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International Regulation of Transnational Corporations

By Sarah Anderson | Institute for Policy Studies | December 1, 2005


Sarah Anderson examines four attempts at regulating the growing power of global corporations: the International Labor Organization Conventions, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the United Nations Global Compact, and the UN Human Rights Commission Norms for Transnational Corporations. Generally these corporate responsibility schemes are voluntary and thus have weak or nonexistent enforcement mechanisms. And even when such programs succeed the gains can be shallow, effecting minimal influence on the long supply chains and subcontractors that are the hallmark of global commerce. Thus Anderson proposes binding international standards bolstered by the creation of an International Court for Corporate Crimes (administered under UN auspices). This long-term goal can be reached, she says, by adopting a medium-term strategy that includes launching the Court with prosecutions of the most egregious crimes (child, slave and forced labor), formal UN adoption of the Norms for Business, and information-gathering activities such as a database of corporate crime and right-to-know legislation that requires domestic corporations to report on behavior abroad.

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