Jun 082018

In 2013, India adopted a mandatory “comply or explain” corporate social responsibility (CSR) law requiring companies to spend 2% of their net profits on local social causes or explain—in their annual reports and on their websites—why they have failed to do so. With the five-year anniversary of this legislation approaching, the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics recently held a two-day workshop with the goal of taking stock of the law and its impact, focusing on both the philanthropic and corporate responsibility landscapes.

Practitioners from a wide variety of fields, including academic scholars and business leaders from both the U.S. and India, gathered at KIE on June 4th and 5th, to discuss conceptual, empirical, and policy-related questions related to CSRs. The workshop was funded by the Duke India Initiative.

Suzanne Katzenstein, research scholar and the project director at the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, as well as the workshop’s organizer, has long been interested in India’s CSR law. “Considering how unusual and innovative it is, there has been very little interdisciplinary conversation about the law, and even less discussion between academics and practitioners,” she says. “This workshop seemed ideal: bringing people together, who normally don’t have the opportunity to interact, to reflect on and discuss the law.”

A presentation early in the conference by Shankar Venkateswaran, MBA and retired chief of the Tata Sustainability Group, acknowledged that the broader impact of the mandatory law may be that companies think of their role in society differently. “CSR legislation has the potential to rewrite the normative role of business in the community and to transform how corporations think about their role in inclusive development, in line with the National Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Business,” he said. “At the very least, the legislation has meant that the topic has become a conversation at the board level, elevating its status.”

Other questions and issues discussed during the two days of sessions included:

  • What is the objective of the 2013 CSR and how do we measure its impact? What kind of effect is the law having on poor communities it is intended to help?
  • How should we understand the broader impact of the law beyond potentially affecting corporate culture? How is it changing the character and role of NGOs, as NGOs now aim to receive funds under the law? What does it signify in terms of the retrenchment of the state providing public services or the expansion of the state in channeling corporate philanthropy for certain development projects?
  • How do CSRs differ across different types of companies, such as public and private? How does the law interact with corporate governance structures in India?

The “Four Years Out” workshop was a rare and valuable opportunity to have many interdisciplinary—and international—practitioners gathered together to discuss the progress, problems, and promise of CSR in India. As more and more countries around the world—and especially in Asia—learn about India’s mandatory legislation and become interested in adopting something similar, it will become increasingly important to have a consistent definition of what is meant by a CSR and procedures for how they are implemented.

As more and more countries around the world—and especially in Asia—learn about India’s mandatory CSR legislation and become enthusiastic to adopt something similar, it will become increasingly important to have a consistent definition of what is meant by CSR and how one is implemented.

“It is rare to have so many interdisciplinary practitioners gathered together to talk about the same topic. This is a great opportunity,” says Aaron Chatterji, associate professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. “This is a law that has gotten so much press, that other countries are going to look at this law and say ‘we want this.’ Many people will be looking for the literature on this (type of law), to understand what they should do.”

May 252018
 May 25, 2018  Tagged with: , ,

Kenan Institute for Ethics visiting professor Lisa Ann Richey has co-authored an op-ed piece, with Noelle Sullivan, published in the Huntington Post.

Entitled “There Are Better Ways To Fight Poverty Than Giving Money To Corporations,” the article describes how, in turning charity into consumption through campaigns such as Red Nose Day, “corporations and nonprofits distract from how the current unequal global economic system contributes to the very challenges these campaigns aim to address.” How well-meaning individuals are drawn to these campaigns offering “low-cost heroism” was also addressed by Richey in her talk at the April 12th panel discussion “Commodifying Compassion,” held at KIE.

Lisa Ann Richey is a Visiting Professor at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and Professor of International Development Studies and Director of the Doctoral School of Social Sciences and Business at Roskilde University in Denmark. She served as founding Vice-President of the Global South Caucus, and Advisory Board Member of the Global Health Section, of the International Studies Association (ISA).

May 162018
 May 16, 2018  Tagged with: ,

The Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics is again running the Pathways of Change program this summer. Students interested in the areas of business and human rights, women’s rights, and environmental justice are matched with internships with partner organizations working for social change across these fields, including Corporate Accountability, Feminist Majority Foundation, and NC Conservation Network. Together they explore the trade-offs between different approaches towards social change.

