Corporate symbolic reparations in transitional justice contexts.
Case studies from Colombia, Germany and South Africa.
Transitional justice (TJ) processes seek to address systemic human rights (HR) violations by amending past wrongs through, for example, symbolic reparations (SR) such as apologies, acknowledgment, memorialization or commemoration. Corporations are increasingly important as participants in and supporters of TJ processes. They are also more and more frequently sought to be held accountable as perpetrators or accomplices. The scholarly and practice field of TJ has critically examined SR measures in recent years and TJ mechanisms have been given expanded mandates to address corporate responsibility. However, the field has not fully theorized the multiplicity of roles that corporations can play in post-conflict contexts.
In responding to this gap in the literature and the empirical puzzle of why, under similar circumstances, some corporations engage in SRs and others do not, we focus on Colombia, Germany and South Africa, all of which have considerably shaped the theory and practice of TJ. We ask why, when and how both corporations and victims engage in SR processes. We focus on one “best practice” and one “negative” case in each country and draw on management and business and human rights (BHR) scholarship to address gaps in the TJ literature. In doing so we produce a unique mapping of corporate SR initiatives and offer a theorization of corporate engagement in TJ thus making a significant theoretical and empirical contribution to both TJ and BHR scholarship. The findings will benefit state and non-state actors as well as international organizations as they provide a scientific basis and actionable knowledge to strengthen the role of corporations in TJ processes.
The project is co-led by the Institute for Business Ethics (University of St Gallen, Switzerland) and swisspeace (University of Basel, Switzerland), in partnership with the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (South Africa) and the Centro de Empresas y Emprendimientos Responsables (Colombia). The team members of this project bring together a multi-disciplinary background on business ethics, history, regional studies, political science and transitional justice, from both practitioner and scholarly perspective.
In July 2019 the project received the support from the research grant by the Swiss Network for International Studies, that will enable the team to carry out the research project for two years starting as of January 1st 2020. The project expects to produce a number of policy and scholarly papers as well as to participate and organize events to disseminate its findings.