Ethics and Economics 7 (2):1-19 (2010)

Authors
Jos Philips
Utrecht University
Abstract
This paper investigates the moral duties that human rights NGOs, such as Amnesty International, and development NGOs, such as Oxfam, have in relation to human rights – especially in relation to the human right to a decent standard of living. The mentioned NGOs are powerful new agents on the global scene, and according to many they might be duty-bearers in relation to human rights. However, until now their moral duties have hardly been investigated. The present paper investigates NGO duties in relation to human rights by looking in particular to a moral theory recently proposed by Leif Wenar, a theory which has some similarities to utilitarianism. In applying this theory, a case for human-rights duties of NGOs is developed mainly by considering the indispensable role that civil society plays in protecting human rights. The paper concludes that, at least, NGOs bear duties with regard to human rights when, as in certain real-life cases, NGO involvement is the only way to achieve acceptable protection against standard threats to certain goods, such as a decent standard of living.
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