What do human rights demand from you and me?

5 March 2012

Professor Thomas Pogge.
Professor Thomas Pogge.

This Wednesday the Yale University political philosopher Thomas Pogge looks at the big questions confronting all of us concerned with human rights and global justice today in his Sydney Ideas lecture.

Many human beings do not have all their human rights fulfilled. A better world must surely be possible. But who has what obligations to help bring it about? What do we really owe distant strangers? How are our obligations affected by the fact that so many in our situation don't lift a finger? Is it possible to lead a moral life in our highly complex world?

Professor Pogge also asks if our acquiescence in a global economy that regularly leaves a billion people chronically undernourished is comparable to the acquiescence of many Germans during the Nazi era.

He has advocated for those individuals who benefit from financial and government systems that are loaded in favour of the wealthy countries and individuals to take responsibility for this inequity by transferring a proportion of their own personal income to the poor.

But Professor Pogge is perhaps best known for developing the concept of a Health Impact Fund. His idea is that pharmaceutical firms worldwide would register new medicines with the HIF, which they would then have to provide at cost price anywhere they are needed.

In exchange for foregoing the normal profits from drug sales, the firms would be rewarded based on the HIF's assessment of the actual global health impact of the drug. Governments and other donors would finance the HIF.

Thomas Pogge is Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale, Professorial Fellow at the Australian National University, Research Director at the Oslo University Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN) and a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science.

His recent publications include Politics as Usual (2010); Kant, Rawls, and Global Justice (Chinese, 2010); Hacer justicia a la humanidad (2009); World Poverty and Human Rights (2008); Global Justice and Global Ethics co-edited (2008); The Health Impact Fund co-authored with Aidan Hollis (2008); John Rawls: His Life and Theory of Justice (2007); and Freedom from Poverty as a Human Right edited (2007).

Event details

What: Thomas Pogge: What do human rights demand from you and me?, a Sydney Ideas lecture co-presented with the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights at the University of Sydney.

When: 6 to 7.30pm, Wednesday 7 March

Where: Lecture Theatre 104, Law School Annex, Camperdown Campus. See map and directions

Cost: This event is free and open to all, with no ticket or booking required. Seating is unreserved and entry is on a first come, first served basis.

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