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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Benghazi: Another Tool for Hegemony




Benghazi: Cover-up By Both Parties?


The continued finger-pointing between the GOP and the Obama Administration over “what really happened in Benghazi” may be obscuring a much more disturbing narrative—a story in neither party’s interest.

WhoWhatWhy’s discussion of that new possibility comes below, but first, here’s the background:

On September 11, 2012, a heavily armed group of more than 100 gunmen destroyed the US consulate compound and a nearby CIA facility in the Eastern Libyan city; ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died. The attack has been characterized as “the most significant attack on United States property…since Sept. 11, 2001.”

Shortly after the incident, Susan Rice, then Obama’s UN ambassador, claimed publicly that the uprising was spontaneous—a reaction to an anti-Islam YouTube video that had just aired. She, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others soon came under severe attack for purportedly making a false claim to deflect attention from administration security failures, and the blogosphere has continued to resound with the issue ever since.

The GOP—along with its allies at Fox News and elsewhere—insistently drummed allegations that the Obama Administration was responsible for the tragedy. The charges have ranged from a failure to address Al Qaeda’s purported presence in Benghazi to not properly controlling weaponry in the hands of local militias.

These critics also decry what they say is a long-running cover-up.  According to one count, nearly 80 percent of House Republicans now say they want a Watergate-style inquiry convened. Liberals have charged the Republicans with being recklessly partisan and exhibiting “lunacy.”

Recently, the controversy’s simmer went back to boil when The New York Times published an investigative report on Benghazi. Some of its conclusions vindicated the Obama Administration. It concluded that there was no Al Qaeda role, and that indeed the inflammatory video may have played some role. However, while finding that the crowd attack was partially spontaneous, the paper’s reporter suggested that some intelligence lapses might have contributed. Specifically, he laid out superficial evidence that a local, non-Al Qaeda militia leader played some possible role as an inciter and sympathizer with the attack—and that the man should have already been drawing scrutiny from American spies. In other words, a kind of draw, with neither the GOP nor the Obama administration fully vindicated.

When the Times piece came out, the GOP and its echo chamber, including Donald Trump, raced to accuse the paper of covering up the role of Al Qaeda in the attacks. By most accounts, though, that critique is dependent on perpetuating a still-popular though overly simplified notion of Al Qaeda as a unified, globe-girdling command, ignoring the local origins of so much Islamist activity. The perpetuation of the “Al Qaeda threat” has worked well because it continues as an easy sell for those stoking the fear machine.

On a scorecard comparing the traditional news outlets, the Times would, not surprisingly, score higher on the credibility and integrity meter with the Benghazi story than, say Fox News. But that’s not saying a lot. Because very few establishment news entities of any stripe are willing to look deeper at the true causes of convulsive events, to wade into the shadowy world of larger interests duking it out through surrogates and deception.

Sometimes, to be sure, such events as the Benghazi “uprising” are as they appear: spontaneous acts of anger and passion. But often enough, there is more to the story.

That appears to be the case here. Delve deep into the particulars and you will uncover clues that, when carefully juxtaposed, suggest a more coherent design.

Here are some of those pieces:

-The date of the assault: anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks

-The evidence of advance planning and preparation

-The timing, content, provenance, and beneficiaries of the inciting video

-The nature of the uprising itself and its similarity to other supposedly spontaneous or locally-ignited debacles with international implications and hints of a guiding hand.

Cui Bono?

Let’s start with the last point.

At least 12 hours before the attack, guards at the US compound had noticed evidence that the complex was under some kind of surveillance. They’d seen a man taking cell phone photos from the second floor of an unfinished building across the street, and when they approached, the man fled in a police car with others—all of whom were wearing the uniform of a quasi-official militia. So if the crowd was whipped up over the video, and spontaneous, then the crowd was phase two of a far less spontaneous, and carefully planned, operation.

If those so obviously “staking out” the building chose to wear uniforms of a Libyan-government-connected militia and to “escape” in a police car, most likely they were neither government nor police.

All investigators know to ask: Cui Bono? It’s Latin, which loosely translates as “who benefits?”  Who benefited from the destruction of the consulate and the deaths of the Americans, and the subsequent US-prompted heat placed on the militias by deeply embarrassed Libyan authorities? Not the militias. Not the Libyan government or the local police. And certainly not the Obama administration.

The net effect of the attack—and the outsized attention devoted to it at the time and over the course of the 16 months since it unfolded—was to revive concerns about global Islamic fundamentalism.

