حسابداری برای حقوق بشر : چالش جهانی شدن و موافقت نامه های سرمایه گذاری خارجی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|300||2011||17 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Volume 22, Issue 8, November 2011, Pages 811–827
The triumph of neoliberalism has promoted trade and investment as the dominant routes to economic and social development. This has further enhanced the power of transnational corporations. Developing countries are increasingly expected to secure foreign investment to stimulate their economies and lift the local population out of poverty. However, foreign investment also has implications for protection and enjoyment of human rights. Transnational corporations manage their risks by imposing stabilization clauses on host countries that constrain their ability to protect and enhance human rights. Conventional accounting and corporate social responsibility reports seem to be unable to respond to the emerging agenda on human rights. This paper seeks to stimulate debates about the protection and enjoyment of human rights by drawing attention to the way corporations constrain governments and people through clauses in investment agreements. Some evidence is provided through an examination of an investment agreement relating to the Chad–Cameroon oil and pipeline project. The paper calls for the production of counter accounts to challenge the hegemony of corporations and create spaces for the enjoyment of human rights.
The triumph of neoliberalism (Fukuyama, 1992) and the associated increase in corporate influence on the daily lives of the people and their right to food, water, shelter, security, paid employment, safety at work, clean and a non-discriminatory environment has deepened calls for greater corporate accountability (Mitchell and Sikka, 2005). Rather than enhancing democratic control of corporations1 and aligning corporate conduct with the basic human rights2 and freedoms, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights3 (UDHR), the trend has been to expand the scope of annual accounting reports published by corporations even though they are often a poor medium of corporate accountability (Jones, 2011). This has been supplemented by a variety of corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports (for example, see Bakan, 2004, Banerjee, 2007, Cooper, 2004, Demirag, 2005, Frederick, 2006, Hawkins, 2006 and Solomon, 2007). Some may laud the glossy CSR reports as evidence of corporate responsiveness to public pressures, but much of this responsiveness is primarily linked to the ability to make profits (Unerman and O’Dwyer, 2007). There is a suspicion that a large volume of the CSR reports are self-serving (Sikka, 2010) and corporate disclosures are frequently selective and part of the ideological battle to both accommodate and resist change (Adams, 2004 and Spence, 2009). As the chief executive of Unilever put it, “Corporate social responsibility is a hard-edged business decision. Not because it is nice to do or because people are forcing us to do it, or because I want to do nice interviews …, but because it is good for our business … This is a hard-edged business issue.” (The Guardian,4 5 July 2003). The tensions between the hard-edged business practices geared to increasing profits for shareholders and the enjoyment of human rights by the people (Amnesty International, 2006, Christian-Aid, 2008, Environment, 1999 and ETC Group, 2008) have persuaded some to argue that corporate power cannot easily be reconciled with democracy and respect for human rights (Bakan, 2004 and Hertz, 2001). Increasingly, there are calls for the development of “binding legal norms that hold corporations to human rights standards and circumscribe potential abuses of their position of power” (United Nations, 2003, p. 20). Such calls are infused with moral and ethical positions that emphasise the brotherhood of man and common humanity (Donnelly, 2003). They also assume that citizens will have sufficient information to enable them to make judgements about corporate performance and apply sanctions, where the standards of accountability are deemed to be deficient. In the final analysis, the state is assumed to be powerful enough to check abuses and develop and enforce legal norms. These assumptions, as the paper will later show, are highly problematical. The need to hold corporations to account arises from developments in international law (Jochnick, 1999 and Ratner, 2001), obligations arising out of the1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights5 (UDHR) and related treaties6 and articles promulgated by the United Nations (UN). The UDHR commits all UN member states to respect, protect and enforce the human rights of every individual to a standard of living for adequate health and wellbeing, including the right to food, water, clothing, medical care, housing and social services. It guarantees that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. No one is to be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile and everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted to them by law. The UDHR preamble states that it is “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations” and requires that “every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction”. The informed legal opinion is that the UDHR reference (see above) to “every individual includes juridical persons. Every individual and every organ of society excludes no one, no company, no market, no cyberspace. The Universal Declaration applies to them all” (International Council on Human Rights Policy, 2002, p. 159). Thus obligations to respect and protect human rights and provide a remedy for injured parties rests not only on the state but also on corporations7 (United Nations Human Rights Council, 2008), considered to be an important “organ of society” (see above). Public anxieties about respect and protection of human rights are fuelled by intensification of globalization and the related increase in the power of corporations. Transnational corporations are now a key source of cross-border investment and their quest for private profits frequently brings them in conflict with workers and local communities (Klein, 2001 and Korten, 2001). Developing countries may welcome foreign investment to generate jobs and economic development, but it can also have an adverse effect on enjoyment of human rights, including labour rights, security, sovereignty of the state and even the right to life. Corporations have been accused of lax health and safety standards