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Harnessing Corporate Power: Lessons from the UN Global Compact

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Abstract:

CORPORATIONS ARE IMMENSELY POWERFUL – AND OFTEN ABUSE THEIR POWER. YET, ANDREW KUPER ARGUES, IT IS TIME TO TAKE CORPORATE AGENCY SERIOUSLY AS A CENTRAL COMPONENT OF DEVELOPMENT THEORY AND PRACTICE. THIS ARTICLE DRAWS OUT IMPORTANT LESSONS FROM THE UNITED NATIONS GLOBAL COMPACT WITH CORPORATIONS, SHOWING HOW CORPORATE POWER CAN BE HARNESSED AND RESTRAINED TO RENDER GLOBALIZATION MORE JUST AND INCLUSIVE. KUPER SHOWS THAT WE SHOULD CHANGE OUR APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENT IN TWO WAYS. FIRST, WE NEED TO REDISTRIBUTE RESPONSIBILITIES: INSTEAD OF ASSUMING THAT THE STATE IS NECESSARILY THE MOST CAPABLE AGENT FOR DELIVERING JUSTICE AND REDUCING POVERTY, WE CAN RECOGNIZE THE DISTINCTIVE COMPETENCES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF NON-STATE ACTORS IN ADVANCING HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMAN CAPABILITIES. SECOND, WE NEED TO RECONFIGURE REPRESENTATION: INSTEAD OF RELYING ON ELECTIONS ALONE, WE CAN RECOGNIZE AND EMPOWER NON-STATE ACTORS TO CHECK AND BALANCE ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES IN A NUMBER OF WAYS. IN CONTEXTS WHERE STATES AND ELECTIONS ARE INEFFECTIVE, OR LESS EFFECTIVE THAN NON-STATE ACTORS, THESE INNOVATIONS MAKE IT POSSIBLE TO ALLOCATE OBLIGATIONS MORE SUCCESSFULLY, SO AS TO CREATE A NEW BALANCE OF POWERS. WITHIN THIS COMPLEX DIVISION OF LABOUR, CORPORATIONS CAN BECOME AGENTS OF DEVELOPMENT.:Development (2004) 47, 9–19. doi:10.1057/palgrave.development.1100062

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.development.1100062

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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