The Role of NGOs in Building CSR Discourse around Human Rights in Developing Countries

Main Article Content

Jae-Eun Noh


As a response to increasing influences of transnational corporations (TNCs) over the lives of the poor, development NGOs have tried to promote their responsibility in cooperative ways: partnership in development projects and voluntary regulations. Notwithstanding some degree of success, these cooperative ways have failed to bring fundamental changes to TNCs. This article outlines the limitations of the mainstream corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the potential of grassroots social movements to make TNCs accountable. People in developing countries have been neglected in the CSR agenda; however, they have power to change corporations as labourers, consumers and citizens. Drawing on case studies, this article suggests that NGOs should support grassroots people in building global networks, constructing collective values and creating the information flow in order to overcome the current shortcomings of community-driven social movements. For these new roles as advocates and facilitators for grassroots movements, NGOs need to transform themselves by pursuing core values.  

Article Details

Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

Jae-Eun Noh, The University of Queensland

PhD in Development Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia

MA in Social Development at the University of Sussex, UK


Aguinis, H. and Glavas, A. 2012, ‘What we know and don’t know about corporate social responsibility a review and research agenda’, Journal of management, vol.38, no.4, pp. 932-968. doi:
Aguirre, D. 2008, The Human Right to Development in a Globalized World, Ashgate, Aldershot.
Alonso, A. 2009, ‘Hybrid activism: Paths of globalisation in the Brazilian environmental movement’, IDS Working Papers, 332, pp. 1-49.
Andrews, N. 2013, ‘Community expectations from Ghana's new oil find: conceptualizing corporate social responsibility as a grassroots-oriented process’, Africa Today, vol.60, no.1, pp. 54-75. doi:
Arenas, D., Lozano, J. M. and Albareda, L. 2009. ‘The role of NGOs in CSR: Mutual perceptions among stakeholders’, Journal of business ethics, vol.88, no.1, pp.175-197. doi:10.1007/s10551-009-0109-x.
Blowfield, M. 2005, ‘Corporate social responsibility: reinventing the meaning of development?’, International Affairs, vol.8, no.3, pp. 515-524. doi:
Boesen, J. K. and Martin, T 2007, Applying a Rights-Based Approach: An Inspirational Guide for Civil Society, Danish Institute for Human Rights, Copenhagen.
Bond, P. 2008, ‘Social movements and corporate social responsibility in South Africa’, Development and Change, vol.39, no.6, pp. 1037-1052. doi:
Borras, S.M., M. Edelman, and Kay C. (eds.) 2008, Transnational Agrarian Movements Confronting Globalization, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford.
Carroll, A. B. 1991, ‘The pyramid of corporate social responsibility: Toward the moral management of organizational stakeholders’, Business Horizons, vol.34, no.4, pp.39-48. doi:
Caruana, R. and Chatzidakis, A. 2014, ‘Consumer social responsibility (CnSR): Toward a multi-level, multi-agent conceptualization of the “other CSR”’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol.121, no.4, pp. 577-592. doi:
Chambers, R. 1994. ‘Participatory rural appraisal (PRA): Analysis of experience’, World Development, vol.22, no.9, pp. 1253-1268. doi:
Clark, J. 2003, Globalizing Civic Engagement: Civil Society and Transnational Action, Earthscan, London.
Clark, J. 1991, Democratizing Development: The Role of Voluntary Organizations, Earthscan, London.
Conroy, M. 2001, Can advocacy-led certification systems transform global corporate practices? Evidence, and some theory, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Cornwall, A. 2007, ‘Buzzwords and fuzzwords: deconstructing development discourse’, Development in Practice, vol.17, nos.4-5, pp. 471-484.
Cornwall, A. and Brock, K. 2005, Beyond buzzwords: ‘poverty reduction’, ‘participation’ and ‘empowerment’ in development policy, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Geneva.
Dolan, C. and Scott, L. 2009, ‘Lipstick evangelism: Avon trading circles and gender empowerment in South Africa’, Gender & Development, vol.17, no.2, pp. 203-218. doi:
Edwards, M. 1999, Future Positive: International Co-operation in the 21st Century, Earthscan, London.
Edwards, M. and Gaventa, J. 2001, Global Citizen Action, Earthscan, London.
Escobar, A. 1995, Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World, Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Fairclough, N. 1992, Discourse and Social Change, Polity Press, Cambridge.
Foucault, M. 1972, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Pantheon, New York.
Foucault, M. 1978, ‘Politics and the study of discourse’, Ideology and Consciousness, vol.3, pp. 7-26.
Foucault, M. 1980, Power/knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977. Pantheon Books, New York.
