DSA2016: Politics in Development
Recently, engagement of development NGOs and agencies with multinational corporations has grown but careful consideration of the risks / benefits of this is still in its infancy. This panel explores diverse perspectives to understand better the issues and challenges arising from these partnerships.
Over recent years the engagement of development NGOs and UN agencies with multinational corporations has grown in scale and diversified in nature. Careful consideration of the risks / benefits of such engagement is still in its infancy.* A range of perspectives is now needed to build a multi-scalar and longitudinal understanding of the issues arising from partnership between corporations and development actors that also takes into account the changing role of the state.
Possible questions for discussion include: What are the motivations for corporations to engage with development organisations? How are the aims and modalities of development programming shaped by this relationship? How is the effort to address structural causes of poverty and exclusion enabled / constrained by corporate funding and by corporate lobbying with the state? How does receipt of corporate funding affect the advocacy work of development organisations? And, how is the role of the state as provider of essential social goods shaped by the three-way relationship between itself, corporates and development actors?
We welcome papers from diverse perspectives and disciplines that shed light upon this three-way relationship. Papers may address the macro-level, be theoretically oriented, or consider the dynamics of the relationship between state, corporation and development organisations as it plays out in practice. Alongside critique and discussion of challenges this panel seeks to highlight experience of positive developmental outcomes.
* For example:
Molina-Gallart, N. (2014) 'Strange Bedfellows?' Development Studies Research 1(1): 41-53
Adams, B. & Martens, J. (2015) Fit for whose purpose? Global Policy Forum
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
The current inevitability of corporate domination; a perspective from complexity theory
Complexity theory provides a framework to understand the almost inevitable slide into corporate domination of agendas, and the need for ‘push back’ from a neo-liberal stance. It highlights that NGOs, as champions of the powerless, must act independently and champion new forms of global governance.
Complexity theory (Boulton et al, 2015) provides a framework within which to explore the evolving relationship between corporate, governments and NGOs. It connects an institutional stance (the way patterns of behaviour can become locked-in and unassailable) and with a dynamic theory of change - contextual, emergent and non-linear. The understanding of non-linear interactions shows how, without regulation or public outcry or 'global governance', there is an inevitability that the big get bigger and the powerful get more powerful, leading to an unassailable domination by those with power.
The power of global businesses to focus primarily on growing profits is, of course, instituted by law; increasing shareholder value for PLCs has to be their primary aim (Bakan, 2004). Couple this with the short-term focus of the stock market, and the comforting framework of limited liability, it is inevitable that competing global businesses pursue profit, and indeed short term profit, beyond all else.
Within the framework of complexity theory, the paper will explore how this seemingly inevitable trend can be countered. It will consider the role of regulation, and of the need for powerful voices independent of commercial and geo-political influences - to speak for the powerless, for equality, and for the long-term sustainability of the planet. It will suggest that the current neo-liberal, free market stance will inevitably continue to increase inequality and favour the agendas of those in power. It will consider the importance of community values, of countering the messages of consumerism, of giving voice to the disadvantaged.
The political economy of partnerships: the partnership between Coca-Cola, TechnoServe (NGO) and the Gates Foundation
The political dimensions of partnerships are articulated within the parameters of the neo-liberal market economy. This paper
questions partnerships between philanthropists, NGOs, and private corporations and their motivations for engaging in poverty reduction..
New forms of philanthropy have appeared on the back of neo-liberal economic globalization which has strengthened wealth concentration in the hands of a few 'super-rich' individuals and families emanating from both the Global South and the Global North . The political motivation for this emerging 'philanthro-capitalism' is embedded in the assumption that competitive principles can apply to the world of civil society, in other words that what works for the market should work for citizen action too. This approach is driving partnerships between philanthropists, the private sector and NGOs, as demonstrated in a case study from Kenya.
