This book provides the first book-length, English-language account
of the political ethics of large-scale, Western-based humanitarian
INGOs, such as Oxfam, CARE, and Doctors Without Borders. These
INGOs are often either celebrated as 'do-gooding machines' or
maligned as incompetents 'on the road to hell'. In contrast, this
book suggests the picture is more complicated. Drawing on political
theory, philosophy, and ethics, along with original fieldwork, this
book shows that while humanitarian INGOs are often perceived as
non-governmental and apolitical, they are in fact sometimes
somewhat governmental, highly political, and often 'second-best'
actors. As a result, they face four central ethical predicaments:
the problem of spattered hands, the quandary of the second-best,
the cost-effectiveness conundrum, and the moral motivation
trade-off. This book considers what it would look like for INGOs to
navigate these predicaments in ways that are as consistent as
possible with democratic, egalitarian, humanitarian and
justice-based norms. It argues that humanitarian INGOs must
regularly make deep moral compromises. In choosing which
compromises to make, they should focus primarily on their overall
consequences, as opposed to their intentions or the intrinsic value
of their activities. But they should interpret consequences
expansively, and not limit themselves to those that are amenable to
precise cost-benefit analysis. The book concludes by explaining the
implications of its 'map' of humanitarian INGO political ethics for
individual donors to INGOs, and for how we all should conceive of
INGOs' role in addressing pressing global problems.
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