Monday, June 25, 2012

ANNOUNCING: Global Ethics Network

Dear Readers,

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new social media platform: Global Ethics Network, a site dedicated to rethinking international relations. It will be taking the place of Fairer Globalization in the Carnegie Council's family of online publications going forward.

Built around a core group of Global Ethics Fellows and their home institutions, the Network is compiling new multimedia resources that explore the ethical dimensions of international affairs. We hope that you'll join the growing community over there and continue to contribute the insights that animated this blog over the years.

Thank you for your readership.

Sincerely, Eds.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Ties that Bind Japan

I was recently interviewed in the press about the recent Olympus scandal in Japan.

The Olympus episode illustrates competing moral virtues in Japan. In this case, it was the virtue of loyalty winning out over the virtue of honesty. I am increasingly coming to believe that one of the core problems in Japan is that while the elite may thoroughly understand the country's problems, it isn't necessarily in their short-term interest to push for change.

Real change will come from a change in thinking, which means education. People had put their hopes in seeing societal change come about from the election of the DPJ in 2009 or from the response to the earthquake in 2011. People also put hopes in corporate change coming from the response to business scandals like Livedoor and then Olympus. But it didn't happen. Now analysts are wondering whether a debt crisis (that some expect to hit Japan by 2018) might do the trick. I doubt it. Change will come about over a long term shift in the country's values.

When I recently visited Japan many people were talking about kizuna (social bonds), which was voted "the kanji of the year" for 2011. Sure Japan demonstrated the virtues of its strong community ties (or bonds) in its response to the earthquake and tsunami. But in a way, the bonds that tie Japan together are also part of the problem. They are binding Japan to the status quo or inertia. People are aware of this issue and are skeptical of powerful people taking advantage those bonds and the peoples' trust. For example, companies are using kizuna in their TV commercials and there is a new political party called kizuna. As one person told me, kizuna is fine as long as the social relations are on equal footing. Without equity, it's exploitation.

Now foreign investors are more likely to question the accounting books at Japanese companies. They are also more suspicious about Japanese corporate strategies for mergers and acquisitions. When the question of Tokyo becoming Asia's financial center comes up, people usually look around the room nervously like someone just told a bad joke.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Conversation with Thomas Pogge

Last week, philosopher Thomas Pogge spoke at Carnegie Council. Our intern Sarah Aston summarizes his talk below:

Today’s international and economic system is founded on the principle of “profit maximization at any cost” and our challenge is to change this attitude argues Thomas Pogge of Yale University. Talking with Carnegie Council as part of the Ethics Matters series, Pogge reflected on his education under the guidance of political philosopher and advocate of universal justice John Rawls, and how seemingly abstract theories of justice can, and should be, applied to areas of international and social politics.

Pogge is known for his bold comparisons of today’s population in the developed world with the German population of 1930s Nazi Germany. Like the latter, we are, according to Pogge, part of a huge organism that allows for terrible atrocities to happen to our fellow mankind. Statistics show that one-third of all deaths today are premature due to poverty and yet we do not actively seek any solution to this problem in our system.

Drawing on this comparison, Pogge explained that he was compelled to develop Rawls’s theory of justice and practically apply it to areas of society. Rawls argues that there are two principles of justice that must be met within society and that all rational human beings would agree to these principles under a “veil of ignorance” in which they are unaware of their position in society. The first principle of Rawls’s theory is “First: each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others” and this is where Pogge develops on Rawls’s work.

While Rawls argued that it was up to economists and politicians to satisfy this principle, Pogge argues that there must be clear instructions and guidance in order to change the system. His work with the Health Impact Fund is an example. Talking to Carnegie Council, Pogge explained that during research into the pharmaceutical industry he saw that the industry was driven by profit margins and competitive pricing rather than aiding those in need of the drugs. Pogge’s proposal to change the incentive system with a government - sponsored scheme of rewarding those companies that provide drugs to the most people with the highest impact and the lowest prices is a way of providing guidance on how to satisfy Rawls’s first principle of justice.

