Ethical discussions on aid are not something new. They are even at the very core of the humanitarian movement. Nevertheless, in a context of armed conflicts, the actors’ relation to violence keeps raising many questions. Aid Watch opens the discussion with the following issue: despite the diversity of humanitarian cultures, is it possible to find universally applicable ethical commandments to implement aid programs?
The discussion is divided into five propositions:
- A religious NGO that only proselytises does not fulfil humanitarian work when the “salvation of souls” is linked to conversion blackmail, is discriminating and does not come with material assistance.
- An NGO that shows an ideological bias in favour of one of the fighting sides is beyond the field of humanitarian action, even if it really provides care in the area of intervention chosen according to its political views.
- An NGO that, beside the charity work, boasts support to the fighters, supports arms smuggling or turns a blind eye to military activities within its logistics line is also reprehensible; as far as self-defence is concerned, the proportionality principle limits the right to reply, in particular when the distribution of aid is supervised by private military companies or by the United Nations troops of a peace enforcement operation.
- An NGO that does not sanction its employees individual misconduct –either criminal or political– is as blameworthy.
- Finally, NGOs that accept funds from combatants (guerrillas, sectarian or terrorist groups, governmental armies) or from companies that take part in the conflict because they sell weapons or exploit raw materials with a high added value (oil, diamonds, precious stones) tend to put themselves outside the scope of humanitarian action.