Ethics & International Affairs

Debate: Global Poverty Relief

Facts, Theories, and Hard Choices

Andrew Kuper

The main thrust of my argument was that ad hoc suggestions of charity cannot replace a systematic and theoretically informed approach to poverty relief. Charitable donation sometimes helps—and sometimes harms—but is no general solution to global poverty, and can be positively dangerous when presented as such. We need to consider, and often choose, other routes to helping the poor—including ethical tourism and fair trade in luxury goods. We will not be able to invest in such feasible routes if we give away all our extra income, as Singer recommends. Sticking to donation above all, when a combination of other strategies is necessary, is highly likely to harm the poor.

Andrew Kuper is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge University. He was the visiting Henry Fellow at Harvard University in 1999-2000. His research interests include moral and political philosophy, democracy and development, and global politics. Among his recent publications are “Rawl-sian Global Justice,” which appeared in Political Theory (2000), and “Serving a New Democracy:Must the Media ‘speak Softly’?” in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research (2001).