Pogge has chosen to focus on the pharmaceutical industry, but he told the Council that his work could be applied to all areas of the international system and that the system itself needed to address its system of incentives. When asked if he was optimistic about the future of the system he responded by saying we needed to design an economic system that meets the basic requirements of everyone and the way to do that is through education which will take a long time to filter through. The crisis we face today, however, offers an opportunity to reevaluate and re-structure our system.

- Sarah Aston

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Silicon Standard for Human Rights

The Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference put forth a statement of 15 principles this past October for guiding the behavior of ICT companies in relation to human rights. According to the organizers at Access, "The document is designed to complement other existing frameworks and uses the international human rights framework as its foundation." There's a lot to chew on here. I'll let the principles speak for themselves:
1. Technology and Revolutions: Technology companies play an increasingly important role in enabling and supporting the end user's capacity to exercise his or her rights to freedom of speech, access to information, and freedom of association. ICT companies should respect those rights in their operations and also encourage governments to protect human rights through appropriate policies, practices, legal protections, and judicial oversight.

2. On Human Rights: In both policy and practice, technology companies should apply human rights frameworks in developing best practices and standard operating procedures. This includes adhering to John Ruggie's Protect, Respect, and Remedy framework outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

3. Frontline Lessons from Other Sectors: Technology companies should look to the innovative examples and incorporate important lessons from other sectors, such as the apparel and extractive industries. The experiences of these sectors can and should guide them as they develop their human rights policies. These must be reflected in their operating practices in a transparent and accountable manner.

4. On Internet Regulation: To ensure innovation and the protection of human rights, internet regulation should only take place where it facilitates the ongoing openness, quality, and integrity of the internet and/or where it enables or protects users' ability to freely, fully, and safely participate in society. To achieve this end, it is critical that ICT corporations engage in multistakeholder dialogue.

5. Human Rights by Design: During the research, development, and design stages, technology companies should anticipate how and by whom their products and services will be used. Developing a human rights policy and engaging in due diligence at the earliest stages helps companies prevent crises, limit risk, and enable evidence-based assessment of company activities and reporting.

6. Encryption of Web Activity: Effective internet security is essential to ensuring freedom of speech, privacy, and the right to communicate. Technology companies must provide a basic level of security (e.g., HTTPS and its improvements) to their users by default and resist bans and curtailments of the use of encryption.

7. Getting Practical: Technology companies should implement human rights-respecting policies and practices in their day-to-day operations. These companies should utilize multi-stakeholder and cross-sector dialogues to review challenges faced within their markets with a view to improve their best practices.

8. Coding for Human Rights: Recognizing the human rights implications in code, engineers, developers, and programmers should ensure that technology is used in the exercise of fundamental freedoms, and not for the facilitation of human rights abuses. Technology companies should facilitate regular dialogue between engineers, executive leadership, and civil society to ensure that all parties are informed of the potential uses and abuses of their technologies.

9. Social Networking: Social networking platforms are both increasingly important to their users' capacity to communicate and associate online and are most used when customers trust the service's providers. When companies prioritize the rights of their customers, it is good for the long-term sustainability of their business, their brand, and their bottom line.

10. Intermediary Liability: In an era of computer-mediated communications, freedom of speech, association, and commerce increasingly depend on internet intermediaries (e.g., broadband service providers, web hosting companies). These intermediaries should not be required to determine the legality of, or held liable for, the content they host.

11. Legal Jurisdiction in a Borderless Virtual World: To foster the continued growth of an open and interconnected internet, technology companies should work alongside governments and civil society to ensure that users' rights are protected to the fullest extent possible. Governmental mandates that infringe upon freedom of expression and other human rights should be interpreted so as to minimize the negative impacts of these rules and regulations.

12. Visual Media and Human Rights: Technology companies should pay special attention to the unique human rights challenges of visual media technologies and content—especially on issues such as privacy, anonymity, consent, and access.

13. Social Media in Times of Crisis: Technology companies should resist efforts to shut down services and block access to their products, especially during times of crisis when open communications are critical. Blanket government surveillance of corporate networks should be resisted. Moreover, the burden of proof for privacy-invasive requests should lie with law enforcement authorities, who should formally, through court processes based on probable cause and rule of law, request a warrant for each individual whose information they would like to access.

