Business organisations are increasingly powerful actors in the political and social domain. Modus Operandi has therefore reacted positively to the invitation of the Grenoble Business School to join their thematic working groups on Geopolitics, Corporate Social Responsibility and Economic Peace Education. Its objective is to develop pedagogic tools that help students in business to understand that there are other parameters to take into account in decision-making than purely economic ones.
Business in failing states
The central question of our course "Corporate Social Responsability in the global economy: Business in failing states" is: What responsibility for business organisations if a state fails to protect the population?
The question of the responsibility of business actors is particularly relevant since the power of business corporations has increased over the last 20-30 years as a result of economic globalisation, and at the cost of state power.
Understanding state-society relations in different social and political contexts becomes increasingly important and if companies fail to make a good assessment of the political situation, they can become the target for international campaigns that might harm their activities. Some examples are Shell in the Niger Delta, Coca-Cola in Kerala, and the diamond industry facing the global blood diamond campaign.
Case studies give detailed insight in the socio-political context of doing business in a geographical area, within a specific sector. Each case study deals with the presence of natural, mineral, and agricultural resources and their exploitation; redistribution and access to resources; but the industrial sector concerned can vary (tourism, agriculture, mining, etc.).
Claiming power- demanding the renegotiation of mining contracts in Zambia|
Interview by Claske Dijkema with Teresa Chewe of SACCORD (Southern African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Dispute) in Paris in November 2007.
Geopolitics: Assessing Conflict Potential
The basic premise for a geopolitics course in the 1st year is that a company needs to understand the society in which it operates, and the nature of political power at play. This knowledge helps to accurately read economic indicators.
To meet the development needs of its business, a company may be attracted to environments that are unfamiliar. For example, the raw materials it needs for its production, like ore (mining) cotton (textiles) and coltan (communication technology), are rarely present or manufactured in the rich North.Therefore the company is a political actor in its own right and is under the influence of a number of variables.
Our goal is that future managers learn to ask the right questions that help them understand the functioning of their political environment, adapt their strategies accordingly and be aware of the consequences of their choices.
Geopolitics: Focus on Africa
Although we are confronted daily with African products and people, completely one dimensional images of Africa and its problems are predominating not only the news but also political discourse. A good example of this is the speech President Sarkozy made at the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar on 26 July 2006. He talked about the drama, the reality, the problems, and the obligations of Africa. He set out the typical image of Africa as underdeveloped, undemocratic, and traditional as contrasted against the image of Europeans as ruled by reason, symbols of progress and liberty. African scholars and Africanists have responded with eloquence here and here .
their answer to Sarkozy, they rectified these ideas pointing to
Africa's rapid urbanisation, France's responsibility in Africa's
underdevelopment and the structural consequences of colonisation as
well as the increasing modernisation of African life. The objective
was not to deny that Africa knows many problems (illiteracy, poverty,
civil wars etc) but to insist on a multi-dimensional approach to
them, allowing to analyse the problems in their complexity.It is this that the course aims at, to look at Africa beyond the stereotypes.
Geopolitics: Focus on Russia
After a difficult period of post-Soviet transition (after the independence of most of the post-Soviet states in 1991) Russia is today a central actors on the international stage. The humiliation that went with the disintegration of the USSR in 1991 was deep and formative, and this shock can provide an explanation for the sometimes arrogant attitude of Russia towards its international counter-parts, as well as the support from the population for their political leaders.
It is this remarkable reversal of fortune, from the disintegration of 1991 to the influential position that Russia holds today that is interesting to study. The analysis presented in this course covers internal political dynamics; the ‘democratic transition’ which did not result in the establishment of democracy; inheritance of a political system and culture along with its social and economic realities.
This course also looks at factors relating to Russia’s international relations, which are played out at two levels: first is in its natural zone if influence, the old soviet republics. Here the diplomacy is often described using Cold War analogies. It is in this zone that Russia measures its power against that of its partners, the second level of international relations: the US, EU and NATO to mention the most important. The themes over which they must meet are both economic and political, and in this way the geopolitics of the oil and gas pipelines are linked to security concerns (terrorism, arms and drug trafficking, migration routes).
Geopolitics: Afghanistan, Pakistan & Iran
This course looks at Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran in order to analyse
some of the significant issues in contemporary international politics and
security. This region represented by these three countries constitutes a focal
point for world instability and as a consequence is a focus for analysis and policy
for western diplomacy for three main reasons:
The first of these is state fragility: Afghanistan has been in a state
of war since 1979, and its pacification and reconstruction remain to be done
despite international intervention after autumn 2001. The country is facing a
gap between the design of reconstruction programmes and the reality of the contexts
in which they need to be rooted. Pakistan is constantly weakened by the internal divisions it faces: barely
out of military dictatorship the civilian government is not able to affirm
itself; and the Taliban movement grows and competes with central power and its
functions. These dynamics cast doubt on the legitimacy of these states.
The second element of importance are the Islamist networks present in
the region. The connection between the destabilizing forces in Afghanistan and
Pakistan are well known. Moreover it is part of picture of global Islamic
networks and identified as a major threat by western states.
Final reason for the importance of the region in the international arena are nuclear programmes and aspirations that can be found here. The region has one nuclear power in the shape of Pakistan and another is emerging - Iran.
The cross-cutting question addressed in this course is the involvement of international diplomacy in this region: what are the solutions offered by the West? To what extent can they be effective?
Geopolitics: Focus on South Africa
South Africa, evaluating a political transition.
It has been more than twenty years ago that Nelson Mandela walked from prison to lead the country in negotiations and the first democratic elections in 1994. In this course we will look at and analyze what led to the end of the apartheid era in the first half of the 90s and the progress of the South African State in this first part of the 21st century.
Why focus on transition? It does not make sense to look at present South Africa without understanding past. Yes, the country struggles with high unemployment, income disparity and crime. But it could have been much worse. Analysing a trend is more informative about where a country stands than a only looking at its ranking in this years statistics about health, human development, and GDP.
In this course we will look at the circumstances that have led to the amazing and inspiring events in the first half of the '90's; the process of political transition throughout the '90's and the first decade of the 21st century; to draw a conclusion on where the country stands today in relation to its ideals and fears around 1990.
Geopolitics: Creating Scenarios
Next year, Modus Operandi would like to work with a group of students on developing a scenario with the theme "geopolitics of conflict and what factors are avoiding it?". This scenario will take the form of an online game. A very good example can be found here (in Dutch). The scenario takes us to Trans-Nistria, Afghanistan, DRC, Chad et Sudan and familiarises its readers with problems as the interconnections between terrorist and mafia networks, refugees, embezzlement of aid money, conflict diamonds etc. It originally has been developed to inform youth about EU actions against terrorism.