Global Population and Global Justice: Equitable Distribution of Resources Among Countries


Analysing the demands of global justice for the distribution of resources is a complex task and requires consideration of a broad range of issues. Of particular relevance is the effect that different distributions will have on global population growth and individual welfare. Since changes in the consumption and distribution of resources can have major effects on the welfare of the global population, and the rate at which it increases, it is important to establish meaningful principles to ensure a just distribution of resources. In order to establish such principles we must consider the scope of any reproductive rights, and rights to other goods, such as food and health care, as well as examine the extent of duties correlating to those rights. In addition to the impact that distributions of global goods have on the welfare of current generations, it is also important to consider what duties we have, if any, to future generations.

Key Concepts:

  • Questions relating to global justice are concerned with the justice of international institutions and events; they are also concerned with establishing fundamental moral principles, which form the basis of international law.

  • Human rights are those rights which are held by all people in virtue of their status as human beings, rather than because of any specific law or in virtue of belonging to a specific group or country.

  • The distribution and consumption of resources is important in discussion of global justice since the way in which resources are allocated will have a major effect on human welfare and ability of individuals to enjoy their rights.

  • Distributive Justice can be analysed on a range of scales, from the local to the global and deals with questions relating to the distribution of resources and other important goods; these can be things like money, health care, or food, as well as more intangible concepts like freedom and liberty.

  • Environmental sustainability is important in the global justice context because environmental degradation can have severe impacts on human welfare; as such, the sustainability of different types, and rates, of resource consumption will be more or less just, depending on the harm that is caused by it.

  • Egalitarianism is the view, common in discussions of justice that all human beings are morally equal and that as a result, should be given equal moral consideration.

  • Prioritarianism is the view in theories of justice that a specific group, for example the citizens of a particular country, or those living in poverty should have their needs prioritised over the needs of other groups.

  • Sufficientarianism is the view that justice requires only that everyone has enough and that all people have sufficient resources or are above a specific welfare threshold, contrary to egalitarianism, sufficientarianism is compatible with the existence of unequal distribution of goods.

Keywords: global justice; reproductive rights; population ethics; environmental ethics; sustainability; resource constraints; duties to aid; human rights; population growth; climate change


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West‐Oram, Peter GN, and Widdows, Heather(Sep 2012) Global Population and Global Justice: Equitable Distribution of Resources Among Countries. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0024140]