Whistleblowing, MNCs, and Peace

By Dworkin, Terry Morehead | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Whistleblowing, MNCs, and Peace


Dworkin, Terry Morehead, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


ABSTRACT

This Article examines the relationship among whistleblowing, corporations, and international peace. The Author attempts to establish that whistleblowing is a vital part of transparency and good government. In Part II, the Author examines the rational for whistleblowing. Part III addresses the cultural dimensions of whistleblowing and its practicability for global organizations. Finally, the Author looks at the advantages of whistleblowing in relation to both corporations and peace efforts.

I. INTRODUCTION

Globalization of business is an accepted fact, as is the growing power of multinational corporations (MNCs). (1) A desire for peace also seems to be globally accepted. (2) What is less certain is whether the power of multinationals can be harnessed to help achieve peace. Desire is not enough. Practical policies and procedures must be implemented to help achieve this goal. Discussions of peace through commerce mention certain preliminary conditions such as establishing justice, good governance, transparency, and giving individuals a voice as necessary requirements. (3) A tool increasingly discussed and implemented to deliver and maintain these conditions is whistleblowing.

Whistleblowing is a procedural way to reinforce the transparency necessary to free trapped capital, (4) encourage foreign investment, and move economies--especially transitional ones (5)--away from reliance on personal relationships and bribes. (6) To the extent that there is a positive correlation between corruption, poverty, and violence, (7) the need for whistleblowing is reinforced. Empowering individuals to combat cronyism and call into question economic decisions made for personal gain rather than the general good should allow more resources to be allocated to those at the bottom of the economic scale.

Professors Fort and Schipani have persuasively argued that corporations can have the greatest impact on peace through mitigating internal--rather than international--conflicts; the way in which corporations are governed makes a significant difference in the ethical values leading to mitigation of these conflicts. (8) Whistleblowing as a governance tool becomes even more important in this context because it encourages responsive, and thereby responsible, governance practices. It gives individuals a say in their organization, and contributes to a feeling of procedural justice. Giving individuals a standardized way to speak and be heard also helps reinforce democratic ideas. This check on power is crucial for an effective democratic institution. (9) Globalization often leads to a feeling of disempowerment and creates conditions which allow the few to benefit at the expense of the many. (10) Whistleblowing leads to accountability, and accountability helps defuse the resentment (11) and opportunities for corruption.

When whistleblowing is used to enforce just treatment norms, inter-ethnic, inter-gender, and inter-religious interaction and notions of equal treatment can be fostered. This is already true in the United States in terms of sexual harassment. (12) Such interaction (13) and enforced equality helps to defuse conflict. (14)

The growing dominance of multinational corporations allows them, in some respects, to act as independent states outside of the effective control of particular countries. (15) Thus, it is appropriate to consider the goals and restraints these multinationals impose on themselves, as well as those that are externally imposed. (16) In the United States, and to a lesser extent in other common law countries, (17) companies are being encouraged, or even compelled, to establish codes of conduct and whistleblowing procedures to enforce them. This Article discusses whether these practices and goals can be harnessed to help deliver on the promise of peace through commerce. (18)

Part II of the Article examines the rationale for whistleblowing, its growth in the United States, and the response to whistleblowing in other countries. …

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