The climate change talks in Doha have come to a predictably acrimonious conclusion. As well as the baffling technical, economic and scientific challenges involved, the diplomatic deadlock throws up a fascinating question of political philosophy – do the citizens of one country have responsibilities to people in other parts of the world? If so, what are they? Internationalists might respond that we should have equal obligations to all human-beings. But, as a matter of fact, that is not how practical politics or human emotions work. Most people are willing to do much more for the people who are closest to them: family and neighbours. They also usually feel more willing to help compatriots than people on the other side of the world. They might, however, feel some obligation, or desire, to help people in far-off places. But how far do those obligations stretch?
Those questions lie at the heart of a fascinating new academic enterprise, pioneered by Hakan Altinay, a Turkish academic. I come across a lot of schemes to improve the world. But Altinay’s efforts to promote the idea of a “global civics” is one do-gooding idea that might actually really do some good. Read more