On corporate social responsibility
Oct 2010 27

A blog post entitled Companies are not charities for The Economist magazine’s Schumpeter Blog endorses the opinion of one South African academic who believes that less developed countries cannot afford to hold multinational corporations to as high a standard of social responsibility as they would be subject to in the their richer home countries.

“Ann Bernstein, the head of a South African think-tank called the Centre for Development and Enterprise, thinks that advocates of corporate social responsibility (CSR) tend to miss this point. In her new book, “The Case for Business in Developing Economies”, she stresses the ways companies benefit society simply by going about their normal business. In a free and competitive market, firms profit by selling goods or services to willing customers. To stay in business, they must offer lower prices or higher quality than their competitors. Those that fail disappear. Those that succeed spread prosperity. Shareholders receive dividends. Employees earn wages. Suppliers win contracts. Ordinary people gain access to luxuries that would have made Cecil Rhodes gasp, such as television, air-conditioning and antibiotics. (emphasis added)

These are not new arguments, but Ms Bernstein makes them fresh by writing from an African perspective. Citizens of rich countries often fret about the occasional harm that corporations do, yet take for granted the prosperity they create. People in developing countries do not have that luxury...” (emphasis added)

She is effectively saying that people in poorer countries cannot afford to hold the large multinational corporations who go there primarily for their cheaper wage labour and raw material endowment, to the same standards of social responsibility that they are subject to at home because they are poor. There are a number of things that are wrong with this position in my view. [read more..]

Global Commons? Oi! That’s my oil!!
Mar 2010 04

The ongoing historical dispute over claims to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands or Las Malvinas has taken a new turn in recent weeks “fuelled” by the commencement of drilling for oil reserves. Little has changed politically since the cessation of military activities in 1982, with Argentina claiming sovereignty over the Islands and Britain maintaining that there is no need to discuss sovereignty as they support the Islanders right to self-determination. Indeed in the 1960s the Islanders asserted their wish to remain British, pointing out that their history, language and way of life was bound up with Britain. However, the real issue here has so far been largely ignored: the oil found off the coast of the Falkland Islands is a common natural resource. The financial benefits of discovering commercially viable oil would dramatically change the lives of the island’s 3,000 inhabitants, consequently, perhaps a compromise is needed to ensure that some of the economic benefits are shared between the two countries.

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Haiti on our minds
Feb 2010 18

The devastation caused by the earthquake has led global society to rally round in such an extraordinary manner. If it was not before, Haiti (the poorest country in the Western hemisphere) is on everybody’s mind at the moment. The vivid extensive media coverage and availability of modern technology has ensured that global society has been able to rapidly coordinate a program of much needed relief through donations of cash and kind. This is a true testament of human empathy – Governments (like Senegal’s have even offered free land for resettlement), along with celebrities and individuals alike whom have also risen to the occasion after having been compelled to respond creatively and give generously. A new report by the Inter-American Development Bank estimates that the total cost of reconstruction from ‘the most destructive disaster of modern times‘ could be as high as $14 billion.

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Aspecks 2.0
Feb 2010 17

Welcome to Aspecks 2.0. As we have done previously we took some time out to make improvements in preparation for the year to come.  Some might say that 2010 has only just begun and we are certainly looking to build on the progress that we have made by reaching out to wider audiences and creating the conditions for future success. We want to facilitate your participation in the Aspecks website. Registered users who show interest can contribute content to the site on their own terms. We seek a diverse range of people to broaden the dialogue and engage in the exchange of culture, knowledge and skills. Consequently, 2010 is the year of the Global Citizen Campaign.

More details on the campaign will follow shortly and of course we will continue to improve the website to make it a richer resource. Any feedback on your browsing experience and how it can be enhanced is always appreciated. This year you can look forward to a load of fresh content, additional features along with brand new original Aspecks t-shirts and sweaters. We are excited about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead and we look forward to working with as many of you as possible.

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Right to Protest? Part 2
Nov 2009 23

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the former Iranian vice-president and leading reformist in the administration of President Mohammed Khatami (1997 to 2005) was yesterday released on bail of $700,000 (£424,000) pending his appeal. Mr Abtahi has been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for fomenting unrest after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June. The most senior of hundreds of dissidents to have been locked up in the past five months “confessed” to his alleged crimes during a state televised trial that has been internationally denounced in similar fashion to Mr Abtahi’s claims about the election, as ‘a swindle’.

The protests on the streets of Tehran were of an unprecedented scale and the reaction of the Iranian Government speaks for itself as the regime has gone as far as to state that the protests were illegal whilst nationally televising rallies that support the Government. The right to protest is a fundamental part of any society, especially a democracy but Iran is not a democratic state, indeed it is one that is deeply divided. The main split, between those who support the Government and those who do not, appears to centre around different and opposite understandings of Iran’s political evolution since the 1979 revolution. One side wants a gradual evolution of democratic institutions and a more democratic reading of Islamic institutions, whilst the other desires a more a populist and authoritarian reading of Islam. Both sides claim to represent the majority of the population which is difficult to prove either way although it can be argued that the split is also one between the younger, more globally-minded individuals who wish for Iran to have more connections to the outside world and those who feel that Iran has been bullied culturally and politically by the West and trust in Mr. Ahmadinejad to deliver the revolution’s promises of economic and social justice.

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