"Aller Simple" - Corporate Accountability for Mass Atrocity: The Case of the French National Railways (SNCF)

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Pavillon Chancellor-Day NCDH 202, 3644, rue Peel, Montréal, QC, H3A 1W9, CA
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La Chaire Katharine A. Pearson Chair en société civile et politiques publiques accueille la professeure Sarah Federman, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Baltimore, pour une présentation sur son projet de recherche en cours sur la SNCF et la responsabilité sociale de cette entreprise quant à l'Holocauste.

Résumé

[En anglais seulement] Transitional justice employs a variety of mechanisms, including compensation, apologies, trials, commemoration, and truth seeking to guide societies in the aftermath of massive human rights violations. The perpetrators are most often individuals, rebel groups, and government institutions.

More infrequently, however, do we consider how to address market actors. A study of the decades-long conflict over the French National Railways' (SNCF- Société nationale des chemins de fer français) role in the Holocaust provides an opportunity to consider what happens when businesses are involved. The SNCF had a role in transporting over 75,000 Jewish deportees and others towards death camps during World War II. After fifty-years of the SNCF storying itself as a hero in the resistance, survivors began to challenge, sue, and boycott the company - saying it needed to acknowledge its role in the Holocaust as well. While debates began in France, they spilled over into the United States and worked to roadblock the company's efforts to do business there up through 2017. The company responded by engaging in many transitional justice practices with mixed results. The company's overlapping identities of victim, perpetrator, and hero raise complicated issues at the intersection of corporate social responsibility and mass atrocity. 

This research is based on over 120 interviews (over 80 with survivors) and pro bono work with the U.S. State Department and other groups. 

La conférencière

[En anglais seulement] Sarah Federman is Assistant Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore. She specializes in the role of language in conflict, post-conflict contexts and the role of market actors in mass atrocity. She took up her position at University of Baltimore in 2017 after completing her doctorate at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Federman has also taught courses at SciencesPo Lille, Grinnell College, and the University of Malta.

Considering the intersection of corporate behavior and conflict draws on Federman’s decade-long career as a senior advertising executive. Federman negotiated with companies throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Some of the companies with whom she met include; Google, NFL, Viacom, Expedia, Discovery and most of the world’s largest advertising agencies.