Sydney Speizman (’17) summarized the positive impact that her internship had on her: “The Pathways of Change program opened my eyes to the complex web of stakeholders and strategies involved in protecting human rights and the environment as the economy becomes increasingly globalized…[it] provided me with both deeper insight into how international development projects can better support the communities they aim to help, and valuable work experience that will undoubtedly shape my future career path.”

In addition to working for 8-10 weeks, Pathways of Change students conduct profiles of the people in their organizations and write “letters home” about the best ways to effect change in human rights practices.

Feb 212018
 February 21, 2018

moral purpose
The call for submissions to the 2018 Kenan Moral Purpose Award essay competition is now open, with a deadline of midnight on Monday, March 19. The Kenan Moral Purpose Award is given for the best undergraduate student essay on the role a liberal arts education plays in students’ exploration of the personal and social purposes by which to orient their future and the intellectual, emotional, and moral commitments that make for a full life.

More information and submission instructions here: http://kenan.ethics.duke.edu/students/kenan-moral-purpose-award/

Feb 132018
 February 13, 2018  Tagged with: ,

The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University is calling for submissions for its fourth annual Scholars Symposium in Scholars-SymposiumHuman Rights, Ethics, and International Politics. The symposium, which is sponsored by the Kenan Global Human Rights Scholars, is an opportunity for seniors at Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill to publicly present any honors or capstone project that broadly relates to the themes of human rights, ethics, or international politics. Projects can be written or artistic works. Students will present short summaries of their work in a conference-style setting. Distinguished faculty and alumni, as well as current students, will be invited to serve as discussants. This event is open to the public, and particularly for faculty, students and alumni of both Duke and UNC.

The symposium will take place on Saturday, April 14th in the West Duke Building, Duke University East Campus. 

Acceptance into the symposium is competitive. Applicants are asked to submit a 2-4 page extended abstract of their project. Please include the project’s 1) motivating research questions, 2) methods, 3) conclusion, and 4) overall significance to human rights, ethics, or international politics.

Proposals are due Sunday, March 25th to Suzanne Katzenstein.

Sep 052017
 September 5, 2017

The Kenan Institute for Ethics hosted award-winning journalist and novelist Ben Ehrenreich Sept. 4, who spoke to a crowd of students, faculty, staff and community members to share insight on the ethics of telling stories in contested terrain.

Ehrenreich, who has written for New York Times Magazine, London Review of Books, Harper’s Magazine and more, reflected on his reporting for his most recent book, “The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine,” and read selections to the audience. In his reporting for the book, Ehrenreich traveled to and lived in the West Bank, staying with Palestinian families in its largest cities and its smallest villages.

“As humans, all we have useable to us is highly contested terrain,” he said. “There is no other kind.”

Throughout his time there, Ehrenreich said he worked to find stories to highlight aspects of truth and humanity, and found the idea of contested terrain in Israel and Palestine as a theme that can be seen all over the world, accented by centuries of fighting and disagreement, from displacement of Native Americans to wars of Europe.

“When we talk about contested terrain, we’re also of course talking about histories,” he said. “Histories that remain alive in us, that shape our choices, our perceptions, our possibilities, our visions for the future.”

Aug 282017
 August 28, 2017

The Global Human Rights Scholars Program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics is accepting applications from undergraduates interested in human rights issues to join the second year of the Institute’s “Rights Writers” team, where participants use a shared blog platform to explore in-depth and thoughtful analysis across a range of diverse human rights issues, shaping discussions at Duke and beyond

The project provides a public space for students to offer their insight as well as develop analytical and writing skills, particularly with regards to writing for a general public. Global Scholars blog on a monthly basis about a human rights topic of their choice (see application for more information), read and comment on one another’s draft posts, and meet regularly to discuss. In addition, the Scholars program offers students an opportunity to engage with the work of the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and its network of scholars and practitioners.

Students who enjoy writing, would like more public exposure for their writing, and who are interested in tracing developments of their chosen topic over the course of a year are especially encouraged to apply. A collection of work from the 2016-2017 Scholars can be found on the Kenan Insitute’s website.

Opportunities and responsibilities for the 2017-2018 Kenan Global Human Rights Scholars include:

  • Scholars will receive an $850 honorarium in support of their participation in the program.
  • Scholars will blog! Each month during the school year (total 8 blogs) scholars will respond to a prompt about their given topic, as well as provide comments on the draft blog of one other scholar in the group. Blogs will be between 500-800 words;
  • Scholars will attend mandatory meetings twice a month to discuss their writing, their own, broadly defined, global human rights interests as well as current events;
  • Scholars will help facilitate the annual Student Research Symposium in April
  • The Program will include invitations to attend events and meet with human rights scholars and activists visiting the Kenan Institute for Ethics; 

Download the application form: PDF or Word doc. Completed applications should be sent to Suzanne Katzenstein (Suzanne.Kazenstein@duke.edu) by noon Sept. 25. Please put “Global Scholars Application” in the subject line.

