Institutional Reform Goals

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The Institutional Reform Goals (IRG) Project

The IRG project is a research and advocacy project that was launched in 2012, at ASAP’s annual conference at Yale University.

Background: Internationally oriented philosophers, development economists, and scholars from interdisciplinary fields such as international development studies, have long argued that moral responsibilities across national borders are not exhausted by constraints on inter-state relations – that in an increasingly interdependent world, substantial principles of justice and ethics apply globally.  Over the years, these theorists have articulated arguments for personal and institutional responsibilities on the part of the world’s affluent to end the massive deprivations that still afflict the lives of the poorer half of humankind. Such normative arguments have converged with empirical explanations of poverty that emphasize the weight of global factors over local ones; in particular, the role of global rules and practices in exacerbating and perpetuating severe poverty.

The international institutional order may be seen to worsen poverty in primarily two ways: (1) Commissions:  Some rules and practices directly contribute to poverty – for example, intellectual property treaties that reduce the access of poor people to essential medicines or inequitably applied trade barriers that repress exports from developing countries, and (2) Omissions:  Institutions that may help curtail harms are weak or non-existent – for example, the lack of adequate regulatory mechanisms to curb illicit financial flows from developing countries or the arms trade to volatile, conflict-vulnerable regions.

Objectives: ASAP’s IRG project calls for the reform of institutional rules and practices that, unlike poverty eradication outcomes, are directly within the control of the world’s wealthiest states.  We have identified ten main areas in which the reform of global rules and practices could have a major impact on human development and poverty eradication: (1) financial transparency and integrity, (2) international resource and borrowing privileges, (3) intellectual property law, (4) participatory and inclusive decision-making, (5) international labour standards, (6) international trade, (7) environmental sustainability and climate change, (8) global migration, (9) the arms trade, and (10) debt.

ASAP’s IRG project is ambitious and unique. While other NGOs are campaigning in many of the 10 areas we have identified, very few understand them as systematically interrelated.  For more on how the IRG project will be implemented, see “Impact: MDGs” and “Milestones.”

The IRG project is led by Thomas Pogge (Professor of Philosophy, Yale University), Mitu Sengupta (Associate Professor of Politics, Ryerson University), and Gilad Tanay (PhD Candidate in Philosophy, Yale University).  If you would like to be involved, please contact Mitu Sengupta (msengupta<at>gmail.com)

To learn more about how and why institutional rules and practices contribute to poverty, watch: