Poverty and Global Justice [Abstract]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 21.3 (Fall 2007)

Ethics & International Affairs

Poverty eradication has been identified as the largest challenge facing international society in its quest for a peaceful, prosperous, and just world. I respond to this challenge by proposing a global poverty eradication principle. Grounded in John Rawls’s account of human rights and assistance for the law of peoples, the global poverty eradication principle applies regardless of causal patterns that may obtain in a given case. The relationship between persons affected by poverty and their governments has implications only for the selection of appropriate means, but never undermines the goal of poverty eradication itself. The duties of human rights and assistance that establish the global poverty eradication principle apply even to societies that may reject them, because they are institutional reaffirmations of the natural duties of persons in the context of international society, without whose affirmation no domestic society can be considered well-ordered.

I conclude by pointing out some of the challenges that are likely to arise in the application of the global poverty eradication principle. While I cannot hope to settle these practical problems philosophically, flagging them helps to clarify the scope of application of the global poverty eradication principle and gives a sense of the concrete targets and measures that could be adopted in working toward its fulfillment in practice, especially for the elimination of certain types of severe deprivation at a minimum.

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