When I was writing my dissertation, seemingly decades ago right now, the issue of moral responsibility was unavoidable; does any human being ever have a moral responsibility to another human being, or can we shift the blame to government, or to charitable organisations?
Are we morally obliged to feed the hungry?
Should we be helping those seeking asylum?
Is the “Western” world to blame for the effects of climate change in lesser-economically developed countries?
The latter being my focal point at this moment in time. I recently read a Guardian article examining the effects of the failure of developed states to uphold their financial commitments to combat climate change. It wasn’t exactly the most uplifting, faith affirming piece I have ever read and I finished with the conclusion that a political culture of “shifting the blame” has arisen in the place of any sense of morality. Depressing, I know. Despite the significant impact this failure has on the lives of individuals all over the developing world, the victims of the floods in Bangladesh being used to contextualise this, and the pleas from the leaders of these countries for an upholding of these financial promises, to date only $2.4bn has been delivered from a legally agreed sum of $30bn. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to conclude that promises are being broken, people’s lives are being broken and the on-going financial crisis is leading to a regressive international climate in which state interest overrides the greater good.
So the question remains, who is responsible? Is anyone responsible? In an arguably over globalised world, with a diminishing climate of a sole superpower and increasing transnational organisations the issue of responsibility is unclear, that is, if there is even room for moral responsibility in the midst of world politics. Differences in opinion among the EU and China and India at the climate change talks in Durban last year (happy new year by the way!) bring this theoretical concern into reality and an inability to agree on a course of action subsequently results in any sort of progress being pushed further into the future - a future which many don’t have time to wait for. At the forefront. pushing for these obligations to be upheld are NGOs, including Green Peace and Friends of the Earth, who have taken on some of the burden. (Again, is this a Government, individual or charitable obligation?) Working to raise awareness among the public their efforts and message have been recognised but a combination of financial restrictions and resistance for national leaders highlight significant limitations and leave their calls falling on somewhat deaf political ears. So where do we turn?
“The world is on track to a 4C temperature rise, a death sentence for Africa, small island states and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. The richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.”
Whilst the question remains unanswered the need for action is evident.
The need for morality is evident.