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The Influence of the Global Order on the Prospects for Genuine Democracy in the Developing Countries

Poverty is not an indigenous phenomenon

Autor : Thomas Pogge

Por Catarina Fabiansson

marzo 2005

The developed world not only supports oppressive regimes, but then “..lavish condescending pity on impoverished populations for their notorious ‘failure to govern themselves democratically’! (p.134) ”

Global economic order with international borrowing and resource privileges contribute to increase in poverty and should only be assigned to democratic governments. “International authoritative decisions about the democratic legitimacy of a particular government are to be made by a standing Democratic Panel… (p.130)”


Thomas Pogge

Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy, Columbia University. Pogge has worked extensively on global justice, human rights, poverty and development. He has recently edited a collection of essays on Global Justice for Blackwell (2001). His latest book is World Poverty and Human Rights (2002)

Thomas Pogge’s main criticism is against the general view that “…causes of severe poverty are indigenous to the countries in which it occurs, and the affluent societies and their governments do not substantially contribute to the persistence of severe poverty world-wide (p.129).”

He instead claims that it is global economic and political order that contributes to “sustaining oppression and corruption in the poorer countries (p.124).” Already economically powerful governments representing their own interests bargain for rules in the global economy that will favor their own countries. This allows them to become richer while the poorest countries continue to become poorer. “This increases international economic inequality and thereby further strengthens the bargaining power of the affluent states, allowing them to shape the rules even more strongly in their favour. And so the cycle continues (p.ibid). ”

So called ‘cultural’ and ‘historical’ defects as corruption and bribery are supported by developed countries who have reached such extremes as making it legal and even tax-deductible to bribe foreign officials “..thereby providing financial inducements and moral support to the practice of bribing politicians and officials in the developing countries (p.125).”

Pogge claims that in a different global environment, the so called “domestic” reasons to poverty, corruption and oppression in less developed countries would be less frequent.

He underlines that the developed world is morally responsible and not only supports oppressive regimes, but then “..lavish condescending pity on impoverished populations for their notorious ‘failure to govern themselves democratically’! (p.134)”

Two main contributions to the negative impacts on developing countries are the international borrowing and resource privileges that facilitate the continuous exploitation of peoples across the world by authoritarian leaders.

International borrowing privileges facilitates borrowing by destructive governments who would borrow less if they themselves instead of their citizens would have to pay back. Pursuant democratically elected governments then suffer from previous dictators’ deeds and are perceived as less efficient. Incentives towards coups are also created since borrowing privilege ‘comes with it’.

Since anyone with money can buy themselves into resources to then purchase arms with the output and become military stronger and more powerful, the international resource privilege is just as destructive. It has also been proven that resource-rich countries have more poverty and have reduced chance for democracy.

To resolve this problem, Pogge proposes that international borrowing and resource privileges only should be given to governments that have been democratically elected.

To decide whether a government fulfills this criteria, a Democracy Panel needs to be established. This panel would give internationally authoritative decisions and consist of “…reputable, independent jurists…affiliated with the UN – which should have at its disposal specially trained personnel for the observation and implementation of elections (pp.130-131).” A constitution approved by the country’s own population would be created, and democratic institutions developed through the assistance from an International Democratic Loan Guarantee Fund (IDLGF).

Through such global institutional reforms, poverty may be alleviated and increased democracy with responsible governments may evolve in the developing world.


In « Debating Cosmopolitics », ed. Daniele Archibugi, Verso, 2003

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