The Placement of International Law in seeking Sustainable Development for India: Some Ethical Reflections

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Fr. (Dr.) Frank Brennan, S.J., Professor of Law, Australian Catholic University

XLRI- Xavier School of Management, one of India’s premier B-Schools hosted the ‘25th Annual JRD Tata Oration on Business Ethics’ .Fr. (Dr.) Frank Brennan, S.J., Professor of Law, Australian Catholic University delivered the oration at XLRI Campus, Jamshedpur.

 

In his oration, Fr. Frank Brennan delved on the topic of – “The Placement of International Law in seeking Sustainable Development for India: Some Ethical Reflections”.

 

In the speech, he said, “My thesis this evening is that no matter what the economic, political and legal problems are confronted by modern day India, these problems can be better addressed and answered by a consideration of the profound truths and insights of all the religious traditions represented in this country. An application of the key principles and norms developed in the international law of trade and human rights, helping to enunciate the realm of law, regulation and political accountability, enhancing public scrutiny, providing the right environment for doing business, and that no matter how well developed the regulatory machinery, no matter how elaborate the constitutional separation of powers and the legislative provisions for accountability, there will always be a place for and a value-add from the national culture, corporate ethos and personal character. Thus there is a need to ensure that the national and ethnic cultures are sufficiently open to international influences and sufficiently grounded in the goodness and the daily concerns of the ordinary citizen. There is a need to create the right corporate ethos and an appropriate business environment, particularly in a country which is still ranked 138th in the global ratings for ease of business investment. Serving the needs and interests of our planet, in fact, just saving our planet, is the great contemporary challenge, while at the same time continuing to raise India’s poor out of poverty. Those who are privileged with wealth, power and honours need to see themselves as the primary custodians of the planet and as key contributors to the relief of dehumanising poverty.”

 

He pointed out, “The development of national laws and policies needs to be contoured by sufficient regard for the principles and values enunciated in international law. Laws and policies cannot be fully integrated into the life of the community unless the lawmakers and the policy makers are finely attuned to all that is noblest in their cultures and in their religious and philosophical traditions.”

 

He observed, “International law does not provide the answers for sustainable development in India. But there are piecemeal international developments which should assist Indian citizens and Indian decision makers at the cabinet table and in board rooms to make better decisions informed by all that is best in your religious traditions, in your national cultures, in the corporate cultures, being true to the people’s noblest sense of themselves and faithful to the character each of us is called to be and develop.”

 

The session was also attended by Mr. T. V. Narendran (Chairman, Board of Governors, XLRI & MD, Tata Steel Limited), Fr. E Abraham, S. J. (Director, XLRI), Dr. Ashis K. Pani (Dean [Academics], XLRI) and Fr. Oswald Mascarenhas, S.J. (JRD Tata Chair Professor of Business Ethics at XLRI).

 

In his welcome address, Fr. E Abraham, S. J. Director of XLRI said, “Ethics in most socio-economic contexts runs parallel to law and shows due consideration to others’ rights and interests in a civilized society. Ethics is a part and parcel of all disciplines of management like accounting, information technology, human resource management, sales and marketing, production, intellectual property rights, etc. Globalization has further complicated the ethical issues in business. Corporations have entered a new era, the “prove to me” era. There is an increasing expectation from stakeholders for businesses not only to say they are ethical, but to prove they have ethical values embedded throughout their organisation. The culture of an organisation is set by the tone at the top. Chief executives must lead by example. The senior management also needs to be trained to develop ethical sensitivity – an understanding of fairness, openness, transparency, integrity, responsibility to others and the ability to recognise conflicts of interest. Remaining ethical is not a static issue. It requires review and evaluation. Companies need to occasionally review their priorities and make necessary alterations. Otherwise, their standards and training become obsolete.”

 

“XLRI has always emphasized on the importance of adopting an ethical code of conduct within the corporate world. We believe that no management education curriculum is really complete, unless and until the students are instilled with a set of values that are necessary decision-making ingredients for the corporate manager today. It is for this reason that a core course on “Managerial Ethics” is offered to all our students at XLRI,” he further added.   

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