Development Ethics

International development ethics is ethical reflection on the ends and means of local, national and global development. It’s a relatively new but very rigorous discipline that asserts that:

  • Value issues ought to be at the very heart of all development thinking. Values ought to be an important and regular element of the development discourse, and should guide how decisions are made regarding the allocation of scarce development resources, and how results of such expenditures are evaluated. Value issues aren’t peripheral, neither are they “soft” extras to reflect on after the technical and economic analyses have been done, and the important decisions made.
  • The careful defense of basic normative assumptions, whether secular or religious, ought to be required in all development policy formulation and implementation, in order to justify local, national, or global development decision-making and accountability. Development ethics considerations appeal to social justice, human rights, basic needs, leadership qualities, gender equity, conflict and peacebuilding, and theological understandings of the human condition.

Despite the important adage to “do no harm”, almost every development decision harms someone’s interests. A moral and ethical obligation exists to understand the probable impacts of international development and foreign assistance decision making, and to take appropriate action to mitigate the harm and accentuate and equitably distribute the benefits.

International development assistance entails reciprocity and mutual respect by all involved, with a high degree of “ownership” of donor funded programs and projects by the beneficiaries.

Development Ethics Papers

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