Humanitarian Aid in Conflict Zones

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Personally, I love the idea of humanitarian aid. I see it as an opportunity to practice the virtues of compassion and generosity to help others, especially in times of war and conflict. We have seen aid workers doing some great jobs.

However, what most of us probably don’t realise is that on a much larger scale, foreign humanitarian aid has not improved the lives, nor the living conditions of the world’s poorest people.

What is worse is that the international aid community keeps making the same mistakes over and over again, and they keep getting away with it.

What I find incredibly appalling is that the image of third-world aid is portrayed in such a way that we, who are living in the richest parts of the world, have been benefiting from it throughout the years. Statistics show that for every dollar of aid rich countries give to poor countries, they receive between 7 to 10 dollars in return, either through profits, debt repayments or even trade.

In other words, are poor countries subsidising the wealth of rich countries?

During the research for our seminar, I learned a lot, but most of all that humanitarian organisations have been willing to work in areas which might be held by terrorist groups. No organisation is able to say that a 100% of their aid will get to the people to whom it is intended, because many of these organisations, including NGO’s or UN agencies, are highly dependent on funds from Western donor governments. I believe this makes the challenge even greater since the government’s priorities are not influenced by humanitarian concerts alone. Unfortunately, they are often deeply involved in the military and political aspects of the conflict itself.

In Somalia, for instance, many people are without humanitarian aid. In Afghanistan, many villages have been accused for receiving humanitarian aid. Why is that? Because aid is being considered as a weapon of war, and it is the people who are in need of that aid who are paying the severe consequences.

Furthermore, I find it unfair to accuse humanitarians for “fuelling war economies and prolonging conflict by providing assistance”. This can in fact create a lot of dependencies and weaken long term development prospects, but if it was not for the humanitarian organisations, then who would have gone to assist in these places? We should be grateful for their help.

I further agree on the fact that performing such kinds of services is very expensive, but if it also brings advantages to the population, then why stop?

All of this made me think, and I believe that aid workers have one of the most dangerous jobs, having to face huge challenges every single day of their life. For instance, “Which side should I take? Should I work on neutral territory or should I find myself rubbing shoulders with a single ally?” When one decides to go on the side of the State, the final principle of neutrality is, unfortunately, completely lost.

To conclude, is humanitarian aid in conflict zones the way to go? Is it ethically right or wrong? Is it a moral obligation to intervene, or only morally recommendable?

The answer is: “It depends”. Every single one of us will have a different response, which means that the real answer is within ourselves. In my opinion, it isn’t a moral obligation to intervene since nobody can force us to do something, but more so morally recommendable. It is indeed important to help everyone unconditionally. Everyone deserves to be loved and treated in the same way, while having equal human rights.

 

 

Alternatives to Rationalist Ethical Theories

“Ethics without virtue is an illusion. What is the highest purpose of ethics? It is to make a person good, that is virtuous.” – Peter Kreeft

“Moral theories that give greater priority to qualities of character and practical reasoning than to moral rules or outcomes”. After reading this, you might wonder to what theory does this definition refer to. It took me a while to understand its significance, and properly relate it to the doctrine of virtue ethics. I learned that virtue ethics tries to accentuate the traits of character in moral philosophy rather than one’s duty. Like in any other theory, people have expressed praise or criticism.

What I personally find very intriguing is that virtue ethicists took their inspiration from Aristotle, for whom “virtue was often about finding a middle way between excess and lack.” Moreover, he claimed that “a virtuous person is someone who has ideal character traits”, for which I totally support his point of view.

As you probably already know, we live in a highly competitive society in which there are more and more people who believe that a virtuous person is considered as good when he or she acts in a way which has been imposed by society. In other words, you believe what you believe because of your surrounding environment. You think and reason in a certain way because of your culture. But what most of us don’t understand is the fact that virtue ethics relies on anything but on religion, society or culture. It fully and entirely depends on the individuals themselves.

I moreover believe that people should increase their confidence, and for instance, change the way they perform tasks in their everyday life. They should not adopt a certain move just because society tells to do so. Instead, we should fight for our own personal beliefs, and ask ourselves “What sort of person should I become”, rather than “What should I do?” because it has more to do with character and nature of what it is to be human, than with the rights and wrongs of our actions. It is all about finding a way to become a better person.

If one asks me: “What should we do in order to become a better person?”. We should simply practice more virtuous acts on a regular basis. This will become a habit, part of our everyday life. As a result, we will start leading a virtuous life. For example, if a person is passionate about art, he will want to learn more and more about the subject every day. He will become better at it by practicing his virtues. Most of all, it will lead him to happiness.

 

Rationalist Ethical Theories

 

 

Ethics are a system of principles that help us tell right from wrong, good from bad. Ethics are important in guiding us in the choices we make in our everyday life. Without ethics, our globalized world would be even more chaotic than it already is. Businesses would fail, our economy would shrink, crime would increase. In other words, we live in a world of laws based on ethics.

Most work done so far on Global Ethics builds upon various observations of already existing ethical theories. Utilitarianism, the most authoritative form of consequentialist ethics founded by J. Bentham, is based on the principle of utility which states to “always act so as to maximize the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people.” In other words, an action is right if it produces the “greatest good for the greatest number”. J. S. Mill also supported this foundation of morals and legislation.

What I found particularly interesting here, is the idea that our happiness combined together determines whether an action is right or wrong. Even though, it has been criticized for several centuries due to the fact that it creates a problem of justice by excluding minorities’ opinions, doubt about consequences, subjectivity, and further justifies illegal acts (e.g. torture) to attain the happiness of others, I do support utilitarianism as the best ethical theory learned so far. I believe that it provides a democratically valid morality which expands overall happiness, and further promotes humanitarian acts by putting other people’s happiness as first priority. I strongly agree with this because I believe that we should not act selfishly in life. While life is rather short, it is important to do good, think about others in society and be warmhearted.

A relevant example is to think to what extent should people be allowed to pollute our environment? Our modern world uses more and more disruptive technology that still causes harm to our surroundings and health. For this reason, I believe it is important to find the right balance between the economic good it creates with the wrong it does to our future generations. I would not say that you should not pollute at all or pollute as much as you wish, which are the two extremes, but rather use the utilitarian approach by thinking about your neighborhood.

My Global Moral Philosophy

“Perhaps it is better to be irresponsible and right, than to be responsible and wrong.” -Winston Churchill 

Throughout our lives, each one of us develops, expands and outlines their personal moral philosophy. Depending on diverse factors such as age, level of education, social background, or culture, people adopt different personal philosophies.

As for mine, up until today, I have experienced a lot of different events, in both my private and social life. Personally, at this stage, I think that the journey towards my global moral philosophy is still ongoing, but as time passes, I am able to shape it with confidence following my own beliefs.

So far, I was able to gain knowledge on diverse rules of behaviour based on ideas about what is morally good and bad, but most of all, I learned how to make judgements for myself depending on the various situations I confronted myself with.

For me, the most important is to keep a positive mind set no matter what, as well as to treat people the way I would want to be treated. It is all about being respectful to each other. So if one asks me what is the right thing to do morally, I would answer without any doubt, treat everyone equally and with respect. At the end of the day, it is the simple things that matter the most; holding the door for someone, giving up your seat on the bus to those in need, saying thank you, being polite and generous. The more you believe in yourself, the more people will appreciate your traits.

Each one of us may have different views on this, but this is the way my parents and my surrounding environment have instructed me to be. Many of these moral decisions that I choose to make every day just come naturally.

I believe the world would be a better place if we could spread some more kindness, recognise the humanity of other people, and respect their dignity.