Strategic Foresight

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Protecting the worker-citizen abroad: Duty of care beyond the state?

03 Nov 2016 - 16:39
Source: Zero Foundation

Ministries of foreign affairs are long acquainted with the challenge of ensuring the security of their nationals overseas. They play a leading role, for example, in the evacuation of large numbers of citizens from crisis situations, including at the time of the Asian tsunami (2004), civil unrest in Libya (2011) and the attacks in Tunisia (2015). Likewise, private businesses assigning staff on foreign placements owe a “duty of care” to worker-citizens. The growing prevalence of worker-citizens in high-risk areas showcases the myriad complexities involved in this dynamic, whereby governmental and private sector responsibilities towards worker-citizens frequently overlap and stand to gain from enhanced collaboration. In this article the authors assess the protection of worker-citizens abroad.

The authors assess the protection in different contexts, such as the challenges faced by small enterprises versus multinational corporations, and the policy responses adopted by governments in various part of the world. A geographical split has emerged, with European companies pursing greater privatisation as a means to mitigate threats to worker-citizens. Their East Asian counterparts however have adopted strategies of securitisation, a position denoting greater government proximity to worker-citizens. The impact of the duty of care therefore extends beyond worker-citizens, and likewise beyond MFA and private sector collaboration. Rather it impacts wider foreign policy considerations, challenging long-held stances such as non-intervention and providing governments with opportunities to deepen overseas involvement.

This research was supported by the Research Council of Norway.

The full article can be purchased online.