Is it useful to have a specific ethical framework for international development?

The members of the global community, individually or collectively, are faced with moral issues every time they engage in one activity or the other; at workplaces, business activities and interactions with each other. They are constantly stormed with questions about the affability of the technologies used in the production of goods and services, the justice of foreign policies, the fairness of teachers towards their children, the homeless’ rights among others. All these questions are related to the concept of international development that emerged during the post-war era (Chatterjee, 2011, p. 224) that cuts across every region or country.

International development involves different activities in different parts of the globe, mostly with one region or country borrowing production technology, management practices and/or regulations from another region or country. The borrowing is meant to ensure that the borrowing country/region improves its economy and welfare of her citizens to the possible maximum level. For instance, a country using subsistence farming methods borrows the machinery technology as well as commercial farming methods used by a developed country in order to maximise her food production to avoid hunger. However, the borrowing country is faced with a delicate situation as whether borrowing such ideas is a good or bad based on the borrowing procedures/requirements and the consequences thereafter. Thus, ethical implications are embodied in the concept of international development; deciding what is good or bad to a particular region/country as well as the entire globe.

The decision on whether international development is good or bad is complicated by the diverse practices and values of the global community and the different sources of ethical standards available for evaluating the concept. Different countries/regions have different practices and values determining their activities; for example, while some countries support consumption of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), others strongly contest the consumption. Also, different governments of different governments have different tax policies that influence the final price of a given product depending on the country/region of origin. This diversity creates a dilemma in deciding the procedure to acquire the desired technology and appropriateness of the foreign technology/techniques to the local residents. Yes, it might appear a simple task from the paper, but it is an intricate one in reality.

To determine the suitability of such development, the borrowing country as well as the lending country has to evaluate the consequence of her activity. It has to establish whether the activity is congruent with established policies and regulations, human rights and influence of the next generation. Also, the involved countries have to ascertain whether the activity negatively affects non-involved countries that is, the globe. The countries have to analyse quantitative as well as qualitative information pertaining to the activity. Each country will utilise its expertise, and if know specific framework is specified, different conclusions are feasible.

On the other hand, there are different ethical approaches employed in arriving at the “good” or “bad” decision. Each approach has different principles and more applicable to some incidences than others relative to the parties using it. More so, some approaches emphasise on the “means” while others emphasise on the “ends.” The diversity in the ethical approaches results into inconsistency and difficulty in comparisons. These approaches include utilitarian, common good, virtue, justice and rights.

The utilitarian approach utilises suggests using effects of an activity to determine the activities ethical implications. It holds that a “good” activity is one that presents the best possible equilibrium of good over harm; otherwise it is a “bad activity.” Thus, “good” international development basing on utilitarian approach is more that benefits more than it harms. The common good approach defines human life in the society as a good and that all actions have to support the good- life; thus, interrelationships between countries and their citizens form the basis of international development. International development that fosters such relationships is “good”, but it is bad when dampens such relationships.

The virtue approach requires actions to conform to ideal virtues promoting optimal humanity development such as self-control, integrity and tolerance (Ellis, 2007, p. 13). Rights approach advises that protection of the rights of the affected is the basis for determining morality. Justice approach emphasises fairness.

In summary, international development involves different activities that affect different countries/people positively as well as negatively. Also, there are different approaches to evaluate the morality such activities. Without an ethical framework to guide such activities, disparities and difficulties in comparisons are bound to arise. Therefore, it is useful to have a specified ethical framework for international development.


Chatterjee, D. K. (2011). Encyclopaedia of global justice. Dordrecht: Springer.

Ellis, C. (2007). Telling secrets, revealing lives: Relational ethics in research with intimate others. Qualitative Inquiry, 13, 3-29.

Can’t decide? Try 500 words FREE OF CHARGE!