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Human Rights Obligations of Multinational Corporations in Weak States

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Hubertus Juergenliemk.

CGHR Research Group

Business engagement of multinational companies [MNCs] in developing countries is often seen highly critical: media constantly report corporate human rights abuses in the oil, footwear or clothing industries. Corporate social responsibility [CSR] guidelines are often portrayed as pure image strategies exploiting weak regulation. However, this paper argues that in developing countries where governments have few capacities to carry out essential state functions, the engagement of multinational corporations could make a positive difference regarding human rights standards. Through their corporate social responsibility strategies MNCs have potential to step in and become ‘human rights duty bearers’ when states are not capable. In order to shed light on the circumstances under which companies can be expected to fulfil human rights obligations, the main question is: What are the main factors influencing CSR commitment of multinational companies in developing countries? To answer this question, the paper first examines how concepts of human rights and CSR are connected, and what role companies can play in the specific setting of a developing country. In the main part, the potential of MNCs to become human rights duty bearers will be discussed based a meta-analysis of qualitative studies from the mining, footwear and textile industry. Evidence from the analysis shows that four main external factors influence CSR of multinational companies: (1) law enforcement, (2) NGO pressure, (3) competition and (4) industry/business sector. The paper brings together scattered empirical work to substantiate theoretical assumptions on CSR and therefore contributes to a clearer view of CSR in developing countries.

Dr Jessie Hohmann, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law and Junior Research Fellow at Darwin College will be the discussant.

This talk is part of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights Events series.

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