Those of you who have followed this blog and our work over the last years will know that we have taken a special interest in the political role of private corporations. So what are the vibes here at the UN Global Compact Summit?
Well, the general gist seems to be that most of whom are quite happy to pass on more responsibility for the environment, human rights etc. (i.e. the ten principles) to the private sector. The most poignant role in this probably put forward by the UK's new Minister for International Development, Alan Duncan. I liked him when I lived in the UK, but was a bit underwhelmed by what he said. Basically he is a pink Thatcherite, talking about shareholder value and how companies can combine this with development. He ducked questions on BP and whether there is a role for governments in preventing these disasters, which was a bit weak, I found.
A refreshing accent was set by Mike Bloomberg and what the City of New York is doing. He was kind of cool, I found, saying that the City's carbon footprint is now at a third of the average American city. He said the City is willing to lead, but he expects business to do its part as well.
So far well and good. If we release corporations into this sphere though, what about democracy and political principles. There is next to no discussion on this here, apart from the occasional reference to more accountability and transparency. Maybe that should be put on the agenda for the next decade. But this will make it a really warranted area of further research for the academic community. How to make this shift in governance of societies one which is really in the interest of those who are governed? Currently, our best hope is that we will be governed by all those 'benign dictators', which are currently gathered here.