In the long stretches of quiet, public sentiment tends to move toward cutting aggressive foreign military action and the tremendous costs, as well as the domestic equivalent, in the form of the post-9/11 government and highly profitable private enterprises all grouped under “homeland security.” When Obama has tried at various points to rein in military operations and to promote diplomatic initiatives over armed intervention, especially in his second term, he has faced staunch opposition, including in Congress, where those benefiting most from war and discord spend heavily to influence members.

It was no surprise, really, that the Benghazi attack was quickly followed by claims that the Obama administration is not doing enough to protect American lives and property. And the result almost certainly has not been further restraint in spending or implementation of security measures. Indeed, with the emphasis on Benghazi as “the most significant attack on United States property…since Sept. 11, 2001,”  the US compound attack became the far bookend on a period of actual substantive safety and calm for Americans, lasting eleven years since the Twin Towers came under attack.

The GOP and its allies have, remarkably, even sought to create some kind of equivalency between Benghazi and 9/11—but on the Democrats’ watch, instead of George W. Bush’s. However, given that four people died in Benghazi, compared to nearly three thousand deaths from 9/11, the alacrity with which the Republicans, their partners at Fox and the like have pummeled Obama tells you something about their cynicism.

Practically, though, the Benghazi attack sends the message that the US must continue to be aggressive abroad, and that it expects the same from “friendly” regimes in the Middle East.

And no friendly regime was watching developments more closely than the one right next door—in Egypt.

For Answers, Look Next Door

For decades, dictators ruled Egypt with the full support of European powers and the US government. With the Arab Spring uprising—which was viewed with consternation by US authorities—the country finally embraced democracy. But it brought new perils, as Egyptian voters elected Islamists.

On June 30, 2012, Mohamed Morsi of the Islamic Brotherhood was sworn in as president of Egypt. He won 51.73 percent of the vote in that country’s first free election, becoming its first civilian president.
The Brotherhood, however, did not last long. A year later, the army overthrew Morsi.

At the time, US authorities predictably issued restrained condemnations of the army and its overtly anti-democratic action. In the ensuing months, however, the criticism became more and more muted as the mandarins of American foreign policy argued that military dictators were preferable to elected Islamists.

While the Egyptian military could be expected to serve the interests of the wealthy and of transnational corporations, as it had in the past, its supporters abroad cited humanitarian concerns as justification.
Among these concerns was the instability and intolerance that Islamist control heralded, particularly in the form of retribution against Egypt’s religious minorities. Most notably, these included the affluent Coptic Christian community, traditionally protected by the Egyptian government just as minorities in Syria have   been protected by President Assad. Assad himself is a member of a minority Muslim sect, the Alawites.

With this background, consider the role of that briefly infamous viral video in the Benghazi attack. The video was a strikingly crude production characterized by the secrecy of the sponsors and the seeming intention to antagonize Muslims—and perhaps direct the antagonism against Christians.

The video, with its Egyptian roots, appeared barely two months after Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood took power. It was publicized heavily by Egyptian television stations closely allied with the country’s military–stations whose audience includes Libyans, and specifically  much of the population of Benghazi. We learned that the odd figures behind it were….Coptic Christians.

The details of the production of this amateurish film remain hazy; no serious investigation has yet established who was ultimately behind it. But the multiple deceptions involved in tricking the actors and others who worked on the film, the subsequent overdubbing of dialogue highly offensive to Muslims, the criminal past of the Coptic Egyptian purportedly responsible for the film, all these cry out for further investigation. They also send up flares that we’re looking at a classic, multilayered disinformation operation orchestrated by someone with lots of skin in the game.

That it appeared on television channels closely associated with the Egyptian military just as the anniversary of 9/11 rolled around, and that it allegedly became the match that set off the Benghazi mini-conflagration cannot be ignored.

When Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and others were noting the role of the video in the tragedy, they may well have been right. But we heard no more from the administration on who they believed was responsible for the video or the timing of its release.

Given the strong Egyptian connection, it’s hard to imagine that no one put two and two together and wondered if the attack on the American mission, with its apparent advance planning and sophisticated deception, were not the work of some disciplined entity with substantial interests and resources.

