Human Rights And Poverty


¶ … Moral Obligation to Help Reduce World Poverty There is little doubt that global poverty is a significant issue, creating hardship and suffering for many people. The statistics are astounding; every day 34,000 children under the age of five years die due to poverty, this equates to 11 million children a year (Eskelinen 11). Furthermore, 1,000 million people lack access to clean drinking water (Ord 178), and 2,000 million people lack access to essential drugs.(Pogge 1). The statistics are not in question, and clearly demonstrate the harm of poverty, but the reactions of those who have resources that could be used to help is a more controversial; what moral obligations should exist. It is the argument of this paper that there should be, and is, a moral obligation on the rich to help the poor.

Philosophers such as Peter Singer and Thomas Pogge have written on this issue. Singer argues that there is a clear obligation to help the poor, but notes that many people place a greater importance on helping those in their home nation states rather than those in other countries due to the presence of reciprocity (Singer, One World: The Ethics of Globalization 169). Pogge notes that while governments pay lip service paid to global poverty, the rhetoric does not sufficiently transform into meaningful actions (Pogge 2). In both cases it is apparent that the populations' perceive the concept of helping to poor as a humanitarian or charitable act, not as a way of providing social justice, or the result of moral obligations (Pogge 2). Indeed, there appears to be a purposeful approach in which governments are avoiding the


At the World Food Summit, the US government declared "the attainment of any 'right to adequate food' or 'fundamental right to be free from hunger' is a goal or aspiration to be realized progressively that does not give rise to any international obligations" (Pogge 3). This is a very clear statement of intent, while the government accept there is a need for improvement, there is a clear rejection of the presence of a moral obligation. The underlying approach is that human rights only concern negative rather than positive actions (Pogge 3). This may be seen as a shield for governments and the rich, who may argue that in gaining their wealth they have not caused others to be poor (Pogge 3). If they have not caused the problem, this approach to human rights undermines the perception of any obligation existing to rectify or adjust the situation (Pogge 3).
When looking at this scenario, it may be argued that there is some merit to the argument, especially when it is applied to individuals rather than nations states; why should one person, who has worked hard for their income, be morally required to give some of it away to rectify income inequality? Indeed, many may argue that the actions of one person, especially if those actions result on only a modest level of income redistributed will make very little difference. However, on a larger scale, where more people aid, or governments make a significant contribution, there is a much greater potential to make a difference. However, this can still be considered in the context of humanitarian aid and charity, rather than a moral obligation associated with social justice.

Singer looks at this from a different perspective, stating that "If…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Eskelinen, Teppo. Putting Global Poverty in Context: A Philosophical Essay on Power, Justice and Economy. N.p., 2009. Web. <>.

Ord, T. "Global Poverty and the Demands of Morality." God, The Good, and Utilitarianism: Perspectives on Peter Singer. Ed. J Perry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 177 -- 191. Print.

Pogge, T. "Poverty and Human Rights." N.p., 2014. Web. <>.

Singer, P. "Famine, Affluence, and Morality." Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1972): 229 -- 243. Print.
- -- . "What Should a Billionaire Give - and What Should You?" The New York Times 2006. Web. < 27/What should a billionare give.pdf>.

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