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Business with Humanity in Mind: Its Influence on Social Policy

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Global social policy is a field of academic study used to describe actions geared towards understanding social welfare, social redistribution, social development, globalisation and how it affects social policy from transnational, supranational and global perspective (Yeates, 2014). Corporate sectors are private business sectors owned by shareholders who share in the profit and loss of the business, they include large business which dominates every area of individuals’ lives. These corporate sectors have influence on the global social policy in three important ways which include: prioritising economic policies over social policies, business agents being at the political power in global policy process at the global and world-regional level, causing corporate harm and risk to consumers, workers and the wider physical environment (Farnsworth, 2014). However, these influences can be applicable in different global issues but in this work, it will be limited to global health policy.

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Health is one of the major issues of global social policy and one of the fundamental rights of every individual according to the 1948 United Nations (UN) Declaration of Human Rights. It can be seen as physical, mental and social wellbeing, it is not just the absence of diseases but the ability to recover from illness and sickness. Good health is the ability to handle stress and factors affecting it which includes but not limited to: environment, relationships, education, housing, health care services and a healthy diet which can impact on health in achieving peace and security either positively or negatively. Global health policy is the practice and study of important national, regional and global public health issues, health determinants, measures and structures of health policies and ways in which they are being affected by global actors and process. The key actor in Global health policy making and setting is the World Health Organisation (WHO) which serves as a global regulatory organisation. (Koivusalo & Ollila, 2014 p. 160).

The World Trade organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) are the three main organisations under the International trade agenda who have contributed significantly to the incorporation of health services, the development and promotion of standards and practice of health services, trade and development in health respectively. However, the WTO’s General Agreement on Trades in Service (GATS) and the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures which is a reference of the Codex Alimentarius Commission are used as the basis of negotiations in bilateral/plurilateral agreement between governments has the ability to weaken the government on implementing standards and practices in health services because of the empowerment of corporations by multinational industries to challenge government (Koivusalo & Ollila, 2014 p. 169). A typical example is the issue of the British American Tobacco, Nigeria (BATN) and the Nigerian Government on the 2009 National Tobacco Control Bill which was put on hold after it had passed the first hearing in the National Assembly (Abiona, Oladepo & Oluwasanu, 2018).

Multinational companies are able to lobby their way around policy because the regulatory organisations believe that these companies are stakeholders who have contributed to the organisations in one way or the other and therefore must be present irrespective of the hazards that they contribute to the environment like the case of some multinational corporations in Nigeria especially in the Oil production sector, who boycott environmental health standards in their own favour but to the risk of those living in the environment causing pollution and the state is unable to do anything because of the high level of corruption in the system. Another is conflicts of interest involved when regulatory organisations go into partnership with the corporate health sectors, this can lead to a compromise on the part of the regulatory organisations when issues relating to these corporate sectors arises.

In recent times, most industries are scared of regulations and therefore make use tactics such as bribes, promise of self- regulations, lawsuits, gifts, grants, and contributions while deceiving the politicians and the public into seeing them as respectable and reputable corporate citizens. They also argue that individuals are responsible for health harms and that government interference is an abuse on personal liberties. Only few states prioritize health over big businesses and market powers have transferred to political power because a big business can anything to the consumers and there will be no sanction (Koivusalo & Ollila, 2014 p. 177). This can be seen in the pharmaceutical industry, where substandard drugs are produced and sold to consumers especially in developing countries.

In summary, economic development is important, but it should not be at the detriment of the health and well-being of lives. The corporate sectors should not be allowed to influence global social policies in such a way that it will affect the well-being of an individual, hence, attention should be drawn to issues that requires major attention to guide states, international organisations and non-governmental organisations involved in policy making. There is need for significant coordination and intervention to ensure sufficient global policy space and implementation of these policies as well as sanction corporate sectors who try to boycott the rules irrespective of how big these companies are.

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