14. Privacy: Technology companies should incorporate adequate privacy protections for users by default. Furthermore, technology companies should resist over-board requests from governments to reveal users' information, disclose no more information about their users than is legally required, and inform their users so that they can choose to legally respond to these requests. Furthermore, technology companies should be transparent about how user data is collected, processed, and protected—including disclosures of unauthorized access to user data.

15. Mobile and Telcos: Telecommunications companies must protect their users' fundamental human rights, including support for the protection of human rights in their operating licenses, and ensure that the free flow of communication is not curtailed or interfered with, even in times of crisis.

The big thing missing here is the subtext: While it's incredibly important to ensure that human rights are fulfilled in the use of information and communication technologies, it does us no good to simultaneously ignore abuses in their manufacture. My hope going forward is that this framework can be deepened to explicitly include the supply chains and labor rights problems associated with the ICT sector. The freedoms these magical gadgets enable must extend all the way down to the minerals.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What Does Accountability Mean to You?

There was plenty of finger pointing last Tuesday morning as WNYC's talk show host Brian Lehrer led a spirited discussion with a live audience on the subject of "Occupy New York." The most contentious topics were accountability for U.S. income disparity, and the causes of our financial crisis. Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer accused the Federal Reserve of lack of oversight; New York Federal Reserve Deputy Chairwoman Kathryn Wylde blamed international economic pressures; and Occupy Wall Street protester Jesse LaGreca blamed a non-representative democracy.

Yet despite their bickering, the panelists agreed that the income disparity in America is unacceptable; that the economy needs to improve; and that accountability is lacking. Amid the rapid-fire disagreements, there was a common struggle to grapple with the complex, systemic causes of our country's wobbly moment.

In an effort to poke a hole in LaGreca's arguments, business columnist Greg David asked, "What does accountability mean to you?" It's a fair question. Accountability is often vaunted as the unimpeachable principle missing from our country's response to recurring recessions and the widening income gap. And when we look at past bailouts of "black swan" level crashes and the moral hazard inherent in having institutions that are "too big to fail," it's clear that our system of accountability needs to be reconfigured. But how? In the heat of the debate, LaGreca defined accountability as investigations of bankers and corporate leaders, rather than a more global approach.

When Lehrer drew out LaGreca on the decision-making process underway at Occupy Wall Street, it became clear that LaGreca envisions the movement as a testing ground for a new form of accountable government. LaGreca is looking for a unicameral legislature (similar to Occupy Wall Street's General Assembly) where a 51 percent majority would be enough to pass a bill, thus ending the filibuster. He wants to eliminate political parties entirely and convert our system into a direct democracy.

With such a system, LaGreca contends, we would cut out the problems of campaign finance, party platforms, and special interests that stand in the way of true democratic consensus. Without party platforms or corporate interests to consider, he says, leaders would be accountable to their voters. With this new idea on the table, the meaning of accountability and its place in society has shifted.

LaGreca's plan is idealistic, and maybe impractical. Still, while parsing blame is a necessary step towards injecting accountability into the political-economic climate of the United States, it is clearly insufficient. We need more of the big-picture discussion that Lehrer was able to spark on Tuesday in order to truly confront and deal with the systemic lack of accountability.

[PHOTO CREDIT: Timothy Krause (CC).]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Uncertainty is the Strength of Occupy Wall Street

Now seems as good a time as any to start reading The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He writes in a passage on negative empiricism that "you know what is wrong with a lot more confidence than you know what is right." This statement resonates with me as the ethical backbone of the "occupation" style protests that have swept the world this year.

What do they want? is the common refrain in the media. It's OK that nobody knows yet. In fact, it would be sheer arrogance to assume that a small cadre has all the answers. The point is that when even in rich societies like the United States tens of millions of people are living in poverty, new processes are needed for people to debate the actions, rules, and directions of our societies.

The protesters in lower Manhattan have opted for a process of collaborative consensus. We shouldn't expect them all to be policy wonks (though even a Nobel laureate economist has stopped by). They are instead what Paul Hawken calls our social immune system. Here is their first statement:

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one's skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers' healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people's lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

[PHOTO CREDIT: David Shankbone (CC).]

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Speaking Values with Confidence

This is a guest post by Diana Santana and Alberto Turlon from the Carnegie New Leaders program.

