Multinational Corporations and Global Justice: Human Rights Obligations of a Quasi-Governmental Institution

By Florian Wettstein | Go to book overview

serves oppressive purposes. Forcese (1997, 22ff.) distinguishes four ways in which corporations may bolster rather than undermine the repressive capacity of an unjust regime. First, the firm may produce products that increase the regime's repressive capacity. Second, a company can be a source of revenue that increases a regime's repressive capacity. Third, the corporation may provide infrastructure such as roads, railways, and power stations that increases a regime's repressive capacity. Fourth, the firm may provide international credibility to an otherwise discredited regime.

It cannot be the aim of this analysis to determine whether ABB's contributions indeed benefited the rights of the population rather than the oppressive capacity of the genocidal regime in Khartoum. Nevertheless, the example shows that arguments in both directions are possible. Decisions must derive from good and credible reasons based on firm principles rather than from opportunism and must be validated in open public discourse. Even though evidence of genocide is generally an indicator of a regime that corporations need to avoid (Jungk 2000, 8f.), ABB's decision-making process seems to meet these requirements:

In Sudan, our representatives have met government officials, NGOs, diplomats,
other companies and representatives of international agencies to discuss the
situation. No one in Sudan has advised us to withdraw, as proposed by certain
concerned foreign investors; on the contrary, the people we have spoken to in
Sudan have unanimously recommended that ABB remains there to help de-
velop the country's economic and social infrastructure. To withdraw, they say,
would undermine such efforts. As our discussions have progressed, ABB
launched the idea of holding abroader meeting of interested parties in Sudan
to discuss relevant issues. There has been considerable interest in this, and the
meeting in Khartoum—organized by the UNDP—is now scheduled for May.
Outside the country, ABB has been consulting with Amnesty International
Business Group, an international human rights expert, Professor Alan Miller,
as well as representatives of other organizations such as the UN Global Com-
pact and the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights. Amnesty's position
has been clear. It makes no recommendation on staying or withdrawing, but
advises that once a company is in a country it should proceed with caution and
engage in stakeholder dialogue. This is what we are doing. (ABB 2006)

Issues of indirect complicity must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, it is of critical importance that the corporation be open and transparent

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