Bribery and Its Ethical Implications for Aid Workers in the Developing World
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Bribery is a complicated, multi-dimensional issue. Upon first glance, most westerners would immediately condemn it as an underhanded, unfair means of gaining an advantage in a competitive or legal situation, and so it is in virtually every case in the westernized world. However, the issue becomes much more complicated in the international context, particularly in developing nations, where giving and accepting bribes is often normal and expected. This paper serves to inform ethical decision-making in situations where the “right choice” is unclear with regards to bribery, primarily for individuals performing aid work in foreign countries with corrupt officials and police officers. In such contexts, a simple offering of food, money, or a small trinket may make the difference between a person being able to accomplish meaningful, life-changing work for the local populace or having that work significantly slowed at best and being thrown out of the country, robbed, or imprisoned in worse cases. The larger scale bribery issues in international business and the laws pertaining to them are also discussed.
KeywordsBribery Foreign aid Engineering ethics Developing world
Many thanks to the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Jefferson Scholars Foundation for the fellowships funding the author’s research. Thanks also to Garrick Louis for his guidance in developing this paper and the thought processes behind it.
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