Global poverty and responsibility: Identifying the duty-bearers of human rights


Many rights theorists argue that global poverty violates certain human rights, so that responsibility to address poverty involves carrying out the duties that correspond with relevant rights-claims. Liberatirians argue that the rights and duties associated with global poverty, especially what are sometimes thought of as “positive” rights, or rights of assistance, are inappropriately agent-neutral, giving them less justificatory force than agent-relative rights and duties. To counter libertarian concerns, Thomas Pogge tries to reframe the responsibilities corresponding to human rights as institutional rather than as belonging to agents. While admirable, his approach inadequately expalains the relationships between institutional responsibility and individual and collective action. A better way to respond to libertarian concerns—that is also compatible with Pogge’s emphasis on institutional responsibility—is to show that the duties regarding global poverty are indeed agent-relative, but by virtue of individual and collective action within institutions.

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Gosselin, A. Global poverty and responsibility: Identifying the duty-bearers of human rights. Hum Rights Rev 8, 35–52 (2006).

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  • Corrective Justice
  • Secure Access
  • Interactional Justice
  • Collective Agent
  • Institutional Responsibility