Private Sector & Corporate Power

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Corporations and other private sector actors are often influential players in defining global and national economic agendas. The rising importance of transnational corporations on the global stage, and in a broad range of critical sectors in national economies, raises many challenges for democracy around the world. These companies have enormous power, often with little or no accountability, over many human, technological, and environmental resources. Corporations also have significant impacts on diverse areas of development from food security, to resource depletion to labour rights. Corporate media and technology companies have a huge impact on women’s rights and are often overlooked as targets for action. “Public-private partnerships” have become a mantra in many development circles yet their significance for women’s rights and environmental sustainability requires further exploration.  Still, here to stay, the private sector is not homogeneous. It is a significant source of employment for many women and at times, small businesses have been allies for women’s rights campaigns. In some cases, efforts to ensure safe, fair working conditions for women and gender-equitable access to ‘supply chains’ are gaining ground with positive impacts for women’s rights.

How can we move beyond limited frameworks of “corporate social responsibility” to use human rights standards and mechanisms to hold corporations and other private sector actors accountable?  What types of strategies—for example from labour organizing and campaigns around extractive industries—have been successful in changing the course of corporations?

Related Resources

  1. Free Market Economics and Feminist Alternatives
  2. Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights,UNHRC, 2003
  3. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the UN “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework, Human Rights Council, March 2011
  4. Global Business and Human Rights – The UN ‘Norms on the Responsibility of  Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights’ – A Requiem
  5. Jobs for All? A Civil Society Guide to Understanding and Monitoring Industrial Policy
  6. VIDEO: Sunita Narain: Message to Corporations  about sustainable business models
  7. Afghanistan Inc.: A CorpWatch Investigative Report
  8. VIDEO: Privatization of the Public Sector and Women in the Labour Movement, 2011
  9. Davos: World leaders protecting business over rights in economic crisis
  10. Gender WDR: Limits, gaps, and fudges
  11.  Gender bias and central bank policy Employment and inflation reduction

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