Responding to Global Poverty (completed)

What the affluent ought to do and what the poor are permitted to do

About the project

Two principles are commonly invoked in support of the view that we - the affluent in the developed world - have a responsibility to address global poverty. The first is based on the idea that because the poor are in severe need and we are in a position to alleviate such need at some cost, we have responsibilities to do so - the principle of assistance. The second principle is based on the idea that because the poor are in severe need and we have contributed or are contributing to their need we have responsibilities to alleviate it - the principle of contribution.

This project will investigate the meaning, moral significance, and practical implications of these two principles, and will address some of the crucial and often underappreciated implications of the failures of affluent agents to act on their responsibilities to address global poverty.


This project will pursue innovation across five main themes.

  1. We will develop a compelling account of the distinction between contributing to global poverty and merely failing to prevent it.
  2. We will explore the relative importance of different kinds of responsibilities (based on either principle) that the affluent may have to address global poverty.
  3. We will examine in detail the largely neglected issue of how to distinguish and specify fair standards in the application of ethical principles such as the principles of assistance and contribution under conditions of evidential and ethical uncertainty.
  4. We will pose the generally overlooked but particularly urgent question of what actions the poor are at liberty to take to protect themselves when the affluent fail to meet their responsibilities to alleviate poverty.
  5. We relate our philosophical conclusions to real-life political questions of climate change, trade policies, and management of the Norwegian Pension Fund.



The project was submitted and evaluated as a fundable proposal by the ERC Starting Grant Panel in 2009, but outside the range of the available budget. The project is now funded by The Norwegian Research Council from 2010 - 2013 and Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature. The project is hosted by Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature, Oslo.



Published June 20, 2012 9:43 AM - Last modified Sep. 5, 2016 12:07 PM