Virginia Haufler: Governing Corporations in Zones of Conflict -Issues, Actors & Institutions

CPD Conversations in Public Diplomacy

The USC Center on Public Diplomacy was pleased to host Professor Virginia Haufler for a Conversation in Public Diplomacy. Virginia Haufler discussed the public diplomacy involved in governing corporations in zones of conflict, based on her chapter “Governing Corporations in Zones of Conflict: Issues, Actors, and Institutions” in the forthcoming book, Who Governs the Globe?

Listen to this event | download .mp3 (34 MB)

During her discussion, Virginia Haufler poses the question, “Do corporation share a role in public diplomacy?” Her research has found that, in fact, they do. Traditionally, public diplomacy is known as a function of government communication to foreign publics to further their own foreign policy goals. But, Haufler points out, governments, private individual and organizations all, directly and indirectly, influence global opinion. Consequently, she states, building lasting relationships and collaboration among these parties is a central theme in recent PD thought. Several recent government reports in the past ten years recommend that governments work with the private sector on Public Diplomacy. International negotiations increasingly involve a mix of state and non-state actors; this use of multi-partner collaborations is becoming more common. For example, the Kimberley process certification scheme, an international process to ensure trade in diamonds does not fund violence, includes a collaboration of NGOs, companies, and governments. In fact, collaborations between state, civil society and firms are becoming more common than the old game of state-to-state relationships.

Corporations and Soft Power Resources:
Haufler points out that when people think of American culture they think of McDonald’s and other such corporations. This demonstrates that even globalization has not meant that corporations are truly global; corporate activities reflect upon their home countries and impact soft power resources. Therefore, American companies can undermine the government’s attempt to form a global image.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR):
CSR is defined as companies going beyond simple compliance to regulation. Haufler explains that a corporation’s CSR must directly relate to the work that business does-their practices. “It is not just a cigarette company’s philanthropy, not an extra thing they do, but rather part of their everyday practices,” she says. According to Haufler, there has been a huge growth in CSR development in recent years.

Security and Human Rights:
Corporations in zones of conflict try to protect their employees and their activities in volatile countries. Unfortunately, in doing so, they could contribute to human rights abuses and further conflict. Haufler sites cases in which corporations have been accused of complicity in such conflict situations and explains the harm this causes to their home country’s foreign policy efforts.

Haufler concludes that the lessons of governing corporations in zones of conflict, is that reputation has value, transnational activism has influence, and the spotlight of media attention cannot be escaped. This is true, says Haufler, for both governments and corporations.

About Virginia Haufler
Haufler is an Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park. She specializes in international political economy, particularly the role of the private sector in world politics. Her current research examines why the foreign policy community now seeks to incorporate multinational corporations into conflict prevention initiatives in the developing world.


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