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Law and Catastrophe$
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Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas, and Martha Merrill Umphrey

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780804756839

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804756839.001.0001

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Catastrophes and Humanitarian Corporate Responsibility: A Conceptual Critique

Catastrophes and Humanitarian Corporate Responsibility: A Conceptual Critique

(p.33) Catastrophes and Humanitarian Corporate Responsibility: A Conceptual Critique
Law and Catastrophe

Ronen Shamir

Stanford University Press

In recent years, new demands for legalizing and for establishing a right to humanitarian intervention have been firmly placed on the international agenda. Still, most attention is given to the actions of states and suprastate bodies that are expected to intervene in protecting the human rights of victim populations. This chapter argues that the duties of multinational corporations (MNCs) that operate in areas where humanitarian intervention is considered should also be addressed. The primary theoretical and empirical effort is to show how contemporary corporate practices are geared away from assuming binding legal obligations. Fusing analytical and normative dimensions, the discussion develops as follows. It first introduces the field of corporate social responsibility, points to some of its most basic characteristics, and highlights some of the conceptual debates about the desired meaning and application of the term. It then considers some basic principles of humanitarianism and point to some leading trends and debates concerning its trajectory. The third section argues that through their respective locations within the neoliberal conceptual framework of the relationship among states, markets, and civil society, we can appreciate the structural homology between prevalent practices of humanitarianism and contemporary corporate-inspired notions of social responsibility. The fourth and fifth sections consider two concrete cases in which corporate social responsibility and humanitarianism intermesh or potentially intermesh. The chapter concludes with some remarks concerning future potential obligations of corporations in times of catastrophes.

Keywords:   human rights, humanitarian intervention, multinational corporations, corporate practices, social responsibility, humanitarianism

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