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Poverty and the Local Contigency of Universal Rights




van Hees, Martin
Dowding, Keith

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Blackwell Publishing Ltd


This paper considers theoretically the relationship between what rights people may be said to have the normatively defensible distribution of wealth between people within nations and across the world, and people's empirical responses to poverty within their own state and across the world. We argue that rights are universal, and that rights and freedoms do entail a duty to reduce poverty. However freedom is defined, greater poverty entails, either conceptually or causally, reduced freedom. Since levels of freedom determine the material existence or non-existence of rights, poverty affects the rights that people can be said to enjoy. However, the duty to reduce poverty does not imply a duty to ensure universally unifom provision, which is neither an empirically plausible expectation nor a requirement of justice. Nonetheless, we owe more to the world's poor today than we did in the past. Globalisation expands the moral community that we live in and thus affects our and others' rights and duties: the greater the level of economic interaction, and the greater the interdependencies of economics, the greater the extent to which the threshold values below which rights lack material existence are likely to converge. In particular, the growth of such interdependencies entails that the threshold values for the developing world should increase.



Keywords: human rights; poverty alleviation; social policy; strategic approach



International Social Science Journal


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