanzar carried out comprehensive engagement with internal and external stakeholders to develop a stakeholder engagement process that would not only align with international standards, but also be culturally appropriate and accepted by its implementers and users. This included process and conflict management training with grievance officers and other community relations and operations personnel. A similar project was carried out in Mexico for a mining operation. A third project was carried out in Peru and Colombia for an oil and gas company. It involved the review of sites’ grievance mechanisms and recommendations to align the mechanisms with international standards. Avanzar also developed a detailed guidance document to help sites implement their grievance processes according to company and international standards.

Case Study: Expertise in Community-Based Water Monitoring

Avanzar has developed an expertise in the establishment of community-based water monitoring committees in and around extractive projects. While the Director of the Extractives program at BSR, Rader spearheaded a community-based water monitoring committee for a Canadian gold mining company. The committee won several awards and was trusted and respected by both the communities of interest and the company. Since then, he has reviewed community water or environmental monitoring efforts around extractive projects in northern Canada, South America and Austral-Asia and made recommendations on improving performance in a number of these cases.

Sabater took over this work from Rader at the site and acted as the Water Monitoring Committee’s external facilitator for the following two years. The facilitation of the Committee was then transferred over to the local team as planned to ensure long-term sustainability of the program. Whellams and Sabater have since established two additional community-based water monitoring committees, one in Guatemala and one in Panama. Having established three committees at three very different sites, Avanzar personnel have developed a strong understanding of the elements that make community-based water monitoring successful as a community engagement vehicle and an independent, technical monitor.

The first committee was established at an operating gold site that is surrounded by Indigenous communities (with two ethnicities) and a strong NGO presence. The second committee was established at an advanced gold exploration project near a small town that is home to a more educated and urban population. The second site has the added complexity of being close to a lake that is shared by two countries. The third committee was established at copper mining project in construction phase in an area with limited public services and infrastructure.

During the establishment of all three committees, Avanzar conducted the initial assessment to determine whether there was interest on behalf of the communities in establishing a community based water monitoring committee, and if so, who should participate, how representatives should be selected and what they deemed to be the critical success factors. Based on this initial research, Avanzar developed and executed a plan to support the communities in setting up a representative water monitoring committee, including: organizing support from the local universities for technical and organizational capacity-building; arranging a third party to be a liaison for transferring funds from the companies to the community committee; liaising with the company on specific issues; working with government authorities to provide community training and increased oversight; and providing on-going support to the monitoring committee in such areas as training, capacity building, and communications to local communities, and external constituencies such as governments, NGOs, foreign Embassies and general media. The ultimate goal is to promote autonomy of these committees to act in their own best interests and significant progress has been made in achieving this.


Human Rights Risk Assessment

Avanzar has conducted more than twenty human rights risk assessments in South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and the US. We use a proprietary methodology to assess the human rights risks faced by an operation’s stakeholders, including their employees, and neighbouring communities. The tool was designed in alignment with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, reviewed by Fund for Peace, an independent external expert, and strengthened in collaboration with UNICEF to ensure that children’s rights were well covered by the tool.

Avanzar developed the unique assessment tool by reviewing other human rights questionnaires and over one hundred international conventions and covenants. These were then organized into seven categories and 144 indicators. Using this assessment protocol, the assessors analyse the potential, actual and perceived negative human rights impacts by the company and evaluate the risks to the rights-holder of these impacts.

Avanzar personnel fill out the tool by reviewing internal documents, external international and national reports; and interviewing employees, contractor employees and local and regional community stakeholders.

Once these risks and impacts are identified using the tool, then Avanzar assesses the severity and likelihood of this risk. We developed a risk ranking methodology that clearly specifies the actual or potential risk to the rights-holder based on the severity of the actual or potential impact. Any actual human rights impacts identified are immediately classified as high risk to the rights holder.

Avanzar produces a final report that summarizes and ranks the risks identified and provides recommendations for ways to mitigate or if necessary remediate the impacts identified.

Example: integrating children’s rights into the human rights due diligence process

“Very few companies have standalone child human rights policy commitments, except for the prevention of child labor,” says Simon Chorley, International Programs Manager at UNICEF Canada, which developed the pilot. “Yet, children’s rights go well beyond child labor. Children are vulnerable and have specific needs. Therefore they have specific rights such as the right to protection, the right to education, the right to family life and the right to play time.”

In collaboration with UNICEF, Avanzar refined its tool to allow for a more in-depth evaluation of risks and impacts on children’s rights. In June of 2014, we piloted a revised interview protocol at the Lagunas Norte mine site and child vulnerabilities matrix. The vulnerability allowed Avanzar to assign a more accurate severity of consequence to the risks identified.

Participation in the pilot enabled Avanzar to use the child vulnerabilities matrix to better understand and document the impact of human rights risks on children of different ages. For example, the matrix made it possible to report on the potential impacts of food security risk on children of different ages. In this case, it turned out that the younger the child, the more severe the consequence of malnutrition. The revised interview protocol also identified a number of human rights risks to children that were unrelated to mining, creating additional opportunities for positive contributions towards promoting children’s rights.

For example, social investment programs did not collect data on the number of beneficiaries, either adult or children. An impact evaluation program did analyze the number of beneficiaries after the social investment had been made, but did not specify the number of children who benefited. Given that 30 to 45 percent of the population in the area of the pilot project is under the age of 14, these unmeasured positive and negative impacts on children could be meaningful.

As a result of the pilot, the HRA tool continues to include detailed indicators that help to identify risks of infringing upon children’s rights, and provide our client with guidance on how it is contributing, and may further contribute, to the positive promotion of children’s rights.


To understand and strengthen the relationship between local, national and international stakeholders and resource companies in order to prevent, mitigate and manage negative impacts related to resource extraction projects and promote sustainable development.



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