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Why the West is perceived as being unworthy of cooperation.

  • Ooms, Gorik1
  • 1 Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp.
Published Article
The Journal of law, medicine & ethics : a journal of the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2010.00514.x
PMID: 20880243


Natural selection generated a natural sense of justice. This natural sense of justice created a set of natural rights; rights humans accorded to each other in virtue of being members of the same tribe. Sharing the responsibility for natural rights between all members of the same tribe allowed humans to take advantage of all opportunities for cooperation. Human rights are the present day political emanation of natural rights. Theoretically, human rights are accorded by all humans to all humans in virtue of being humans; however, the idea that the corresponding responsibility is now shared among all humans is not broadly accepted. The natural sense of justice creates an ambiguity: on the one hand humans consider the nation they belong to as the social system that should guarantee their human rights (and likewise they do not consider themselves as having responsibility for the human rights of inhabitants of other nations); on the other hand, as cooperation between nations intensifies, expectations of global mutual responsibility increase as well. As the West does not feel responsible for the human rights of humans in the rest of the world, not even for their most basic survival needs, the West is perceived as unworthy of cooperation. If human rights are understood as conditions for the well-functioning communities, lifting the responsibility for the human rights of all humans to the global level can be understood as a condition to take full advantage of all opportunities globalization presents, or as a condition to adequately address all challenges globalization presents. However, this would have to happen without disregarding the particular feelings of mutual responsibility nations embody; we need a sliding scale of responsibility. The first step would be an acknowledgement that all humans are responsible for meeting the very basis survival needs of all humans, which could be achieved through a Framework Convention on Global Health and a Global Health Fund.

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