by Thilani Gamage

Globalisation has assured the presence of corporations in different jurisdictions and
cultures and the proponents of globalisation highlight the benefits gained from
foreign investment, better employment opportunities, higher wages, economic
growth and transfer of technology to the states hosting Multi National Corporations
(MNCs). MNCs could operate in different locations and jurisdictions in the form of
wholly owned subsidiaries, agents, joint ventures or other partnerships with local
companies, supply-chain relationships with contractors and suppliers of goods and
services.” The OECD guidelines contemplate on a wide definition of a multinational
corporation: “These usually comprise companies or other entities established in more
than one country and so linked that they may co-ordinate their operations in various
ways. While one or more of these entities may be able to exercise a significant
influence over the activities of others, their degree of autonomy within the enterprise
may vary widely from one multinational enterprise to another. Ownership may be
private, state or mixed.”  Many of the MNCs may have headquarters in one country,
shareholders in another and operations worldwide.

Parallel to the advantageous of globalisation and the rise of MNCs, the latter has
gained extensive economic, social and political power, often surpassing those of the
governments in weak economies. As a result, Multi National Corporations (MNCs)
affect every aspect of modern society including the local and global economies,
labour rights, the environment and human rights.
The 2008 global financial crisis depicted a string of corporate crimes involving
insider trading, fraudulent audit practice, and corruption, in cases such as Enron,
Eurotunnel, Pollypeck, Parmalat and Maxwell. In addition numerous cases have
been reported on the destruction of the environment, exploitative labour conditions,
inadequate labour standards, destruction of local livelihoods which may well
amount to violations of national laws , international law and human rights in
particular, with an urgent call for responsibility for MNCs. Recently the Supreme
Court of India revived the case, almost after thirty years; the case involving thechemical giant, Union Carbide, related to the incident of chemical leak that occurred
in Bopal India, killing and injuring thousands of innocent victims. Thus as far back
as 1983, Union Carbide case showed the world the need to hold MNCs liable for
human rights violations. As such the right to life and right to health are inalienable
conditions of every human life embodied in the International Covenants of Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights. (ICESC)
Hence the fight for corporate responsibility continues and to hold MNCs liable for
violations of national and international law. CSR is the link between human rights
and Enterprises.Thus the spotlight is on MNCs, with a string of questions attached.
What do corporations owe to the society? What role could governments play in
regulating the activities of corporations, their size, power and the impact on the
society? Whether international law could play a role at in this scenario? And how
effective could international law be in implementing CSR obligations of these
powerful MNCs?
This paper starts with an introduction to the two main concepts of Corporate
Governance (CG) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the historical scholarly
debate on CSR to the present day application. Chapter Two introduces the case
study on the incident of worker poisoning at the Apple Suppler; Wintek in China.
Chapter Three identifies the one major source of corporate obligation voluntary
corporate codes of conduct and assess the practical relevance against the case study.
The rest of the paper is dedicated to exploring the ways and means as to how the
Chinese workers could vindicate their human rights against MNCs like Apple. Thus
Chapter Four identifies national law remedies and the national regulatory system
incorporating international law obligations. Chapter Five examines international
law as the main source of corporate responsibility with a study on the status quo of
its implementation machinery at corporate, national and international levels
followed by a novel and proposal for improvements in the enforcement mechanism
in Chapter Six.

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