Global South states' views on building partnerships with corporations: An agonistic struggle in the UN and beyond

Eva Nilsson*, Martin Fougère

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In this article, we analyse the global consensus on the UN’s partnership approach to businesses through an agonistic lens. In doing so, we seek to understand the positioning of states, particularly those in the Global South, towards the partnership approach. We draw on Mouffe’s conceptualisation of ‘the political’, in which the appearance of consensus is always an expression of hegemony accompanied by exclusion and dissensus. First, we show that the partnership approach was initially promoted by the Global North, in particular European states together with UN leadership, against fears and criticism raised by Global South states. Second, we show that Global South states have not fundamentally challenged the idea of engaging in partnerships with businesses, but they have questioned how these partnerships should be designed to shape a more equally beneficial global economy. With this article, we contribute to the literature on the UN and business ethics by identifying how the evolution of the consensus on business partnerships has been a hegemonic arrangement since the 2000s. Furthermore, we illustrate the role that states have had in forming this consensus. We also contribute to business ethics studies engaging with dissensus by problematising the potential of ‘agonistic deliberation’ at the UN level in supporting the interests of the Global South.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Business Ethics
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23.06.2024
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Responsible organising


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