The Ethics of Aid Conditionality: Donor Selectivity and Power over Recipients

“The Ethics of Aid Conditionality: Donor Selectivity and Power over Recipients” (working paper available upon request)

“Effective altruists” argue that individuals should contribute more to helping others and do more to make their contributions effective at helping others, particularly through the careful selection of charities for their donations. Even the sharpest critics of international assistance do not deny that Western-based charities can do some good for their intended beneficiaries. If the effective altruists’ guidance prompts donors to select charities that produce these good results, their guidance is valuable unless donor selectivity itself is problematic. This paper will argue that effective altruists’ call for greater selectivity on the part of donors and Western charities raises ethical concerns about these actors’ exercise of power over the local civil society groups and governments that receive their financial assistance. This paper’s argument intends to: explain why donor selectivity is ethically problematic; defend provisional entitlements for donors to make selection decisions in non-ideal circumstances; and provide normative guidelines for how donors should select recipients and exert limited influence on recipients’ behavior within a financially supportive partnership. In so doing, the paper provides a novel joint treatment of the ethics of donor selectivity and aid conditionality.