Multinational corporations' economic and human rights impacts on developing countries: A review and research agenda

Elisa Giuliani*, Chiara Macchi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Developing countries are attracting a significant portion of global foreign direct investments. Governments of such countries often compete fiercely for attracting multinational corporations (MNCs) in the expectation of the advantages they will bring to their economies, often prioritising economic goals over fundamental human rights. For a long time, economists have analysed the economic impacts of MNCs, while a parallel strand of work in political science, business ethics and international law investigates the repercussions of MNC operations on human rights. Despite the significant relatedness and complementarities, these two bodies of literature have so far poorly interacted. This paper addresses this limitation and systematically analyses and integrates existing micro-level empirical evidence on the economic and human rights impacts of MNCs on developing countries. It provides a critical analysis of what is known and highlights what we do not know about the factors that mediate the positive and/or negative impacts of MNC operations on host developing countries. Based on a critical analysis of the literature, it discusses avenues for future research in this field and sets the grounds for a new interdisciplinary research agenda on this subject.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-517
JournalCambridge Journal of Economics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Developing countries
  • Human rights
  • Multinational corporations
  • Spillovers

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