Foucault, M. 1982, ‘The subject and power’, Critical Inquiry, vol.8, no.4, pp. 777-795. doi:
Fowler, A. 2007, Civic Driven Change and International Development: Exploring a Complexity Perspective, Contextuals, No. 7, Context International Co-operation, Utrecht.
Fowler, A. 2005, ‘Aid Architecture: reflections on NGDO futures and the emergence of counter-terrorism’, INTRAC Occasional Paper, 45, pp. 1-39.
Fowler, A., 2000, ‘Introduction: NDGO Values and The Fourth Position’, in Fowler, A. (ed.), NGO Futures: Beyond Aid, Third World Quarterly Theme Issue, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 589-604. doi:,, and
Fraser, N. 1989, Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
Frynas, J. G. 2005, ‘The false developmental promise of corporate social responsibility: Evidence from multinational oil companies’, International Affairs, vol.81,no.3, pp.581-598. doi:
Gaventa, J. and Tandon, R. 2010, Globalising Citizens: New Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion, Zed Books, London.
Gifford, J. and Ansett, S. 2014 ‘10 things that have changed since the Bangladesh factory collapse’, The Guardian, London 3 April 2014.
Available at:
Gilberthorpe, E. and Banks, G. 2012, ‘Development on whose terms?: CSR discourse and social realities in Papua New Guinea's extractive industries sector’, Resources Policy, vol.37, no.2, pp. 185-193. doi:
Habermas, J. 2001, The Postnational Constellation: Political Essays, Polity Press, Cambridge.
Hickey, S. and D. Mitlin, 2009, Rights-Based Approaches to Development: Exploring the Potential and Pitfalls, Kumarian Press, Sterling,VA.
Hilton, M. 2007, ‘The consumer movement and civil society in Malaysia’, International Review of Social History, vol.52, no.3, pp. 373-406. doi:
Hoggett, P., Mayo, M. C. and Miller, C. 2008, The Dilemmas of Development Work: Ethical Challenges in Regeneration, Policy Press, Bristol.
Hond, F., Bakker F. and P. Neergaard (Eds.) 2007, Managing Corporate Social Responsibility in Action: Talking, Doing and Measuring, Ashgate, Aldershot.
Hudock, A. 1999, NGOs and Civil Society: Democracy by Proxy?, Polity Press, Cambridge.
Idemudia, U. 2011, ‘Corporate social responsibility and developing countries: moving the critical CSR research agenda in Africa forward’, Progress in Development Studies, vol.11, no.1, pp. 1-18. doi:
Ife, J. 2002, Community development, Pearson Education Australia, Frenchs Forest.
International Council on Human Rights Policy, 2002, ‘Beyond voluntarism: human rights and the developing international legal obligations of companies’.
Available from:
Jamali, D. 2014, ‘CSR in developing countries through an institutional lens’, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability: Emerging Trends in Developing Economies, vol.8, pp. 21-44. doi:
Jonsson, U. 2003, Human Rights Approach to Development Programming, UNICEF ESARO, Nairobi.
Jordan, L. and Tuijl, P.V. 2000, ‘Political responsibility in transnational NGO advocacy’, World Development, vol.28, no.12, pp. 2051-2065.
Joseph, J. 2004, Social Theory: an Introduction, New York University Press, New York.
Kamat, S. 2004, ‘The privatization of public interest: theorizing NGO discourse in a neoliberal era’, Review of International Political Economy, vol.11, no.1, pp.155-176.doi:
Karp, D. J. 2014, Responsibility for Human Rights: Transnational Corporations in Imperfect States, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. doi:
Kilby, P. 2004, ‘Accountability for empowerment: dilemmas facing non-governmental organizations’, Policy and governance discussion papers, Asia Pacific School of Economics and Governance, Australian National University, Canberra..
Kovacs, R. 2006. ‘Interdisciplinary bar for the public interest: What CSR and NGO frameworks contribute to the public relations of British and European activists’, Public Relations Review, vol.32, no.4, pp. 429-431. doi:
Lewis, D. and Wallace, T. 2000, New Roles and Relevance: Development NGOs and the Challenge of Change, Kumarian Press, Bloomfield, CT.
Lindenberg, M. and Bryant, C. 2001, Going Global: Transforming Relief and Development NGOs, Kumarian Press, Bloomfield, CT.
Lindenberg, M. and Dobel, J. 1999, ‘The challenges of globalization for northern international relief and development NGOs’, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, vol.28, no.4, pp. 4-24. doi:
Lindholm, H., Egels-Zanden, N. and Rudén, C. 2016, ‘Do code of conduct audits improve chemical safety in garment factories: Lessons on CSR in the supply chain from Fair Wear Foundation’, International journal of occupational and environmental health, vol.22, no.4, pp. 283-291. doi:
Madeley, J. 2008, Big Business, Poor Peoples: How Transnational Corporations Damage the World's Poor, Zed Books, London.
McHoul, A. and Grace, W. 1993, A Foucault Primer: Discourse, Power, and the Subject, Melbourne University Press, Carlton.
McIntosh, M. 2003. Living Corporate Citizenship: Strategic Routes to Socially Responsible Business, Financial Times Management/Prentice Hall, London.
