Monthly Archives: October 2013

Human rights and ethics in a crowded planet

Any renewal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has to acknowledge the fact that we live in a crowded planet – crowded in the sense that the demands placed by the world’s human population on its ecological space are such that some members do not have adequate for their health and well-being.

The growth of human numbers is clearly a major concern, but in framing that concern we need to think carefully how the naturalistic element of the problem – the size of a population in relation to its ecological support system – is affected by the social relations that distribute rights of access to it.  The connection between the ecological and the social is not always reflected on clearly, if at all, in discussions of human rights and ethics. Continue reading

What if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were redrafted today?

This is a question that is to be considered in public deliberations of the Global Citizenship Commission that holds its inaugural meeting in Edinburgh this week.  Ahead of that, the Just World Institute organised an Ethics Forum meeting to think through some aspects of the question.  My own contribution to the debate is to make four interconnected suggestions: 1) rights and duties regarding the environment should be explicitly mentioned; 2) the significance of the fact we live in a crowded planet should be foregrounded in the preamble; 3) the limits to the justification of property in general, and intellectual property in particular, should be more clearly stated; 4) the point that human rights set standards of right and wrong conduct should be emphasised against possessive individualist interpretations of rights as ‘things’. Continue reading

Edinburgh University withdraws drones investment: what next?

The University of Edinburgh’s recent withdrawal of its £1.2M investment in a manufacturer of parts for US drones was praised by many, and Rob Edwards’ related news item in the Guardian was widely retweeted with positive comment. Readers’ comments, however, give the news a more mixed reception.

Did the University do the right thing?  What, if anything, does the logic of its decision commit it to doing next?  The first of those questions was aired in the online comments; and looking at those may help answer the second question, which is now a live one for the university: what next?

Nobody can doubt that Edinburgh will take the question seriously. The disinvestment decision was taken on grounds of social responsibility following pressure from students and campaigners – notably People & Planet. Continue reading