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The Binding Dynamics of Non-Binding Governance Arrangements. The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Cases of BP and Chevron

  • Matthias Hofferberth (a1)

Abstract

While the state remains the main unit of analysis in International Relations, the emergence of transnational actors and their integration into global governance have contributed to an opening of perspectives and issues. NGOs and multinational enterprises as well as their interaction in public-private-partnerships have become popular research objects. However, these partnerships are often assessed in terms of effectiveness which leads to juxtapositioning binding and effective versus non-binding and ineffective initiatives. Considering such an either/or-logic to be of limited insight, the article argues that current research on public-private-partnerships suffers from four conceptual difficulties: (1) an underspecified concept of effectiveness, (2) a missing discussion on the yardsticks chosen for assessments, (3) a tendency to (over-)generalize individual findings and (4) underlying yet seldom reflected actor assumptions. To help engage with these difficulties, the paper conceptualizes partnerships as social contexts. Within such contexts, dynamics influence corporate identity and action and create new awareness as well as new conduct. Such a perspective allows to go beyond weighing the effectiveness of binding versus the likelihood of non-binding initiatives. The argument is illustrated by analyzing the emergence, development, and impact of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights with respect to BP and Chevron.

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