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Unformatted text preview: SYMPOSIUM World Poverty and Human Rights Thomas Pogge D espite a high and growing global average income, billions of human beings are still condemned to life- long severe poverty, with all its attendant evils of low life expectancy, social exclusion, ill health, illiteracy, dependency, and effec- tive enslavement.The annual death toll from poverty-related causes is around 18 million, or one-third of all human deaths, which adds up to approximately 270 million deaths since the end of the Cold War. 1 This problem is hardly unsolvable, in spite of its magnitude. Though constituting 44 percent of the worlds population, the 2,735 million people the World Bank counts as living below its more generous $ 2 per day international poverty line consume only 1.3 percent of the global product, and would need just 1 percent more to escape poverty so defined. 2 The high-income countries, with 955 million citizens, by contrast, have about 81 percent of the global product. 3 With our average per capita income nearly 180 times greater than that of the poor (at market exchange rates), we could eradicate severe poverty worldwide if we chose to tryin fact, we could have eradicated it decades ago. Citizens of the rich countries are, how- ever, conditioned to downplay the severity and persistence of world poverty and to think of it as an occasion for minor charita- ble assistance. Thanks in part to the ration- alizations dispensed by our economists, most of us believe that severe poverty and its persistence are due exclusively to local causes. Few realize that severe poverty is an ongoing harm we inflict upon the global poor. If more of us understood the true magnitude of the problem of poverty and our causal involvement in it, we might do what is necessary to eradicate it. That world poverty is an ongoing harm we inflict seems completely incredible to most citizens of the affluent countries. We call it tragic that the basic human rights of so many remain unfulfilled, and are will- ing to admit that we should do more to help. But it is unthinkable to us that we are actively responsible for this catastrophe. If we were, then we, civilized and sophisticated 1 1 World Health Organization, World Health Report 2004 (Geneva: WHO, 2004 ), Annex Table 2 ; available at www.who.int/whr/ 2004 . 2 For detailed income poverty figures,see Shaohua Chen and Martin Ravallion, How Have the Worlds Poorest Fared since the Early 1980 s? World Bank Research Observer 19 , no. 2 ( 2004 ), p. 153 ; also available at wbro.oupjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/ 19 / 2 / 141 (reporting 2001 data). Ravallion and Chen have man- aged the World Banks income poverty assessments for well over a decade. My estimate of the poors share of the global product is justified in Thomas W.Pogge,The First UN Millennium Development Goal: A Cause for Celebration? Journal of Human Development 5 , no. 3 ( 2004 ), p. 387 . For a methodological critique of the World Banks poverty statistics, see The First UN Mil-...
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This note was uploaded on 02/28/2011 for the course PHIL 205 taught by Professor Carter during the Spring '09 term at BYU.
- Spring '09