Moral clarity matters.
At the Center for Values in International Development (the Center) we
Elevate the awareness, understanding, and essential role of a values-based discourse in international relief & development
Integrate ethics pragmatically to inform all aspects of relief & development activities
Advocate for the regular use of applied ethics to yield more just, caring, equitable, and sustainable development outcomes and processes
The Center envisions a global movement towards respect for universal human dignity, under which ethics holds a pragmatic and influential role.
Centering values in international relief & development.
The Center is redefining the current relief & development paradigm so that ethics takes a front-seat. The Center applies moral considerations and ethical analyses to achieve more just, caring, equitable, and sustainable processes and outcomes. The Center works with governments, multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, foundations, and development practitioners to incorporate ethics into all aspects of their activities to foster human flourishing and a healthy environment.
But what problems can applied ethics solve?
In late 2011, just six months into my service as a Senior Advisor to USAID (political appointee under the Obama administration), I managed to convene a gathering of eleven of USAID’s top strategic planners and senior analysts in one room. I posed a single question to them: “Would it not be advantageous to include the […]
Morality in foreign policy: reflections on a remarkable gentleman from Plains, Georgia
It was June of 1979, and I was newly arrived in Kenya for what would become ten years working in and exploring that beautiful country. Being a little insecure in this new environment, I was cautious when a young Kenyan man approached me in Nairobi while I stood in the long queue awaiting entrance to the National Museum of Kenya. Still, his smile was disarmingly warm as […]
Yearning for meaning in international development
It takes a certain acquired skill to balance a career as a practitioner in humanitarian response and international development with a “night job” as an adjunct professor of public policy. I have done this delicate balancing act at both Georgetown University and the University of Maryland for two decades; I have no plans to stop […]
USAID’s Core Values: Really “Core”?
My first and only visit to the African Development Bank, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, was in 1989. I went there expressly to meet with their environmental specialist, an American gentleman whose name I sadly cannot now recall. I was then a very young town & regional planner, based in Nairobi, and I was very interested in […]
International Development and Health: Rethinking Global Pessimism about the Future
By Sean A. Valles, Director and Associate Professor, Center for Bioethics and Social Justice, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University Pessimism about the future is rising around much of the world. Meanwhile, the social institutions of democracy are experiencing slipping public support. The global COVID-19 pandemic has also drawn attention to the importance and […]
Beyond Integrating Local Knowledge in Development Programming
In July of this year, USAID published a report titled, “Integrating Local Knowledge in Development Programming,” produced by the Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning team. I’ll begin by commending the Agency on this report, as it identifies some of the most important factors necessary for effective, meaningful development. For example, the report emphasizes the inclusion […]
Pride, for Everyone
Pride Month is here, but its significance varies enormously depending on your moral stance on sexual and gender minorities. Critics argue that gay and transgender people contravene norms of human relationships and identity that have largely prevailed – with some notable exceptions and grey areas – for millennia. In truth, heteronormativity and cisgender bias have […]
Threats to Respect, Threats to Dignity
How Social Media Challenges Conceptions of Respect and Jeopardizes Human Dignity It is nearly impossible to speak of the concept of dignity without also using the term “respect.” Indeed, dignity is a noun, and grammatical rules insist that in order to use dignity in a sentence, it must have a verb attached to it. Very […]
A Change to the Paradigm?
Is it simply the height of absurdity for a small, start-up non-profit organization called the Center for Values in International Development to think we might provoke a course-correction for a major federal agency? Almost certainly. Especially when this non-profit stands alone as the only organization of ethicists working in the international relief and development industry […]
Climate crisis as a human crisis – facing inhumanity with ethical creativity
This reflection considers the fate of humanity at the intersection between the climate crisis and the migrant crisis. The international regimes of climate governance and humanitarian protection are moving in opposite directions, tearing the fabric of our shared humanity, and creating abyssal inhumanity at Europe’s borders and on the high seas. In a striking essay […]