Middleton, C. and Pritchard, A. 2013, Corporate Accountability in ASEAN: A Human Rights-based Approach, Forum-Asia, Bangkok.
Molina-Gallart, N. 2014, ‘Strange bedfellows? NGO–corporate relations in international development: an NGO perspective’, Development Studies Research, vol.1, no.1, pp.42-53. doi:
Morris, A. and Mueller, C. 1992, Frontiers in Social Movement Theory, Yale University Press, New York.
Nestlé Public Affairs, 2007, Water Management Report. Available at:
Newell, T. 2004, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Development: In quest of an agenda’, Development, 47(3), pp. 29-36. doi:
Newell, P. and Wheeler, J. 2006, ‘Making Accountability Count; the Rights, Resources and the Politics of Accountability’, IDS Policy Briefing Paper 33.
Nyamugasira, W. 1998, ‘NGOs and advocacy: how well are the poor represented?’, Development in Practice, vol.8, no.3, pp. 297-308. doi:
Nyamu-Musembi, C. and Musyoki S. 2004, Kenyan Civil Society Perspectives on Rights, Rights-Based Approaches to Development, and Participation, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton.
O'Faircheallaigh, S. and Ali, S. 2008, Earth Matters: Indigenous Peoples, the Extractive Industries and Corporate Social Responsibility, Greenleaf, Sheffield.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), 2001, ‘Codes of corporate conduct: Expanded review of their contents’, Working Papers on International Investment, #2001/6.
Available at:
OHCHR (Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) 2006, Frequently asked questions on a human rights-based approach to development cooperation, UN, New York and Geneva.
Panitch, L. and C, Leys. 2003, The New Imperial Challenge, Merlin Press, London.
Parpart, J. L., Rai, S.M. and Staudt, K.A. (Eds.) 2003, Rethinking Empowerment: Gender and Development in a Global/Local World, Routledge, Oxford.
Rahman, M. 1993, People's Self-development: Perspectives on Participatory Action Research, Zed Books, London.
Rathert, N. 2016, Strategies of legitimation: MNEs and the adoption of CSR in response to host-country institutions, Journal of International Business Studies, vol.47, no.7, pp. 858-879.doi:
Sandler, T. 2004, Global Collective Action, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. doi:
Schirato, T. 2012, Understanding Foucault, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.
Schwartz, M. S. and Carroll, A. B. 2003, ‘Corporate social responsibility: A three-domain approach’, Business Ethics Quarterly, vol.13, no.4, pp.503-530. doi:
Sen, G. and Edwards, M. 2000, ‘NGOs, social change and the transformation of human relationships: a 21st-century civic agenda’, Third World Quarterly, vol.21, no. 4, pp. 605-616. doi:
Sierra, L. 2007, A Unified Theory of Collective Action and Social Change, University of Michigan Press, Michigan.
Silverthorne, S. 2007, ‘Business and the Global Poor’, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, 5 February 2007, Available at: .
Singh, N. and Titi, V. 1995, Empowerment: Towards Sustainable Development, Zed Books London.
Skouloudis, A., Evangelinos, K. and Malesios, C. 2015, ‘Priorities and perceptions for corporate social responsibility: an NGO perspective’, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, vol.22, no.2, pp.95-112. doi:
Subba, D. and Rao, M. K. 2016, ‘Measuring the Effects of CSR on Compassion at Workplace: An Empirical Study in North East Region of India’, Purushartha: A Journal of Management Ethics and Spirituality, vol.9, no.1, pp.26-42.
Tarrow, S. 2005, The New Transnational Activism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. doi:
Tarrow, S. 1994, Power in Movement: Social Movements, Collective Action and Politics, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Thekdi, S. A. 2016, ‘Risk management should play a stronger role in developing and implementing social responsibility policies for organizations’, Risk Analysis, vol.36, no.5, pp. 870-873. doi:
Thompson, L. and Tapscott, C. 2010, Citizenship and Social Movements: Perspectives from the Global South, Zed Books, London.
Unerman, J. and B. O'Dwyer, 2006, ‘Theorising accountability for NGO advocacy’, Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol.19, no.3, pp. 349-376. doi:
Uvin, P. 2004, Human Rights and Development, Kumarian Press, Bloomfield, CT.
Uvin, P. 2007, ‘From the right to development to the rights-based approach: How 'human rights' entered development’, Development in Practice, vol.17, nos.4-5, pp. 597-606. doi:
Visser, W. 2006, Revisiting Carroll’s CSR pyramid, cited in Pedersen, E. R. and Huniche, M. 2006, Corporate Citizenship in Developing Countries, Copenhagen Business School Press, Copenhagen.
Waddock, S. 2009, ‘Making a difference?’, Journal of Corporate Citizenship, vol.33, pp. 35-46. doi:
Wetherell, M., Taylor, S. and Yates, S. J. 2001, Discourse Theory and Practice: A Reader, Sage, London.
Yu, X. 2009, ‘From passive beneficiary to active stakeholder: Workers’ participation in CSR movement against labor abuses’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol.87, no.1, pp. 233-249. doi: