My PhD dissertation examined the challenges climate change and other problems of environmental sustainability pose to our conceptions of individual freedom (the capabilities approach in particular) and responsibility (more specifically, common-sense morality).
Building on this, my current research focuses on the perspective of duty-bearers on issues of global justice. Alleviating human rights deficits such as poverty and climate change will not only depend on action undertaken by collective agents (such as states and international institutions), but also by individuals. However, this suggestion is met with several objections: individual duty-bearers have worries and concerns regarding their responsibilities of global justice. These concerns merit ethical attention since they might impede action.
Examples include but are not limited to the objection that the actions necessary to protect human rights would demand too much of agents (the over-demandingness objection) and the concern that nothing individuals can do will make any difference (the problem of ineffectiveness). Another important question might concern the relationship with other duty-bearers, including institutions, other individuals, companies and NGOs. People also have a legitimate interest in being treated fairly, so they would object to an unfair distribution of the burdens involved in for example poverty alleviation or climate change abatement.
My aim is to investigate these and other concerns in order to develop a novel account of the duties and responsibilities for realising human rights that accommodates the legitimate concerns of duty-bearers and persuasively debunks their misconceptions.
My contributions to the Justice Everywhere Blog can be read at: http://justice-everywhere.org/author/wouterpeeters/