Drawing a line: ethical and political strategies in complex emergency assistance

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Abstract

Faced with massive crises in the 1990s, such as in Rwanda-Zaire, aid agencies
have had to make ethical and strategic choices of great magnitude. One approach
seeks to compare goods and bads from agencies’ involvement, and to specify a
'bottom line' beneath which bads outweigh goods so that agencies should withdraw or
change their involvement. In a second approach a line is drawn between (a) an
agency's area of responsibility and (b) actions and consequences which are the
responsibility of others--not a bottom line but a line dividing mine from thine. The
paper probes and assesses those approaches, showing problems with both but
especially with the second; qualifies them by reference to issues of motivation,
feasibility and organisational level, and presents some complementary types of
approach; and stresses finally that effective strategic action must be guided by broad
causal analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1999

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series
Number302
ISSN0921-0210

Series

  • ISS Working Paper-General Series

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