The Center for Values in International Development exists to bridge the gap between international development ethics, and international relief and development practice.
Context is important
The values landscape in which international relief and development work is planned, carried out, and evaluated ought to be self-evident, but it is rarely explicitly acknowledged as such.
- International relief and development work takes place amidst a world filled with extreme suffering, resource scarcity, corruption, violence, inequality, political manipulation, exclusion, and egregious assaults on human dignity and rights, and yet
- Simultaneously, around the world we also witness selfless acts of solidarity, caring, altruism, integrity, virtue, public service, transformational leadership, and attention to duty – a positive side of relief and development that receives inadequate attention.
Motivation is important
The Center for Values in International Development calls appropriate attention to what motivates international relief and development actors and stakeholders, including:
- What their mission is,
- The values dimensions of where and how they work,
- What their obligations and constraints are, and
- How they identify and justify the many trade-offs they must make each day.
Ethically robust answers are important
Getting the best possible answers to relief and development dilemmas isn’t easy – and sometimes the “best” answers are not particularly desirable.
- Discerning an ethical way forward depends on robust secular moral evaluation and decision-making, yet few within international relief and development institutions, foundations, firms, or non-profits are trained in or held accountable to demonstrate such discernment, analysis, and normative competencies.
- Exhortations of "do no harm" are commonplace, yet the relief and development "industry" largely fails to train or guide their staff in how to differentiate moral harms from help - much less how to evaluate and measure what constitutes morally good relief and development.
The Center for Values in Development recognizes that the field of international development ethics is now well established—at least within academia. Despite the availability of such sophisticated deliberative and normative analytical expertise, and the persuasive guidance available from development ethicists, relief and development practitioners and the donors and foundations who fund their work seldom make their policy and programming decisions in the light of robust secular, normative parameters. They also do not include development ethicists on their staffs.
This absence of secular moral expertise is a gap in relief and development practice that the Center for Values in International Development is working hard to bridge.