So far, the evidence pointing to Egypt is purely circumstantial. But the net effect, and the message, is clear: North Africa is a tinderbox, and we’d be well to leave the Egyptian military alone while it pursues its brutal and bloody campaign to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood. (The latest of a constant series of moves to quash the Islamists was the announcement by the Egyptian minister of education that the government had taken over more than 150 Brotherhood-run schools.)
Hence, our question: Were Egyptian intelligence services responsible for the inciting video, for stirring up the crowd, and essentially stage managing the attack on their “friend’s” consulate, with the goal of firming US support for their “get tough” policy? The net effect, more than a year later, has certainly been favorable to the military government. The dictatorship is firmly ensconced in power, and the US government has made little effort to get the military to withdraw to its barracks which would allow for democracy, however messy, to prevail in Egypt.

For the US military-industrial complex that has profited mightily from Egyptian military purchases, much of which is subsidized by US taxpayers, the benefits of a continued justification are apparent. Although the US has periodically announced modest and highly temporary freezes on military assistance to Egypt to symbolically protest aggression, these moves do nothing to seriously restrain aid that has typically run up to $1.5 billion dollars a year. And Secretary of Defense Hagel and Secretary of State Kerry have been supportive of the military regime; Kerry has been public in his praise of purportedly democratic moves by the generals in charge.

Whipping up unwitting crowds is nothing new. It’s been done in Iran, Chile, and in other places—including, as WhoWhatWhy has reported, a covert French role in the initiatory incident for the Libyan “Arab Spring” itself in 2011. It is a classic trick of the covert operations trade. It would not have been hard to light the match that turned into the Benghazi conflagration. Many of the veterans in “friendly” foreign intelligence services were trained by masters of public opinion manipulation from the West, spiritual heirs of familiar old intriguers such as David Atlee Phillips and E. Howard Hunt.

If our hunch on Benghazi is correct—and despite the indications, it is only a hunch—this pattern might mirror what happened with 9/11. In that situation, an attack bearing evidentiary signs of Saudi sponsorship paradoxically resulted not in investigations but in a strengthening of the US relationship with the dictatorial Saudi royal family. (For more on that, see this, this, and this.) In the case of 9/11, the US government has consistently blocked disclosure of relevant documents, apparently on the grounds of undefined “national security” interests. Is the Obama administration in the same self-imposed “bind” regarding Benghazi?

And here we see another convergence. Besides the Egyptians, another power that made sure everyone heard about that inflammatory video was Egypt’s traditional ally, Saudi Arabia. In a confidential memo from Clinton family confidant Sid Blumenthal to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, later obtained by a hacker and released, a “sensitive” source cites information from the French intelligence services which
“indicates that the funding (for the Benghazi attack) originated with wealthy Sunni Islamists in Saudi Arabia.”

Our Media, Unhelpful As Always

Did you hear any of this in the conventional media? Doubtful. From the Times to Fox News, we’ve seen little more than perpetuation of the Democratic-versus-Republican slugfest. This makes easy-to-follow coverage, but it obscures deeper patterns of behavior benefiting institutions and individuals that transcend party.

Fox and the GOP, however, ought to be singled out for the extent of their cynicism, whipping up their typically uninformed and perpetually choleric base. By hammering away relentlessly at the Obama administration for its purported “failures” and alleged “cover-up” of Benghazi, and by not looking at the likelihood of what really happened, they have only heaped manure on any original cover-up.

As always, the only hope for getting to the bottom of things is to turn to non-traditional “muckrakers” and whistleblowers.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Privatizing Human Rights: Can Multi-Nationals Excel Where Governments Fail?

Privatizing Human Rights: Can Multi-Nationals Excel Where Governments Fail?

J. Oliver Williams
Professor of Political Science
North Carolina State University, USA

I. Introduction

Recognition of the link between business and human rights has increased significantly in recent years placing a greater emphasis on social and economic rights. Although human rights are principally the responsibility of governments, this has become increasingly an important issue for business. Responsibilities of businesses, especially multi-national corporations, in fields of labor rights [child labor, freely chosen employment, wages and working conditions inhuman treatment] are contained in national and international law and are recognized my responsible multinational corporations. Now, social, cultural and even civil rights are being privatized as expectations of companies regarding human rights emerge among governments and non-governmental organizations [NGOs].

An important question is the prospects of promoting human rights standards beyond traditional areas of labor law into the realms of political and civil rights. 

Can business succeed, where government has failed, in spanning the cultural gap between countries and regions in human rights that are regarded as universal in western societies but culturally relevant in Asian countries?

Although the commitment of business in human rights are voluntary, unless backed  by national and international law, public opinion, shareholders, and international organizations can bring support and pressure to incorporate human rights standards in international commerce.  

