The Seventh Politeia Forum on “The Corporation as a Political Actor: a New Role of Business in a Global Society” (May 2011) has analyzed how the process of globalization have seen non-state actors - such as transnational corporations and NGOs - play an increasingly important role. In fact, corporations - as well as civil society groups - have started to participate in the formulation and implementation of regulation in policy areas. These areas include the protection of human rights, the implementation of social standards, the preservation of the environment, the struggle against corruption and the production of global public goods. On the global level, therefore, non-state actors play an active role in what has been called “governance without government”. The result is that some multinational corporations promote positive social change and assume direct political responsibilities traditionally belonged to government, as it is shown by their widespread participation in the UN Global Compact.
The Eight edition of the Forum develops the theme of the new role of business in a global society analyzing in particular the impact of business activities on human rights. In this respect, it should be noted that, while traditionally governments have had the responsibility of international human rights standards, over the last decade the issue of business’ impact on human rights has become part of the United Nations agenda: the UN has been defining the scope of business’ human rights responsibilities and indicating ways for corporate actors to be accountable for the impact of their activities on human rights. This process has brought to a better definition of the respective roles and responsibilities of governments and business, with regard to protection and respect for human rights. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises has elaborated the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework on human rights and business.
Aim of this edition of the Politeia Forum is to contribute to the international debate on the roles and legal and ethical responsibilities in a globalized world of non-state actors with regard to the protection and respect of human rights. Particular attention will be devoted to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed in June 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council for implementing the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework and which constitute the first global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights related to business activity. The Principles fulfil the need of practical guidance much felt by transnational corporations who are pressured to uphold human rights in Countries where the rule of law is weak and abuses are commonplace.The Forum is organized by the Research Centre Politeia in cooperation with the University of Milan - Department of Social and Political Studies - and the University of Padua - CIGA Centre for Environmental Law Decisions and Corporate Ethical Certification -and a Promoting Committee of several well-known Italian companies and organizations. Aim of Politeia is to organize a Forum in which managers of national and international companies and experts in business ethics and corporate social responsibility from the most prestigious national and international research centres will have the opportunity to discuss the emerging ethical issues in the global economic system. By this way, it aims to contribute to increasing awareness and knowledge among companies about the ethics and social responsibilities of economic organizations, and to contribute to filling the gap between ‘practitioners’ and ‘experts’.