There is now widespread debate about the rights and responsibilities of global corporations. Increasingly the language of citizenship is being invoked in order to understand the relationship between rights and obligations. This paper seeks, firstly, to locate this debate historically, by looking at how understandings of accountability have evolved alongside shifts in thinking about the role of key actors in development. The second section interrogates the relationship between corporate accountability and citizenship, exploring the way in which early emphasis on the social responsibilities of firms has been eclipsed by claims about their entitlements as citizens. The third section looks at the extent to which notions of corporate citizenship can be meaningfully applied to relations between mobile capital and poor communities. It is suggested that depoliticised notions of citizenship as partnership serve to obscure the power inequities that characterise such relationships. Drawing on examples from North and South where poor communities have been negatively affected by the investment practices of multinational companies, the fourth section suggests the circumstances in which poor communities may be able to construct new relations of accountability with corporations.
IDS Bulletin - Vol 33 No 2, pp. 91-100 [DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-5436.2002.tb00025.x]