Can the reach of business across national borders play an effective role in promoting human rights?  If so, will businesses that engage in global commerce help to create harmonious environments among countries that promote international trade but differ on cultural principles of rights of individuals?

II. Business and Human Rights

Recognition of the role of business in advancing human rights has increased significantly in recent years. As a result evidence indicates that discourse on human rights is increasing in corporations that span national borders, expectations regarding human rights have increased among the largest companies, and that businesses operating in global commerce are under greater pressure from the public, from government and from human rights [NGOs] to avoid business practices that violate human rights. Likewise, increasingly, there is evidence that more of the largest companies are following business practices that are consistent with legal principles embodied in national and international laws.

The social responsibility movement is relatively new in the history of capitalism.   In 1800, Adam Smith wrote, in Wealth of Nations:

“By pursuing his own interest [an individual] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.”

As late as 1970, Milton Friedman, modern day proponent of free market economy, wrote:

“There is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” 

“That’s the orthodox view among free market economists: that the only social responsibility a law-abiding business has is to maximize profits for the shareholders.”

Today, in both the European Union and North America, codes of social conduct are prevalent in a wide variety of international corporate sectors. Business for Social Responsibility lists 98 corporations in North America with a human rights policy in its business codes of conduct, along with economic and social rights and environmental protection. BSP for over a decade has helped companies to achieve success in ways that demonstrate respect for ethical values, people, communities and the environment. BSR connects members to a global network of business and industry peers, partners, stakeholder groups and thought leaders. BSR also convenes and facilitates cross-sector dialogue and collaboration and includes human rights among its other concerns which include business ethics, responsibility to communities and the environment.  In 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights requested the UN Secretary-General to appoint a special commission on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. The SRC, while recognizing that human rights principles were intended to limit state actions towards individuals or groups, has taken the stance that human rights principles relate directly to private sector actions.

The SCR categorizes human rights into economic, social. cultural, political and civil Most notably, the SRC takes the positions that corporate responsibility includes protecting civil rights, as well as economic and social. At the same time, it refutes the contention that human rights are a western or northern concept that do not apply universally. Noting that economic and social rights, including the avoidance of forced prison labor and child labor, has been a longer and more publicized area of corporate responsibility, the SRC recognizes that the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the most widely recognized human rights benchmark and holds that corporate concerns must preclude activities that that deprive citizens of basic civil liberties.

Recognition of the link between business and human rights, the SRC points to two recent trends which include [1] inclusion of human rights and civil rights corporate codes of conduct; [2] inclusion of human rights into global business principles that include trade sanctions on nations  that broadly disregard international human rights standards. The attention paid to human rights by consumers and investors as well as shareholder resolutions calling upon corporations to ensure that business is conducted consistent with human rights standards, is cited by the SRC as the stimulus for the embodiment of civil rights standards in business practice. 

Apart from corporate response to consumes, NGOs and shareholders, human rights embodied in national and international law has been a major factor.  In the U.S. and Europe, courts have accepted lawsuits alleging that multinational companies have contributed to human rights violations, particularly in third world countries. To avoid legal responsibility, the SRC states that both business practice and corporate codes of conduct needs to be consistent with local and international laws to avoid challenges to their global operations.

The most comprehensive data on business practices in the field of human rights is a recently released survey undertaken by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights. Respondents to the survey, released in September, 2006, were a “global Fortune 500”, included the world’s largest firms defined by revenue.  Some 450 of these firms were located in the United States [176], Europe [195] and Japan [80].

Among these large multinational corporations, nine out of ten reports having an explicit set of human rights principles or management practices in place.  Significantly fewer, about half, reported to have had a significant human rights issue.  At the same time, corporate leaders stated that embarrassing relegations created an immediate necessity to drive an uptake of human rights concerns.

Of significant interest, corporations include in their concerns issues that span the spectrum of human rights included in the UN’s declaration on universal rights and the social and economic rights embodied in other UN covenants. 

Among the 450 responding companies:

     Recruitment and promotion based on merit, not race, gender or religion or other factors, and workplace health and safety were cited by all of the 450 respondents.
     Freedom of association and collective bargaining were included by 87 percent.
     Forced, bonded or compulsory labor and child labor was cited by 80 percent of the companies.
     Three out of four companies indicate that they recognize a right to privacy.

