Can Institutions Have Responsibilities?: Collective Moral by Toni Erskine

By Toni Erskine

Can associations, within the experience of formal enterprises, be thought of susceptible to ethical burdens? The members to this booklet seriously learn the belief of the 'collective' or 'institutional' ethical agent in, inter alia , the guise of states, transnational businesses, the UN and foreign society. The viability of treating those entities as bearers of ethical duties is explored within the context of a few of the main serious and debated concerns and occasions in diplomacy, together with the genocide in Rwanda, improvement reduction, the Kosovo crusade and international justice.

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Four modest claims regarding the practical implications of this analysis can be made: two in light of the criteria offered for identifying institutional moral agents and two in response to the proposed conditions under which moral agency can be exercised. First, if only individuals, and never institutions, are seen to be moral agents, the possibility of assigning responsibility for some actions is lost. The United States can respond to acute environmental crises by upholding the conditions of the Kyoto convention – whether or not it chooses to do so – while the individual citizen cannot.

I will argue below that, given the States and ‘Quasi-States’ 25 criteria that I have put forward, the state qualifies as an institutional moral agent. On the other hand, while nations might claim identities that are both independent of their constitutive memberships and that exist over time, they lack decision-making structures and, therefore, are not candidates for moral agency. 18 Transnational corporations and transnational NGOs, such as Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières, and Amnesty International, all qualify as institutional moral agents according to the above criteria.

In proposing this model, I will, however, endeavour to lay some of the conceptual groundwork for future evaluations of where blame lies among international actors when these duties are neglected. States and ‘Quasi-States’ 21 Building a model of institutional moral agency One might begin this pursuit by asking whether ascriptions of moral responsibility even make sense when their subjects are collectivities. ‘Individualists’, staunch opponents of the idea of collective moral agency, would reply in the negative.

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