Admission is selective: five to six students will be chosen for 2017-2018. Candidates may be asked for an interview and applicants will be notified of their admission decision around Oct. 9. Questions about the application process should be directed to Suzanne Katzenstein, Project Director of the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics (suzanne.katzenstein@duke.edu).

Aug 152017
 August 15, 2017

In a new report that builds on a publicly-available database of transnational, standard-setting initiatives regulating corporate conduct, research from the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and MSI Integrity suggests voluntary initiatives that connect governments, NGOs, and private companies may not have the institutional elements required to effectively enforce their own standards related to responsible conduct, including respect for human rights.

These multi-stakeholder initiatives, also known as MSIs, aim to improve company or government compliance with a voluntary set of standards for responsible conduct, which can include human rights, environmental, and anti-corruption norms. These standards often outline company or government responsibilities to respect the rights of an identifiable stakeholder group, such as workers, farmers, or communities living in an area affected by business operations.

However, an analysis by the Duke Human Rights Center and MSI Integrity shows that only 14 percent of organizations surveyed for the new database involve any members of the populations they are intended to benefit or protect in their decision-making bodies. Additionally, only half the MSIs involve affected communities in any activities at all. The ramifications of this means that, in the process of attempting to improve corporate conduct, people with the most at stake often end up being the most marginalized.

“Before we conducted this study, many scholars assumed that all these MSIs look good on paper and the real question concerns what they are doing in practice,” said Suzanne Katzenstein, Research Scholar and Project Director at the Duke Human Rights Center. “But even on paper, there’s reason to be troubled.”

Part of the problem, Katzenstein noted, is a lack of transparency. Although 78 percent of MSIs have some form of sanctioning provision to hold members accountable if they don’t live up to standards, it’s difficult to know when the use of sanctions is warranted. This is because one in four MSIs does not require documentation of its evaluations. Of MSIs that do document corporate compliance, 63 percent do not make their evaluations publicly available, making it difficult for external actors to assess if an initiative has used its sanctioning mechanism sufficiently or appropriately.

Although the premise of many MSIs is to facilitate meaningful and relatively equal participation by different types of stakeholders to address a particular issue, 40 percent of MSIs in the database had highly imbalanced representation of stakeholder groups – meaning that one stakeholder group outnumbered any other in the initiative’s highest decision-making body by a ratio of two-to-one or greater. In these instances, governments, private companies or NGOs that have more representation in the initiative’s decision-making body may overpower the voices of other groups and guide the initiative’s agenda towards a particular group’s interests. In three MSIs, industry representatives outnumbered other stakeholders on the initiative’s highest decision-making body by a ratio of four-to-one: ICTI Care Process, Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification, and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

“The innovation of MSIs is that they bring together a diverse set of actors to hold companies and sometimes governments accountable,” Katzenstein said. “But when they’re dominated by one kind of stakeholder, outcomes can become skewed. Although both practitioners and academics have pointed to the need to fine-tune MSIs, this research suggests there is a need to re-think more seriously how to engage and improve MSIs.”

Data used in the report was collected by a Kenan service-learning class, Business and Human Rights Advocacy Lab, in the spring of 2015 and 2016. The 2015 class worked on piloting the research methodology and the 2016 class implemented the final methodology to collect the data. Students also conducted short case studies on the MSIs they researched.

Visit the MSI Database to see the full report. MSIs in the database engage with over 50 national governments and regulate over 9,000 companies – including Fortune Global 500 businesses with combined annual revenues of more than $5.4 trillion dollars.

Jul 312017
 July 31, 2017

In newly published research in the July 2017 issue of Child Care in Practice, student Louden Richason uses interviews and insight gained through the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ DukeEngage: Dublin program to analyze child protection services for refugees in Ireland.

Richason, who traveled with Kenan to Dublin in 2016 for field research and internship opportunities with TUSLA Family and Child Agency for Separated Children Seeking Asylum, performed extensive interviews with social workers, children and reviewed existing work. “The experience sparked my passion for working with refugees and interest in humanitarian governance and refugee law and policy,” said Richason, a rising junior.

