Insights from “Beyond 2015: Targeting Institutional Human Rights Violations” Lecture by Thomas Pogge

By: Hayley Gleeson, WCAS ’13

The Millennium Development Goals have been a hot topic in the world of global health for the past decade. These eight goals, established by the United Nations in 2000, tackle some of the world’s most serious issues of inequality, including hunger, poverty, health and education, aiming to greatly reduce these problems by 2015. However, as 2015 fast approaches, we need to start thinking about what is going to happen afterward. Last Thursday, about 70 students and faculty members attended a lecture by Thomas Pogge, Director of the Global Justice Program and Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University, in which he discussed ways in which we can address global poverty “Beyond 2015”.

Pogge made a provocative argument about world poverty, asserting that national governments and supranational institutions keep the poorer segments of a population in poverty with biased policies and arrangements. Since the 1970s, the income share of the poorest half of the US population has dropped by 50%, while that of the richest 1% has more than doubled. The richest 30,000 citizens of the United States now have half as much income between them as the poorest half combined. These vast inequalities are caused by systematic violations of human rights by supranational institutions, such as holding monopolies over medication, seeds, and borrowing privileges. He stated that in order to rid society of this inequality, we need to target these policies directly and assign responsibility to specific agents, rather than continuing to rely on the detached aspirations of the Millennium Development Goals.

Pogge presented eight new post-2015 Institutional Reform Goals to address the current problems. These included taxation on trade-distorting subventions, greenhouse gas emissions and arms exports to developing countries; the closing of bank accounts with unknown owners or beneficiaries, and only allowing minimally representative rulers to take on debt burdens. Pogge’s critique of the MDGs is that although they were grand ideas, there was no particular person in charge of actually implementing, regulating or monitoring them. These new reform goals are geared toward specific targets or agents, allowing for greater division of responsibility and, ultimately, an end to extreme poverty and inequalities across the globe.

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