Issues: This paper problematises the ethical issues and dilemmas posed by the intensification of the development-security nexus, in terms of both theory and practice. It considers the usefulness of a new resource in development ethics in addressing the ethical issues raised.
Description: Development has become increasingly securitised, particularly since the War on Terror began at the start of the millennium. Increased, protracted and complex conflicts have continued, while the recent turn to right-wing neopopulism has complicated donor responses and compromised the human rights duty to cooperate and uphold a reasonable international order (Khoo, in press 2018). This paper reviews ethical issues and dilemmas posed by ‘unending war’ (Duffield 2007), and the increased focus on humanitarian action in development practice, which are complicated by current crisis of human rights and inequality. Top-down and de-participatory trends pose further ethical risks for development practice, given the ‘NGO-isation’ of civil society and increasing reliance on large consortia to deliver accountability and results in challenging situations (Lang 2013).
Lessons learned: In the face of these growing challenges, ethical considerations remain central in development theory and practice. This paper reviews a new comprehensive resource on development ethics (Drydyk & Keleher, 2018). Seven core aspects of ethical development theory and practice include: a well-being focus, equitable benefit-sharing, empowerment for free participation, environmental sustainability, promotion of human rights and rights-consistent cultural freedom, and responsible conduct that upholds integrity and counters corruption.
The paper suggests that the human development and capabilities approach (HDCA) aligns with rights and offers ethical approaches to thinking about and doing development that foreground the treatment of people as ‘agents’, not ‘patients’ (Sen 1999, 288; Saha 2012). Development ethics offers an important bulwark against asymmetric, securitized and exceptionalist practice, re-orienting the evaluative space towards humans whose wellbeing and capabilities matter in their own right.