Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Justice at Work: too optimistic?

Professor David Cingranelli, professor of political science at Binghamton University, got an “error’ report when he tried to leave a comment on my November 14 blog. He did finally get through by regular email with the following critique.
I’ve been thinking more generally about your arguments in your excellent new book, “Justice at Work: Globalization and the Human Rights of Workers.” I love the book, but I think you are way too optimistic about the potential of Corporate Social Responsibility, anti-sweatshop movements, personal boycotts, and fair traded goods movements as ways to deal with the most negative effects of globalization on workers.

I also think national policies like the [proposed] prohibition on spending taxpayer dollars for goods made by forced child labor make Americans feel good, but are similarly ineffective. There are few incentives for US politicians to enforce the provisions of laws such as these, and, more importantly, if the unethical producers of such goods don’t sell them here, they will sell them somewhere else.

Only international norms promulgated by the United Nations through the ILO and enforced by the World Bank and IMF can effectively solve these problems. IMF and World Bank leaders resist this idea. But, unlike the WTO, both of these institutions are Specialized Agencies of the United Nations, and the United Nations’ twin missions, according to its own charter, are to promote peace and human rights. No UN entity can say that the promotion of human rights is not part of its own mission. In your blog you have reported on some small steps taken by the World Bank towards this end, but much more remains to be done.

Current policies of the IMF and World Bank are actually leading to reduced government respect for a wide range of human rights around the world. This fact is well documented in my recent book with Rodwan Abouharb, Human Rights and Structural Adjustment (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Chapter 9 presents the results of a global, comparative study showing that, other things being equal, the longer a developing country has been under structural adjustment programs, the worse its respect for workers’ rights including freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Thank you for providing so much good information about the effects of globalization on the most vulnerable of the world’s workers. While I disagree with some of your opinions, your voice has helped me refine my own thoughts about this important subject.

-- David Cingranelli, professor of political science, Binghamton University.

(An undergraduate class of his had a two-week, six-hour discussion of Justice of Work.)

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