Promoting dialogue between academics and civil society is one of the founding aspirations of this blog. In the manifesto, I emphasize how greater dialogue of this sort will help maintain a kind of symbiosis between theory and practice, which in turn, assists keeping the former informed and the latter defensible. This focus arises from my interest in philosophical pragmatism, which doesn’t mean just muddling through as is the colloquial understanding of pragmatism, but instead promotes high-theory that does not occupy an ethereal position divorced from reality. I’m interested in a two-way, respectfully critical dialogue between the academy and the civil society.
In that spirit, I wanted to invite members of civil society to critically engage with a recent article I wrote entitled The Turn to Corporate Criminal Liability for International Crimes: Transcending the Alien Tort Statute. In a previous online discussion, a set of distinguished academics kindly agreed to criticize the article, and my friends at Opinio Juris generously played host. The responses from Samuel Moyn (Harvard), Steven Ratner (Michigan) and Beth Stephens (Rutgers), together with my replies to them (see here), proved helpful in clarifying the scope of the idea, areas for further research and points of residual disagreement.
In this symposium, I will replicate our discussion about corporate responsibility for international crimes within civil society. In an initial set of commentary, representatives from Global Witness, Human Rights Watch, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, Enough, FAFO, and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights will all post insightful reflections that add much new information and perspective to our earlier debates. These leading commentators collectively boast years of experience dealing with these issues at the coalface, which is evident from their excellent contributions. I begin their commentary tomorrow.
At the same time, there are two obvious problems with this excellent set of commentators. First, they all emanate from the West, which robs the debate of input from civil society in Third World countries likely to be most affected by cases against businesses. I know of some NGOs in these parts of the world who are especially critical of corporate accountability, so it would be a shame not to include their voices in this discussion. Second, all of the commentators I have arranged are generally supportive of this form of corporate accountability, which is gratifying to me as author of the underlying article, but inconsistent with my desire to host a range of competing viewpoints.
This brings us to the open invitation. In addition to posting the thoughts of these leading Western NGOs, I invite representatives from civil society from throughout the world to write and submit a short blog post responding to the ideas in the article itself and our debates. Here are the guidelines for submissions:
- Submissions must respect the principles in the blog’s manifesto. See here.
- Submissions should be a maximum of 1,500 words including footnotes (if you decide to include footnotes at all);
- Your submission should begin with a sentence or two describing your organization, where you are based, and the work you do;
- Your submission should contain absolutely no allegations against particular companies. I am interested in ideas, not allegations;
- I will preference submissions that show signs of having engaged with the article and debate here;
- Articles can be submitted to me in English or French. Regrettably, I cannot host submissions in other languages;
- Please send the submission by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the words “Civil Society Blog Submission” in the email’s subject line;
- I will publish up to 15 submissions if I get this many. I cannot guarantee that I’ll publish all submissions, but I am hoping to get enough responses to publish a variety from different parts of the world.
The deadline for submissions is 20 April, 2015.
I hope that, by engaging a set of Western NGOs together with numerous others from throughout the world, the resulting discussion will provide a diverse set of ideas for and against this type of accountability.