Richason’s paper adds to a limited amount of research focused on best practices for separated children in international settings and finds that Ireland’s example of child services maximizes continuity and support since responding to unhealthy and threatening living arrangements for separated children in the early 2000s.

Because children seeking refuge in foreign countries often end up marginalized and isolated, Richason noted that his paper has potential to spur additional research for other countries as refugee numbers continue to climb globally. The United Nations Refugee Agency counts 22.5 million refugees around the world, over half of whom are under 18 years old. In Ireland specifically, 585 separated children sought asylum between 2010 and 2015, with 518 under 18.

“Given that the number of separated children has been on the rise in Europe since 2010, it is especially important to find sustainable solutions for these children to ensure they can grow up in stable, nurturing environments,” Richason writes in his findings.

From June to August 2016, Richason collected information through observation, interviews and research as part of his stay in Dublin during Kenan’s DukeEngage program. In his paper, he identified 10 areas of analysis that impact an asylum-seeking child’s experience and the approach of Ireland’s Social Work Team for Separated Children Seeking Asylum:

  • Meeting immediate needs during intake
  • Inclusive needs assessment to determine future course of action
  • Family reunification and challenges in DNA testing
  • Age assessments
  • Beginning the asylum process
  • Guiding children after placement in supported, foster or residential living situations
  • Providing an outlet for concerns from the child
  • Aftercare and community support
  • Resource allocation
  • Discretion among social workers

“It’s my hope that the paper can contribute to a more coordinated, equitable response to the refugee crisis in Europe and elsewhere,” Richason said. “Separated children seeking asylum are an incredibly vulnerable group and deserve a safe, nurturing environment to grow and develop.”

Click here to for an abstract and access to Richason’s paper, “Social work for separated children seeking asylum in the Republic of Ireland: setting the standard for child-centred care and protection.”

Jul 062017
 July 6, 2017

Government officials might take a lesson from their schooldays as a way to enact change around the world, according to an approach known as “Scorecard Diplomacy.”

Research by Judith Kelley, a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, shows that governments may act like boastful parents placing a report card on the fridge to highlight good grades issued by the U.S. State Department in the area of human trafficking. Conversely, low scores from America’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report can cause embarrassment, forcing some countries to reconsider their efforts in combating forced labor and sexual exploitation. The work provides an important look at aspects of policy and human rights, two programmatic areas of research at the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

“Every single country reacts every single year,” said Kelley, who serves as Senior Associate Dean at the Sanford School of Public Policy and Terry Sanford Professor of Public Policy and Political Science. “Nobody just lets this go by.”

Of particular note in 2017’s report is the downgrade of China to the lowest tier – Tier 3 – which is reserved for countries that aren’t showing signs or effort or progress. China is now lumped with the likes of Syria, Iran and North Korea.

“Dropping China pushes back against criticism from last year’s report that the U.S. was too lenient on them,” Kelley explained. “But you can also read into it that the administration clearly wants to take a strong stand on China to highlight a number of issues and maybe get China to act on issues related to North Korea.”

To understand the political impact of the human trafficking report, Kelley spent six years creating a global survey of NGOs, and examining case studies, diplomatic cables, media stories, interviews, and other documents. Her findings led her to realize that countries rated poorly by the State Department often fear sanctions by the U.S. or an impact on tourism.

“What countries are really concerned about is their image and reputation,” Kelley said. “They don’t like being stigmatized in this way and grouped with others they consider poor peers.”

In 2009, for example, Kelley notes that Israel worked to focus on human trafficking after being tiered with countries like Afghanistan, Jordan and Botswana.

The international relations implications led Kelley to publish this spring the book “Scorecard Diplomacy: Grading State to Influence Their Reputation and Behavior” and added to the idea in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post explaining why the annual human trafficking report matters.

The aftermath of the annual report is part of a larger discussion around human rights, Kelley said, as human trafficking worsens around the world, especially in places like Libya and in Africa. According to estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO), almost 21 million people are victims of forced labor, a number which has grown considerably since the ILO’s 2005 estimate of 12.3 million.

“The influence of the report has come a long way as we demand more evidence and data-based information,” Kelley said. “There’s great overlap from a policy perspective combining human rights with global governance.”

Read more about Kelley’s research on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog and in her book, Scorecard Diplomacy.