Consider a time in your career when you were asked to do something that went against your values. First, recall an instance when you acted in favor of your values. How did you do this? How did you communicate in ways that created change? Now, consider a time when faced with a similar challenge that you failed to voice your values. Why didn't you voice your concerns? Jot down these two stories.

Mary Gentile, educator, author of Giving Voice to Values (GVV), and creator of the GVV curriculum, opened a discussion of her work at a recent Carnegie New Leaders event by asking participants to call on their experiences and consider "A Tale of Two Stories." Adding to this exercise, Gentile recounted the Harvard Business School welcome speech that instructs incoming students to "look to the left of you, look to the right;" know that these are the people that you will call on for the rest of your life when faced with a values conflict. Drawing on one's network and reflecting on previous experiences are just two GVV tools that empower the individual to voice values in the workplace.

The GVV curriculum was born of observations and experiences that led to what Gentile referred to as a "crisis of faith." After Gentile's 10-year tenure at Harvard she began consulting with other top business schools on their business ethics curriculum. Scandals of the late 1990s and early 2000s involving MBAs were reminders that something in the classroom wasn't working. Despite attempts to change business school structure or course offerings, MBAs still exhibited unethical business behaviors. Survey studies released at the time also demonstrated that students were less ethical after completing business ethics courses.

Gentile keenly observed that relying on one's professional network and studying different models of ethical reasoning was not enough to ensure ethical behavior in the future. Something was lacking in the way students were being taught business ethics.

Gentile went on to become a consultant for a project at Columbia Business School. The project invited incoming MBA candidates to write an essay describing their experience with a situation where they were asked to act in a manner that conflicted with their values. The result of perusing some 1,000 essays, in light of earlier research conducted by Douglas Huneke and Perry London on altruism, created the foundation of Giving Voice to Values.

Gentile discovered that individuals who succeeded in communicating their values had at some point communicated their ideal response to another person they admired—a friend, a family member, a mentor, a work ally, a spouse, etc. She determined that this opportunity to pre-script the communication was essential to speaking up for their values in difficult situations.

Giving Voice to Values provides such an opportunity. It is a post–decision-making curriculum that enables individuals to hold strong to their principles and communicate their thoughts in a manner that best suits each individual's personality and communication style. The curriculum does not instruct students on what is right. Rather, it assumes that a values decision has already been determined and instead focuses on equipping people with the confidence to communicate their values.

Gentile recognized in her research that individuals in a professional setting tend to develop "preemptive rationalizations" that serve as excuses when faced with a values conflict. "Maybe I don't have all the information," one might claim. Another might think "this is just the way the industry works." Such excuses, coupled with the individual's sensitivity to their position in the hierarchy, stifle the individual from thinking through other possible scenarios and outcomes. The individual succumbs to the conflicting request despite uneasiness. GVV provides students the opportunity to observe others that have ignored these excuses and have found ways to express their values.

The curriculum encourages students to self-assess how personal goals align with organizational goals, provides exercises that ask the student to communicate their values in challenging situations, and gives students the chance to practice their communication with feedback. Armed with confidence, scripts, and values awareness, individuals are more likely to act on their values and enact positive change within an organization.

Gentile's presentation on GVV development and curriculum was convincing. She demonstrated the need for such a practical curriculum and showed its worth to students and society. It is no wonder the GVV curriculum is employed in organizations and universities all over the world. GVV provides the tools necessary to communicate personally while potentially making positive organizational and systemic change.

The exercises and examples Gentile mentioned were developed primarily for those in business and lacked specific application for those working in government, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations, the primary audience members at the Carnegie New Leaders event. Positive examples of non-business professionals communicating their values in challenging situations would have augmented the already powerful presentation.

Nonetheless, audience members understood that many of the values conflicts that arise in professional situations transcend industry. Each participant understood Gentile's broader message: Every values conflict has a remedy that varies on the individual's professional position, sensitivity, personality, and communication style.

GVV is an innovative approach that explores self-awareness of personal values and communication style. It provides the opportunity to construct and practice responses for a variety of situations. Giving Voice to Values gives values-driven individuals confidence to speak up for what's right, no matter the circumstance.