Contemporary Ethical Approaches to the Practice of Assistance and Foundational Accounts of Moral Duty
- 438 Downloads
This chapter examines debates among researchers and practitioners concerning the ethical basis of the practice of assistance. There are two dominant approaches evident in the literature– deontological, or duty-based approaches, and consequentialist, or out-come based approaches. The former are more dominant in the humanitarian space, with the latter traditionally evident in the development space. In this chapter, an examination of debates concerning the tensions between these approaches is examined, with a particular focus on the humanitarian domain. Here it has been argued that traditional duty-based approaches are particularly problematical and not fit for purpose in the complex moral circumstances of contemporary assistance. Three reasons are offered in defence of this claim: (i) they cannot give sufficient consideration to the outcomes of action; (ii) they are essentially rigid and conservative; and (iii) they can result in harmful outcomes. Further, it has been argued that a shift towards approaches that lend greater weight to outcomes is required. This chapter examines this proposition. It examines both duty-based and outcome-based approaches and finds much greater common ground between these ethical frameworks and their conceptualisation of assistance than is widely assumed in the characterisations that have informed some of these debates. Through a comparative analysis of contemporary characterisations and foundational moral accounts, this analysis clarifies the points of conflict and distinction between these moral approaches that yield different substantive accounts of what a moral duty to assist would entail within each framework.
KeywordsMoral Theory Moral Duty Ethical Approach Moral Requirement Great Happiness
- Anderson, M. 1999. Do no harm: How aid can support peace or war. Boulder: Lynne.Google Scholar
- Anderson, M. 2004. “Do No Harm”: Reflections on the impacts of international assistance provided to the occupied Palestinian territories. Report. Cambridge, MA: Collaborative Learning Projects.Google Scholar
- Barnett, M. 2011. Empire of humanity. Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Barnett, M., and J. Snyder. 2008. The grand strategies of humanitarianism. In Humanitarianism in question, 143–171. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Barnett, M., and T. Weiss. 2008a (eds.). Humanitarianism in question. Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Barnett, M., and T. Weiss. 2008b. Humanitarianism: A brief history of the present. In Humanitarianism in question, 1–48. Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Baron, M.W., P. Pettit, and M. Slote. 1997. Three methods of ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
- Barry, B. 1991. Humanity and justice in global perspective. In Liberty and justice: Essays in political theory 2, 182–210. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Barry, B. 1995. Justice as impartiality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the ICRC. 1994. The code of conduct for the international Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief. URL, http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/misc/code-of-conduct-290296.htm.
- Kant, I. 1964. (Gregor, M. Gregor translation and introduction). The metaphysics of morals: The doctrine of virtue. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
- Kant, I. 2002. Groundwork for the metaphysics of morals. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Reiff, D. 2002. A bed for the night: Humanitarianism in crisis. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
- Riddell, R. 2007. Does foreign aid really work? Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Rubenstein, J. 2008. The distributive commitments of international NGOs. In Humanitarianism in question, 215–234. Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Shapcott, R. 2010. International ethics. Malden/Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Sidgwick, H. 1901. The method of ethics, 6th ed. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Sinnott-Armstrong, W. 2006. Consequentialism. In Stanford encyclopaedia of philosophy. URL http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consequentialism/.
- Statman, D. 1996. Who needs imperfect duties. American Philosophical Quarterly 33(2): 211–224.Google Scholar
- UN General Assembly Resolution 46/182. 1991. URL, http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/46/a46r182.htm