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Human rights disasters, corporate accountability and the state: Lessons learned from Rana Plaza

Siddiqui, Javed and Uddin, Shahzad (2016) 'Human rights disasters, corporate accountability and the state: Lessons learned from Rana Plaza.' Accounting Auditing and Accountability Journal, 29 (4). pp. 679-704. ISSN 0951-3574

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the state-business nexus in responses to human rights violations in businesses and questions the efficacy of the UN guiding principles on human rights in businesses, in particular in the ready-made garments (RMG) industry in Bangladesh. Drawing on Cohen’s notion of “denial” and Black’s (2008) legitimacy and accountability relationships of state and non-state actors, the study seeks to explain why such “soft” global regulations remain inadequate. Design/methodology/approach – The empirical work for this paper is based on the authors’ participation in two multiple-stakeholder advisory consultation meetings for the RMG sector in Bangladesh and 11 follow-up interviews. This is supplemented by documentary evidence on human rights disasters, responses of the state and non-state actors and human rights reports published in national and international newspapers. Findings – The paper provides clear evidence that the state-business nexus perpetuates human rights disasters. The study also shows that the Bangladeshi state, ruled by family-led political parties, is more inclined to protect businesses that cause human rights disasters than to ensure human rights in businesses. The economic conditions of the RMG industry and accountability and legitimacy relationships between state and non-state actors have provided the necessary background for RMG owners to continue to violate the safety and security of the workplace and maintain inhumane working conditions. Research limitations/implications – Complex state politics, including family, kinship and wealthy supporters, and economic circumstances have serious implications for the efficacy of the UN guiding principle on human rights for business. This paper calls for broader political and economic changes, nationally and internationally. Originality/value – The study highlights the perpetuation of corporate human rights abuses by the state-business nexus, and indicates that human rights issues continue to be ignored through a discourse of denial. This is explained in terms of legitimacy and accountability relationships between state and non-state actors, bounded by complex political and economic conditions.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Bangladesh; Human rights; State; Corporate accountability
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5601 Accounting
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School
Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School > Essex Accounting Centre
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 26 Mar 2016 11:57
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2022 13:01

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