1-2/2004 Content

79 (2004) 1-2: Corporate Responsibility in Zones of Conflict

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Transnational Corporations in Violent Conflicts
Volker Rittberger

This introductory article offers a conceptual overview of the new research programme on the role of transnational corporations in situations of violent conflict and outlines the contributions in this volume. Firstly state of the art research on the role of the private economy in violent conflicts is summarized, followed by a description of the different behavioural options afforded to transnational corporations in conflict zones. Several examples of partnerships between state-actors, NGOs and corporations aiming at conflict prevention are introduced and possible theoretical explanations for the behavioural patterns of transnational corporations are put forward. Finally, different behavioural options of state actors (as the primarily accountable actor for peace and security) towards transnational corporation are introduced.

Business and Armed Conflict: An Assessment of Issues and Options
Karen Ballentine / Heiko Nitzschke

The role of business as a crucial intermediary between local war economies and global markets for „conflict commodities“ has gained unprecedented academic and policy attention in recent years. A range of different business actors operate in war-torn or conflict-prone areas, including large and small transnational companies, local and regional businesses, and middlemen and brokers. Properly understanding their distinct impacts on conflict dynamics and their amenability to regulation is crucial to develop more adequate and effective policy mechanisms. Important initiatives have emerged in recent years in the fields of corporate social responsibility, human rights, and conflict management. What emerges from research and policy practice, however, is that effective business regulation as a means of conflict prevention and resolution requires the employment of the whole regulatory spectrum, from voluntary corporate self-regulation to international law.

Do we need a Peace Economy? A Swiss Perspective on the Links Between the Corporate Sector and Violent Conflicts
Daniele Ganser

After the fall of the Soviet Union a research trend within international relations has started to focus on the international economy. Part of this research trend is now increasingly focusing on the links between multinational companies(MNCs) and violent conflicts. The article offers an overview and distinguishes between a “war economy”, in which the economic activity increases the violent conflict, and a “peace economy”, in which the economic activity helps to deescalate the violence. With an international perspective (Shell, De Beers, Blackwater) and a Swiss perspective (Credit Suisse, Triumph, Pilatus, SAM, Ethos) empirical examples are given of companies that promote a “peace economy” or a “war economy”.

Transnational Corporations in the Extractive Sector – Possibilities and Limits of Corporate Conflict Prevention
Lothar Rieth / Melanie Zimmer

Only recently, the positive role of transnational corporations in regions of conflict has gained attention in academia. This article elaborates on how to define the term ‘corporate conflict prevention’. Based on this definition pertinent areas of conflict prevention and possible initiatives and measures of corporations are identified. Conflict prevention activities of corporations in the extractive industry are illustrated by using two case studies, Shell in Nigeria and BP in Colombia. One of the main challenges of this emerging research agenda is the question how to explain the behavior of transnational corporations in regions of conflict. By referring to the case studies and taking into account previous research three variables are examined: the norms of corporate social responsibility, the pressure by civil society actors and the importance of reputation. Finally, the possibilities and limits of transnational corporations’ activities in conflict prevention are discussed.

Distribution of Responsibility for Human Rights Protection: The Public-Private Distinction
Magdalena Bexell

This article examines how the relationship between public and private responsibility for human rights protection is constructed in debates on corporate social responsibility. The analysis is based on a constructivist approach to the public-private distinction, and a case study of the international debate between 1998 and 2002 surrounding the operations in Sudan of the Canadian headquartered oil company Talisman Energy. It is argued that the drawing of borders between public and private is politically loaded and influences perceptions of power, authority and responsibility internationally. Through efforts at establishing human rights discourses and discourses on economic profit as mutually supportive, transnational corporations are being constructed as bearers of a moral responsibility to protect human rights. The public-private distinction, however, complicates the identification of the character and boundaries of this responsibility.

What is Your Position on Global Players? Questions to the International Society Concerning the International Legal Status of Transnational Corporations
Karsten Nowrot

Currently, there is an intensive debate about how to make transnational corporations responsible under international law to observe human rights as well as recognized environmental and labour standards, given that these entities are generally considered to be powerful economic and political actors in the current international system. Despite this, the still prevailing view among international legal scholars is that they cannot be regarded as subjects of international law. The article first provides an overview of the generally recognized prerequisites for the recognition of an international legal status. It then analyses a variety of international legal instruments being of relevance for a possible international legal personality of transnational corporations. The second part critically evaluates the prevailing view concerning the general requirements to be fulfilled in order for an actor to be considered a subject of international law. Finally, a new approach is put forward: it is suggested that, on the basis of the transnational corporation’s de facto influence in the international system, a rebuttable presumption exists in favour of these entities being subject to those international legal obligations that are of specific importance with regard to their activities in conflict zones.

Historische Miszelle

The UN Global Compact: It all began as an experiment...
Lothar Rieth

This article provides an overview of one of the most well-known initiatives for promoting corporate social responsibility. First, the origin, development and underlying principles of the Global Compact are presented, and possibilities for corporate participation are introduced. Next, the basic arguments of corporations and civil society organizations for and against the Global Compact are illustrated. Finally, the relationship between the United Nations and the Global Compact is explained and possible future developments are described.


  1. The role of business in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and post-conflict peace-building 191Chairman’s summary of the discussion held by the Security Council on 15 April 2004 (U.N. Doc. S/2004/441)
  2. Security Council discusses role of business in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, post-conflict peace-building 193, Press Release, Security Council, 4943rd Meeting, 15 April 2004 (U.N. Doc. SC/8058)
  3. Auf dem Weg zu globalen Partnerschaften (2003) 196; Resolution der UN- Generalversammlung, 58. Tagung, 19. Dezember 2004 (U.N. Doc. A/RES/58/129)
  4. Auf dem Weg zu globalen Partnerschaften (2001) 201; Resolution der UN-Generalversammlung, 56. Tagung,11. Dezember 2001 (U.N. Doc. A/Res/56/76)
  5. Auf dem Weg zu globalen Partnerschaften (2000) 204;Resolution der UN-Generalversammlung, 55. Tagung, 21. Dezember 2000 (U.N. Doc. A/Res/55/25)
  6. Normen für die Verantwortlichkeiten transnationaler Unternehmen und anderer Wirtschaftsunternehmen im Hinblick auf die Menschenrechte 206; UN-Menschenrechtskommission, Unterkommission für die Förderung und den Schutz der Menschenrechte, 26. August 2003 (U.N.Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/12/Rev.2)
  7. The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact 216
  8. Die OECD-Leitsätze für multinationale Unternehmen (Neufassung 2000) 217
  9. Interlaken Declaration on the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme For Rough Diamonds, 5 November 2002 223
  10. Voluntary Principles On Security And Human Rights 226;Statement By The Governments Of The United States of America And The United Kingdom, 4 December 2000
  11. Shell Statement of General Business Principles 230; Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies (1997)