Blogpost: Amidst the Construction of “Global Policy Frameworks”– Education, Sustainability, Drivers Safety, and the Role of the National Forum

By Nabih Haddad

Economic globalization has caused a fracturing of regulatory ascendency, furthering the tensions between public and private governance at the local, regional, and international levels. This result of globalization has produced an atmosphere where transnational actors can now operate beyond the scope of any one regulatory environment (Backer, 2010; Ruggie, 2007).  In response, two global institutions — the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) — have spent the last two decades crafting various frameworks for the governance of transnational actors (United Nations, 2012; OECD,2011).

The UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework, grounded on the normative expectations embodied within the Guiding Principles,[1] and the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprise, for example, both aim for inter-systemic harmonization of socially responsible standards beyond any single territorial boundary.  This trend had gained traction with various transnational actors, broadening their socially responsible scope to the international level.

As recent as 2011, the Ford Motor Company Fund (Ford Fund), for example, has taken on the initiative to extend their grant making endeavors globally. From its beginnings, its social investment tended to be based within the context of the U.S.  Their grants were oriented toward three aims — community, education, and driver’s safety — and still are to this day. With the launching of Operation Global Goodwill in 2011, the Ford Fund expanded its philanthropic reach from the local/national level to the international level, seeking out the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good (the National Forum), and its’ director, Dr. John C. Burkhardt, who is recognized as a leading expert on philanthropy and development, to help craft this new phase in its operations.  This international initiative focuses on three distinct issues: education, sustainability, and driver’s safety.

More specifically, the Ford Fund tasked the National Forum to help direct and outline the contours of its global philanthropic initiatives within Brazil, India, China, and Russia, respectively.  Since, the National Forum has assisted in designing, measuring, and systematizing Ford’s philanthropic aims; through defining and constructing metrics; suggesting vertical communicative techniques between organizational structures; producing various reports in regards to the current state of international corporate social responsibility (CSR); and orientating the general framework of the grant making processes.  And many of the National Forum’s policy suggestions have been closely aligned with the aims of the various global benchmark systems produced by the same international organizations (IOs)  mentioned above.

IOs, such as the UN and the OECD, have attempted to internationalize and guide the parameters of economic activity through (1) various global frameworks (Alvarez, 2006; Reinalda, 2001), such as the Guiding Principles (Taylor, 2011), and (2) through vertical harmonization and the embedding of normative systems (Backer, 2007), such as the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprise.  These measures represent the evolving nature of a new social normative agenda (Backer, 2008; Ruggie, 2007); one that sees territorial boundaries as inconsequential coupled with the efforts to produce an incentive structure that will reinforce socially responsible behavior.  Many companies seem to be in tandem with this global current, and the National Forum is playing an interesting role in effectuating some of these policy aims along with the Ford Motor Company.

[1] The Guiding Principles (GP) are a series of principles produced by John Ruggie and his team in order to further “operationalize” the UN Framework, and to provide further operational clarity. The GP provides an overview on how States and economic actors should interpret the framework, and further contextualizes these methods within their day to day operations.




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