This paper focuses on a partnership between the multinational Coca Cola, TechnoServe (a US-based NGO that promotes 'business solutions to poverty') and the Gates Foundation. Coca Cola and the Gates Foundation have both invested in Project Nurture, a project aimed at integrating 51,000 mango and passion fruit small-holding farmers into Coca Cola's supply chain. As a key delivery partner, TechnoServe acts to build the value chain through strengthening farmers' business skills and training farmers to use new technology, and to build institutional capacity by organizing small-holding farmers into business groups to access inputs, such as high-yielding variety seeds and finance, and to establish market links. The objective is to expand the neo-liberal market economy in rural areas on the basis that the development of capitalism in sub-Saharan Africa is 'incomplete' and requires interventions to facilitate the commodification process through value chains. The paper argues that linking small farmers to the global value chain binds production to the 'commands of corporate boardrooms'.
Partnership and North-South power: perspectives from African philanthropy
In their re-orientation towards domestic resource mobilization, the quest of African NGOs to establish partnerships across the continents’ business philanthropic landscape must not suffer from INGO agreements negotiated with transnational corporations.
The intended paper will contribute to the panel from the perspective of Africa's 'gifting' landscape. With reference to theories of corporate philanthropy and practices of social investment the paper will discuss ethical, principle and practical dilemmas faced when negotiations are in play between civic actors and ( trans)national businesses on the continent. It does so in a context where aid is shrinking while African states are hindering foreign financing of domestic NGOs.
Given such conditions, their strategic alternative is towards local resource mobilization by, for example, 'philanthropic' collaboration with Africa's businesses, both large and small. Here, relational dilemmas abound. For example, with corruption common place, come risks of being tainted by money from indigenous High Net Worth Individuals. Reputational vulnerability for NGOs may come from alliances with businesses providing social investments whom, at the same time, deploy illicit transfer pricing practices that plunder the continent. Addressing such endogenous relational issues can be complicated, overlaid or hampered by potential downstream implications of what big international NGOs negotiate with transnational corporations. Put another way, whatever agreements may be negotiated between INGOs and corporations in the world's centres of power should abet and 'do no harm' to local efforts with similar aims.
Aylor, B., 2015, CSR Ethics in Africa: a Discussion of Business Social Responsibility While Conducting Operations in Africa, Thesis, March. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.5121.2321
van Cranenburgh, K. and Arenas, D., 2012, "Strategic and Moral Dilemma of Corporate Philanthropy in Developing Countries: Heineken in Sub-Saharan Africa", Journal of Business Ethics, DOI 10.1007/s10551-013-1776-1
Political economy of INGO- private sector partnerships: the case of transforming the war-torn agricultural economy of Northern Sri Lanka
This paper looks at the political economy of INGO- private sector partnerships in Sri Lanka by taking into account Care International's partnership with a multinational corporation in promoting out grower projects in the war-torn Northern province.
The paper examines the dynamics of the recently found need for partnerships between INGOs and the private sector corporations in Sri Lanka. Here, it takes a closer look at Care International's partnership with a multinational corporation in the agricultural industry in promoting out grower projects. In the aftermath of the funding crisis, INGOs are slowly turning to the private sector for partnerships that could help them extend their presence in the country, which is largely influenced by their traditional donors. The paper looks at this change and argues that INGOs are gradually led to become service providers for private sector corporations in an attempt to re-establish their relevance. The paper demonstrates that INGOs are using their once proven reputation and credibility as well as their strong presence within the grassroots to penetrate deep within communities and fit them into processes of 'flexible accumulation'. Here, it argues that they have assumed the role of transforming social relations, in spaces where either the state has been absent or INGO credibility has superseded that of the state to facilitate underlying processes of capitalist expansion. In the light of these arguments, the paper concludes that INGO-private sector partnerships have become the perfect match for preparing the rural communities to willingly embrace experimental regulatory measures introduced within a neoliberal economic model. They exemplify a new institutional arrangement within frontier neoliberal economies that could devise measures for continuous proletarianization of labour for capitalist expansion.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.