Select language

Skip to content

Human Development &
Capability Association

Multi-Disciplinary and People-Centred

Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

WEBINAR: Sen’s Broad Consequentialism, Legitimate Freedoms and Biodiversity Loss

April 18 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm UTC+2

April 18th, 14:00-15:00 CET

Speaker: Andrew Crabtree

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 836 9151 0840
Passcode: 133041

Amartya Sen has been unjustly criticized for having an apparently lassiez faire approach to freedoms. For some, he appears to place no limits on the freedoms people may have. Such a criticism fails to take Sen’s work on consequentialism - his so-called broad consequentialism - into consideration. Nor too does it discuss his work on responsibility. Thus, the first part of this paper outlines Sen’s “broad consequentialism”, which takes agency, processes and social relationships of people into consideration, and contrasts it and its benefits, with traditional consequentialism. This section also criticizes Sen’s approach for being unclear in terms of prioritization, especially in relation to rights which is left to a vague discussion of public reasoning (Sen, 2008). Section 2 begins by outlining a legitimate freedom or critical contractualist approach to the limits of freedoms is defended which, drawing on Scanlon (1998) and Forst (2011), emphasises the importance of justification to others. It defends the approach against Sen’s criticisms of Scanlon which, I shall maintain involves a misunderstanding of Scanlon’s work as providing a unique set of principles for all cases (Sen, 2008).

The argument is made concrete by examining The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework which is concerned with preventing the huge biodiversity loss that is currently taking place (sometimes called the sixth mass extinction).  The framework aims to protect at least 30% of all terrestrial, inland water and marine areas by 2030 (also known as 30 by 30) (Target 3). At the same time, it requires the respecting of indigenous people and local communities’ rights which includes “their cultures and their rights over lands, territories, resources, and traditional knowledge”. Additionally, the rights of “women and girls, children and youth, and persons with disabilities and ensure the full protection of environmental human rights defenders are also to be recognized” (Target 22). This includes the right to free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people or local communities before environmental conservation schemes are put in place. In other words, protection has to be justified and clear principles employed.

The implication of this is that Target 3 will not be met. One reason for this is “practical”, the processes to obtain free, prior and informed consent will require a great deal of time even if the end result is free, prior and informed consent. A second issue concerns the kind of protection involved, i.e. fortress conservation, which has often involved the removal of indigenous people from their lands (Shetler, 2007). In other words, the freedoms of those implementing the conservation schemes are limited by the rights of others and it will not be legitimate to archive 30 by 30 (other targets may be). It is unclear how Sen’s approach can deal with such problems as it is not clear how consequences are to be valued and weighed against each other beyond a vague concept of public deliberation (Sen, 2008). The differences will be brought out by analysing the specific case of Conservation International’s guidelines on the principle’s application (2013).

Buppert, T. and McKeehan, A. (2013). Guidelines for Applying Free, Prior and Informed Consent: A Manual for Conservation International. Arlington, VA: Conservation International.

Forst, R. (2011). The right to justification: Elements of a constructivist theory of justice (Vol. 46). Columbia University Press.

Scanlon, T. M. (2000). What we owe to each other. Harvard University Press.

Sen, A. (2008) The Idea of Justice, Allen Lane, London

Shetler, J. B. (2007). Imagining Serengeti: A history of landscape memory in Tanzania from earliest times to the present. Ohio University Press.

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework accessed 9/02/24.

Speaker: Andrew Crabtree
Andrew Crabtree is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Copenhagen Business School. His primary interests lie in the human development approach and he is presently working on a notion of nature-based human development which includes traditional human development concerns – lack of basic freedoms, rights, needs, security, inequalities and socio-cultural structures  - understood through a nature-based lens which emphasizes our rootedness in and our relatedness to cultured nature’s threats and opportunities. He has worked as a consultant for the Human Development Report Office’s 2022 Special Report on Human Security New Threats to Human Security in the Anthropocene and the 2022 Human Development Report Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World. He edited the volume Sustainability, Capabilities and Human Security (Palgrave, 2020). He is a co-coordinator of the European Regional network of the Human Development and Capability Association.

Chair: Philippa Shepherd
Philippa, a doctoral student at Université Grenoble Alpes, France, is doing research on the vulnerability and resilience of work capability in the French Alps amidst the challenges of climate change. With a background in environmental communication, sciences, and management, she recently re-entered academia to pursue her second master's degree, this time in international development and sustainability. This academic experience served as a catalyst for her current PhD research, which is rooted in the capability approach. Philippa's primary interest is exploring the complex issues arising from the multiple ecological crises, such as climate change, that pose a threat to human development. Philippa is a joint coordinator of the HDCA European Regional Network.


April 18
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm UTC+2
Event Tags:
scroll to top