and inflicting death and injuries on innocent people (Hanna et al., 2005). By avoiding taxes, corporations deprive governments of scarce resources which could be used to develop social infrastructure and improve the quality of life of people by providing education, healthcare, security and pensions (Christian-Aid, 2008 and Global Witness, 2006). In pursuit of profits, some corporations have knowingly colluded with murderous and corrupt regimes (Black, 2001, Clark, 1994 and Rowell et al., 2005) and have been actively assisted by accounting technologies (Funnell, 1998). This paper seeks to encourage debates about corporate power and human rights and calls for the accounting and corporate social responsibility literature to connect with human rights. It highlights concerns about intensification of globalization and the rising power of corporations through an examination of the risk-management strategies used by transnational corporations. These include placing constraints, known as stabilization clauses, on the ability of many developing countries to protect human rights by disabling their capacity to develop regulation, levy taxes; improve labour, health and safety and environmental standards and by constraining their citizens from seeking remedies in local courts of law. This paper illustrates and discusses the above issues by firstly examining the nature of contemporary globalization, which has facilitated economic growth, but also generated vast income and wealth inequalities. The dominant discourses persuade poorer countries to alleviate poverty by inviting foreign trade and investment. However, such processes also pose serious questions about the protection and enjoyment of human rights. The next section provides an illustration of the stabilization clauses through an examination of an investment agreement between transnational petroleum companies and the governments of Chad and Cameroon engaged on a project to drill oil wells and construct a pipeline. After discussing some of the social and political issues raised by the constraints it examines how the oil companies have responded through their annual financial reports and CSR reports to the existence and the impact of the stabilization clauses. The final section then reflects upon the paper and calls for empowerment of civil society so that it can produce social (or counter) accounts to call corporations to account and create space for the advancement of human rights.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Foreign investment and trade is an inevitable feature of contemporary economic globalization and has strengthened the power of transnational corporations. This paper has sought to draw attention to some of the challenges that it poses for the enjoyment and protection of human rights through a partial examination of a foreign investment agreement.44 It specifically drew attention to the impact of stabilization clauses which raise major legal, political, social, ethical and moral issues (for an indication see, Amnesty International, 2005, Amnesty International, 2006, Černič, 2010, Cotula, 2008, Leader, 2006, Macleod, 2008, Neumayer, 1999, United Nations Human Rights Council, 2008 and United Nations Human Rights Council, 2009). Stabilization clauses are a reminder of the way profits are prioritised and human rights are marginalised in business practices. The neoliberal project insists that civil and political freedoms are a necessary by-product of economic growth, but the Chad–Cameroon project examined in this paper shows that corporations view economic growth purely in terms of financial and contractual obligations. One might well argue that economic, social, cultural and political rights are a necessary condition for reduction of poverty, economic stability and enabling citizens to live fulfilling lives, but they are excluded from investment agreements. The rise of corporate power has compromised the autonomy of the state and constrained its ability to pursue what could be regarded as national priorities or citizens’ rights. These developments have not been accompanied by changes in corporate accounting and accountability practices. Traditional accounting principles, such as going concern, accruals, consistency, prudence, entity, historical cost and other reporting methods are arguably incapable of responding to social costs and concerns for human welfare (Maunders and Burritt, 1991). Major changes to accounting rulemaking and ideologies are unlikely as financial reporting is increasingly geared to meeting the assumed needs of capital markets. Organisations responsible for drafting accountings standards, such as the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), are populated with corporate interests (Camfferman and Zeff, 2007) and human rights do not receive any consideration in accounting and auditing standards and deliberations on corporate governance codes (for example see, Committee on the Financial Aspects of Corporate Governance, 1992 and Financial Reporting Council, 2010). Alternative forms of annual financial statements, such as Value Added Statements (Riahi-Belkaoui, 1999), can show how the corporate wealth is allocated amongst providers of finance (e.g. shareholders), human capital (e.g. employees) and society (e.g. taxation), but the underlying theories remain aligned with the interests of capital and neglect other social constituencies. Some selective disclosures45 can be bolted on to financial reports and may facilitate discussion of human rights, but they do not enable citizens to corroborate corporate claims. It is also doubtful that expanded financial reports can dilute the systemic pressures to report higher earnings or the executive quest for greater financial rewards, which are the key drivers of foreign investment, stabilization clauses and subordination of human rights to profits (Puxty, 1986). One might look to accounting academics for advances that might humanise accounting, but such prospects remain low, especially as a large volume of research published in leading academic journals privileges narrow technocratic issues and is rarely concerned with “an examination of the accounting issues associated with new forms of financial and economic transaction[s] …” (Unerman and O’Dwyer, 2010, p. 19). In recent years, companies such as ExxonMobil and Chevron have made references to human rights46 in their CSR reports, but too often the logic of cold economic calculations dominates investment decisions. The companies appropriated the vocabulary of human rights, but failed to