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The Duty to Protect: Corporate Complicity, Political Responsibility, and Human Rights Advocacy

Abstract

Recent years have heralded increasing attention to the role of multinational corporations in regard to human rights violations. The concept of complicity has been of particular interest in this regard. This article explores the conceptual differences between silent complicity in particular and other, more “conventional” forms of complicity. Despite their far-reaching normative implications, these differences are often overlooked. Rather than being connected to specific actions as is the case for other forms of complicity, the concept of silent complicity is tied to the identity, or the moral stature of the accomplice. More specifically, it helps us expose multinational corporations in positions of political authority. Political authority breeds political responsibility. Thus, corporate responsibility in regard to human rights may go beyond “doing no harm” and include a positive obligation to protect. Making sense of this duty leads to a discussion of the scope and limits of legitimate human rights advocacy by corporations.

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Correspondence to Florian Wettstein.

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Wettstein, F. The Duty to Protect: Corporate Complicity, Political Responsibility, and Human Rights Advocacy. J Bus Ethics 96, 33–47 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-010-0447-8

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Keywords

  • Business and Human Rights
  • complicity
  • corporate social responsibility
  • duty to protect
  • human rights
  • human rights advocacy
  • silent complicity