Some variation occurred among countries in various regions of the global and across corporate sectors.  Apart from non-discrimination and workplace safety, which were virtually universal concerns, extractive industries more frequently that European, listed freedom of association and collective bargaining.  Forced labor and child labor were mentioned more frequently by European firms, and European firms were more likely to recognize right to life, liberty and security of the person.  Right to privacy showed little regional variation and is supported across sectors.

The overall clear and strong levels of support do show some slight regional differences, at least in rankings. U.S. companies rank employees and suppliers higher in their concerns but place lower emphasis on community and country of operation than do European firms. Japanese companies are least likely to include countries of operation in their human rights concerns.

When asked what if any human rights instruments influence policies and practices, not surprisingly international business organizations were cited. However, outside of business groups, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the most cited. A fourth of the companies cited no international instruments, but notably all extractive industries cited the universal declaration and nearly half of Japanese firms indicated that no outside international agreements affected human rights practices.

III. Assessing the Impact Business Human Rights Initiatives

Non-governmental participation in human rights is receiving considerable emphasis.  However, the premise that capitalist markets will necessarily foster human rights improvements is far from being realized. Still the growth of international trade, and the increasing influence of international trade organizations, and the willingness of multinational corporations to articulate a human rights commitments hold promise that the privatization of human rights will become an important strategy of attaining human rights globally. Not only are corporations and international business groups assuming greater roles in formulating and advancing human rights concerns; businesses have begun to establish code of conduct and monitoring business practices. 

The growing number of non-state actors, among multinational corporations, international leading institution as well as insurgency groups and even terrorists are part of the growing privatization movement. Non-governmental organizations [NGOs], including Amnesty International and  Human Rights Watch that serve monitoring and advocacy roles have taken the stance that private sector action is important but must be accompanied by legislation and continued governmental leadership.

Nevertheless, important questions are raised by the privatization movement. While bringing greater emphasis to economic rights, will privatization lead, on the other hand, to less emphasis on non-economic, civil rights embodied in the Universal Declaration? Will the power of citizens’ groups hold corporate human rights abusers accountable through information campaigns and even product boycotts? Will good citizen corporations set standards that third-party suppliers and companies that violate human rights will be compelled to follow?

Of great importance is what effect wills commercial human rights practices have on countries with serious violations of universal rights?

On several of these questions, the record does not allow an assessment yet of the effectiveness of the privatization movement.

1.  Has the privatization movement embraced non-economic rights?

Concern for political and civil rights of citizens in countries where they operate has been expressed widely in the codes of conduct of the largest multinationals. Business for Social Responsibility on its web site lists the codes of human rights practices of 21 top companies with human rights reports.

Cisco is among the corporations that affirm support of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Global Compact, Cisco's codes of conduct, employee policies and guidelines substantially incorporate laws and ethical principles including those pertaining to freedom of association, non-discrimination, privacy, collective bargaining, compulsory and child labor, immigration and wages and hours.

Cisco’s approach is to have codes, policies and guidelines are reviewed by a corporate citizenship council consisting of an executive committee and a broad-based global membership of Cisco management.

Hewlett-Packard, another international corporation that cites human rights in its code of conduct, states:

“We also engage globally with various stakeholder communities to address issues related to the environment, economic development, digital divide, privacy, labor and human rights.”
HP has a policy of encouraging employees to apply time and effort to help solve problems in their communities.

In reference to human rights, the HP code of business conduct “upholds and respects human rights as reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

HP is also states a commitment to fair labor practices and the respectful treatment of all employees, including the protection of workplace health and safety and data-privacy protections.

Publishing reports on social concerns and adopting codes of conduct do not guarantee respect for human rights in corporative practices any more than human rights are practiced in countries that a signature nations in United Nations covenants.

Amnesty International, on of the most respected non-governmental organizations in the field of human rights, believes that the business community also has a wider responsibility -- moral and legal -- to use its influence to promote respect for human rights and advocates national and international legal instruments that promote greater corporate responsibility for human rights, including those that assure the risk of legal accountability if a company commits or is complicit in human rights abuses in their operations.

II. Status of Universal Rights in Government and Business

It is in the area of individual rights embodied in the basic United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where governments have so widely diverged in the support and the practice of human rights principles. It is in coming to an agreement on the principles of this declaration that nation’s having failed so basically in human rights practices. Throughout Europe and North America and some areas of South and Central America and Africa these principles are considered universal rights that all individuals want and deserve. In most of Asia, however, governments consider these rights to be based on western values that do not reflect the values of Asians who culturally have greater regard for social harmony and stability.

