Human Rights Standards and Multinational Corporations: Dilemma between 'Home' and 'Rome'

Mediterranean Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 7, pp. 69-97, 2003

Posted: 4 Jan 2005

See all articles by Surya Deva

Surya Deva

City University of Hong Kong

Abstract

Since MNCs, unlike states, operate at transnational level, they have a choice to apply different human rights and safety standards in different places of operation. More often than not, this freedom results in adoption of inferior standards in host countries (mostly under-developed or developing) as compared to home countries. With the help of Bhopal case study, this article demonstrates that the business approach of 'no standard standards' is unsound as it fails to protect even basic human rights. It is argued that this business approach should be rejected in favour of 'human approach' of universal standards. An MNC should disregard irrelevant local, even if material, differences and apply universal standards in its activities all over the world, whether in 'Rome' or at 'home.' For the adoption of different standards, only those local differences should be kept in mind which promote universal human rights. It is further contended that even the plea of cultural relativism cannot support the claim of MNCs to adopt varying standards.

Discarding double standards and agreeing on universal standards would not only dispel the fear of MNCs of 'losing economic competitiveness' but would also lead to equitable development of the world as developing countries would no longer have to relax their human rights norms just to attract foreign investment.

Keywords: Human Rights Standards in 'Rome' and at 'home', Cultural Relativism, Bhopal Gas Disaster, 'Home' of Multinational Corporations, Prisoners' Dilemma

Suggested Citation

Deva, Surya, Human Rights Standards and Multinational Corporations: Dilemma between 'Home' and 'Rome'. Mediterranean Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 7, pp. 69-97, 2003, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=637666

Surya Deva (Contact Author)

City University of Hong Kong ( email )

School of Law
83 Tat Chee Avenue
Kowloon Tong
Hong Kong

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