Recently, the mediation firm RESOLVE released a report summarizing the results of the Yanacocha Independent Fact Finding Mission (YIFFM). Newmont Mining Corporation hired RESOLVE to conduct an “independent” human rights investigation in light of a land-ownership conflict between the mega-mining venture Minera Yanachocha, Newmont’s subsidiary, and the Chaupe family. The Chaupes, a campesino family, live in Cajamarca, Peru where they are symbols of the community struggle against Yanacocha’s alleged environmental, land rights and human rights abuses.

In the YIFFM fact sheet, RESOLVE purports itself to follow the “principles of independence and transparency.”  Although Newmont selected and funded YIFFM, RESOLVE clarifies that the “funds are under the sole authority and direction of RESOLVE.” But if the Mission operated “independently,” then why was the scope of the report based on questions decided by RESOLVE and Newmont without consultation with the Chaupe family?

My question highlights the inherent weakness of “independent” human rights reports by organizations hired by multi-national corporations. As Marco discussed in this post about an assessment funded by Barrick Gold, “if corporations do the hiring, there will always be a pro-corporate bias.” Even though RESOLVE took measures to promote transparency and ensure its independence, the fact that Newmont chose the investigating organization and the scope of the Mission without input from the Chaupes already allows Newmont to influence the outcome of the report. Perhaps the family would have preferred that that the Mission addressed other questions or that another organization conducted the Mission instead of one where a former Newmont employee is part of the board. And corporations aren’t likely to hire investigators who are critical of them.

It’s also worth considering how these reports can be perceived when the subject is linked to a divisive conflict between communities and a corporation. In some circumstances when many community members already distrust a corporation, fact-finding missions should result from a process jointly agreed upon by communities and corporations. In some cases where corporations are the only source of funds for such investigations, it may be inevitable that the corporation is the ultimate funder, but the company should not be in control of the process – it could, for example, commit to funding investigators selected and directed by the community or by independent third parties agreed to by the communities. For Cajamarca in particular, many campesinos are dismissive of any initiative directed by Newmont or Minera Yanacocha. Even if that initiative is well-intentioned, community suspicion may risk excluding the valuable input of those who are directly affected by the social conflict and whose voice is needed most. Accordingly and given that RESOLVE’s goal is to “help community, business, government, and NGO leaders get results and create lasting relationships through collaboration,” When its only client is the company, RESOLVE does not help to create lasting relationships. It should only do such investigations when its engagement is the result of a community-sponsored process.

It is therefore no surprise that the report found that Minera Yanacocha did not commit any human rights violations, even though the Chaupes have repeatedly claimed that their rights have been violated.