Until there is agreement on these principles there is likely to be little harmony on human rights among the major countries of the world. 

Despite the Bangkok Declaration that states a commitment to principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,  leaders in most Asian nations continue to advocate a cultural relevance in universal rights, act on the principle that individual rights conflict with social harmony and stability, and cite Asian values as contradicting the western ideal of universality.  In fact, it was from the Bangkok meetings that Asian leaders began to promote a cultural relevance approach to universal rights, although the principle had been argued before then.

International NGOs which are largely prohibited from monitoring and reporting human rights violations in these countries, through contact they maintain with human rights advocates in Asia, conclude that non-democratic rulers are a bigger impediment to human rights than the cultural and social value system of the region. Some Asian scholars, as well, believe that the Asian values, historically from the time of Confucius, have philosophical roots in individual freedoms and rights.

II.   Has there been an increase in the concerns for economic rights and the rights of women and children? 

The damaging exposure of the Nike Corporation, and later as many of ten more multinational companies, in the treatment of women workers and use of child labor shifted the debate over corporate social responsibility for human rights. It created a watershed in the past decade by developing a positive role in business and trade in enhancing respect for human rights in countries with widespread violations. Revelations of child labor and abysmal working conditions led corporations to express respect for essential human and labor rights, such as freedoms of association and expression, as well as an end to cruelty and discrimination and inequality on the basis of ethnicity or gender. Advocacy by human rights groups, repeated media exposure, and legislative interest in banning products made by child labor from import in the United States has made child labor and women’s working conditions a foremost human rights issue in the global economy. The extensiveness of child labor, estimated at over 250 million children working around the world, has indicated a major social problem of condemning children to a life of poverty by putting them to work in lieu of education. 

Whether the attention has improved significantly, or even marginally, women’s working rights or reversed a trend in child labor has not been documented. Journalist reports indicate that poor working conditions of women China is less a problem with joint venture companies in Special Economic Zones [SEZs] than small scale manufacturers surrounding these zones. 

III.  Has privatization affected country human rights policies?

The ascension of China to the World Trade Organization, which facilitated dropping annual assessments of China’s human rights under Most Favored Nation trading status, has moved human rights from a central place in U.S. foreign policy to in most cases subordinate to trade policy.  From a high point in the Carter administration, when human rights were prominent in foreign policy debate, human rights concerns now are raised in conjunction with trading issues. While trade policies mandate that the U.S. advance human rights through its voting in multinational trade groups and its security assistance to other countries, the subordination of human rights to trade and security concerns has not led to consistency in current U.S. policy. Countries important to U.S. economic and political interests are not subjected to the same degree of human rights scrutiny as nations deemed less vital to U.S. interests. Recognizing that human rights are not central in U.S. foreign policy, and inconsistent as well, NGOs that watch human rights compliance have pushed for sanctions against nations committing gross human rights violations.

The internet restrictions agreed to in China by American internet providers illustrates two sides of a problem with international corporations violating principles in the Universal Declaration. The actions by the large information providers were viewed as corporate complicity in restricting rights of freedom of speech and information. The enormous outcry from western NGOs and citizens in western countries indicate the scrutiny the corporations receive in social and human rights issues. Although public opinion has not led to any reversal of agreements made by Google

Actions by Yahoo, Google and Microsoft are viewed in the West as corporate complicity in restricting freedom of speech and information. The enormous public outcry has not reversed agreements made by Google. However, these corporations are likely to be more reluctant in making further restrictions and will be especially guarded in the types of information that they filter.

The issue also acerbates China’s problem of human rights in international business. Private markets thrive on information and to remain a hub in international trade and manufacture, China confronts a conflict between information flow that is vital to business and the government’s ability to control, or even appear to control, speech and information. The expectations of multinational corporations in upholding human rights are likely to reverberate inside China as much as outside, with as much scrutiny as social and economic rights have previously received.

 IV. Conclusions

In the past decade, there has been considerable advancement in the trend toward injecting human rights issues in global trade. In the business world, public opinion, non-governmental organizations, and trade organizations that have become a leading source for business throughout the world have worked to raise the expectations of companies in social and civil rights. This has led to the adoption of business codes of conduct in many of the world’s largest companies.  Significantly, western businesses have included many of the rights considered as universal rights in the United Nations declaration. Harmony on human rights has been impeded by conflicting value systems toward universal rights between western nations and the economically advancing nations of Asia. It remains to be seen if global trade will become a vehicle for bridging the gap this basic human rights divide.