publish anything about the existence of stabilization clauses or their impact on developing countries or their citizens. Companies can play such games because the contents of CSR reports are mostly voluntary and they rarely endeavour to disclose the actual or potential negative impact of their practices on human rights. In any case without independent corroboration from stakeholders, corporate statements are likely to be seen as little more than self-aggrandising statements. Such tensions are rarely addressed by policymakers. For example, since 2003 the banking industry has voluntarily adopted what have come to be known as the Equator Principles,47 effectively a common standard for managing social and environmental issues related to the financing of development projects costing more that US$10 million. This screening is supposed to address protection of human rights and community health; environmental, safety and security issues by screening a project against the host country's laws and regulations and extant international treaties and agreements, but campaigners48 have claimed that it is business as usual and that voluntary approaches have not addressed humanitarian problems (The Guardian, 14 January 2010). In most cases, the assessments carried out by banks remain secret and have not enhanced transparency and accountability of transnational corporations. The UK's 1995 Pension Act (as amended in July 2000) is another example of the way human rights agenda is resisted and accommodated. The Act requires the Trustees of occupational pension schemes to disclose through their Statement of Investment Principles (SIPs) “the extent (if at all) to which social, environmental or ethical considerations are taken into account in the selection, retention and realisation of investments”. However, the legislation does not require companies to publish investment agreements, or disclose how human rights are explicitly considered in their investment decisions. Within the neoliberal paradigm, United Nations Human Rights Council, 2008 and United Nations Human Rights Council, 2009 seeks to connect CSR with human rights and recommends that alongside their assessment of financial and business risks, corporations should carry out a process of due diligence for their projects “whereby companies not only ensure compliance with national laws but also manage the risk of human rights harm with a view to avoiding it …” (United Nations Human Rights Council, 2008, paras 25, 61). The UN framework recommends that member states should foster a corporate culture respectful of human rights at home and abroad (para 27), but is silent on how the systemic pressures for higher profits and executive remuneration are to be mediated. A major difficulty is that due to the impact of stabilization clauses some states, such as Chad and Cameroon, are not in a position to call giant transnational corporations to account. Civil society organisations have been effective in elevating the human rights agenda through production of social (or counter) accounts, but the UN framework does not do anything to strengthen such possibilities. For example, as corporations are displacing the state they could be subjected to the freedom of information laws and required to publish investment agreements so that the public can corroborate and audit their claims of protecting human rights. The imposition of such laws by the countries where transnational corporations are headquartered would help to mitigate the comparative powerlessness of citizens in many developing countries. Thus the public availability of investor agreements and related information in the US (where ExxonMobil and Chevron are headquartered) could have helped people in Chad and Cameroon to make sense of their plight and also alert recipients of foreign investment in other countries. The scrutiny of corporate practices and policies can be enhanced by democratisation of corporations. For example, by requiring that company directors be elected by all stakeholders (including employees, local communities and customers), but such possibilities are eschewed by the UN framework. Perhaps, a balance between human rights and corporate power cannot be struck within the confines of neoliberal ideology. The need to make corporations accountable for human rights opens up rich possibilities for research and interventions (for some discussion see Cooper et al., 2005, Gray et al., 2006, Jochnick, 1999, Macleod, 2008, Neu et al., 2001, Sikka et al., 1995 and Spence, 2009). Scholarly research can play a pivotal role in advancing novel discourses, giving visibility to the plight of the marginalised people and showing the social cost of corporate profits. It can create possibilities of emancipatory change by examining corporate power through the lens of social justice, democracy, power, accountability and human brotherhood so that the whole of humanity can live fulfilling lives with dignity and respect. The narrowness of conventional accounting thought and practices needs to be exposed to create possibilities of alternative forms of calculations and reporting (Bebbington and Gray, 2001). There are opportunities for academics to build alliances with civil society organisations and significant others and use their expertise to produce richer social accounts to ferment possibilities of emancipatory change. Such alliances open up the possibilities of going beyond the glossy CSR reports and self-congratulatory statements to examine the impact of corporate practices on the lives of people. There are real possibilities of organisational behaviour research to consider possible barriers that organisations might encounter in changing organisational cultures and daily routines to embrace human rights, and the varieties of organisational processes that have been devised, or could be devised, to meet human rights obligations. The spotlight should also fall on the role of accountants, lawyers, bankers and other financial intermediaries, in devising investment agreements which prevent people from enjoying human rights. The role of the home states in constraining the host state's ability to meet human right obligations should be explored to highlight tensions within contemporary forms of economic globalisation. The micro politics of globalisation and the role of global agencies, such as the World Bank, would need to be scrutinised. A focus on human rights can reinvigorate accounting, corporate governance and CSR research and can help to strengthen democracy, public accountability and provide a better world