Ethics & International Affairs Volume 12 (1998): Articles: "Think Globally Punish Locally": Nonstate Actors Multinational Corporations and Human Rights Sanctions [Abstract]

Dec 4, 1998

This essay poses the question of whether grassroots organizations can provide an alternative center of authority to the state in inducing multinational corporations to incorporate human rights criteria in their investment and trade decisions. In examining the anti-apartheid movement and attempts to replicate it in the 1990s in the campaigns against corporate involvement in Burma and Nigeria, it presents a mixed picture.

In each case, citizen pressures increased the costs and risks of "business as usual" with target states and induced corporations either to undertake social obligations or to disengage beyond what was required by national regulations or market forces. At the same time, nonstate actors are limited by the fact that they can induce but, unlike the state, cannot command corporate behavior; their success is dependent upon state policies; and their most powerful weapon—municipal procurement power—has been predominantly a U.S. phenomenon.

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