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International aid’ is an accepted form of helping ‘resource-challenged’ nations. Comment on ‘ethics in contemporary international aid’. Support your answer with suitable examples.

Q.1 (b) International aid’ is an accepted form of helping ‘resource-challenged’ nations. Comment on ‘ethics in contemporary international aid’. Support your answer with suitable examples. (10m) Theory


The purpose of foreign aid is to improve economies and living conditions in recipient countries while promoting stability and security.  While international aid is intended to provide essential support and alleviate suffering, ethical concerns can arise in various aspects of aid delivery and implementation.


Some key ethical considerations in contemporary international aid with examples:

  • Transparency and Accountability: Ensuring that aid is transparently allocated, used efficiently, and reaches its intended recipients is an ethical imperative. Failure to do so can result in corruption and misuse of funds. 
    • Example:  In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, there were concerns about the Red Cross’s lack of transparency and accountability  leading to mismanagement and inadequate assistance to affected communities.
  • Intent: Aid that is driven by genuine humanitarian, development, and ethical motives is more likely to have a positive and lasting impact, while aid efforts influenced by other considerations can raise ethical concerns and potentially undermine their effectiveness.
    • Example: U.S. aid to Pakistan for counterterrorism efforts, particularly during the Afghan war, was potentially being driven by broader strategic interests rather than solely humanitarian or developmental intentions.
  • Sovereignty and Autonomy: Respecting the sovereignty and autonomy of recipient nations is essential. International aid should be provided in a way that empowers local governments and communities rather than undermining their self-determination. 
    • Example: During the Syrian conflict, international humanitarian agencies implemented Cash for Work programs aimed at empowering  local communities, but did not respect  the sovereignty of the Syrian government
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Ethical international aid takes into account the cultural context of the recipient nation. Aid programs that respect local customs, traditions, and values are more likely to be effective and avoid unintended negative consequences. 
    • Example: During Ebola Outbreak Response in West Africa,  international aid organisations worked with local communities and religious leaders to develop safe and culturally sensitive burial procedures that respected the deceased while reducing transmission risks.
  • Long-Term Impact: Ensuring that international aid has a long-term positive impact on the recipient nation is ethically important. Short-term aid that does not contribute to sustainable development may create dependency and perpetuate poverty. 
    • Example:  In the past, Uganda received international food aid during periods of food scarcity. While this addressed immediate hunger, it did not contribute to sustainable food security. Offlate, UNDP and the World Food Programme (WFP) have implemented projects in Uganda that focus on sustainable agricultural development that’s helping  Uganda to  move towards self-sufficiency.
  • Human Rights and Dignity: International aid should uphold human rights and the dignity of individuals. This includes ensuring that aid efforts do not compromise the rights and well-being of vulnerable populations. 
    • Example: Reports sight that crimes such as murder, kidnapping, rape, robbery, human trafficking, arson, and illicit drug trade exist  in the Rohingya refugee camps.
  • Environmental Sustainability: As per Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities, aiding nations must acknowledge the different capabilities and differing responsibilities of individual countries in addressing climate change while development.
    • Example: International aid projects in the Amazon region of South America, such as road construction, have often caused deforestation and environmental damage by enabling illegal activities like logging and mining.
  • Local Capacity Building: Ethical aid efforts focus on building the capacity of local communities and institutions. This empowers them to address their own challenges and reduces dependency on external aid. 
    • Example:  India has supported Bhutan in building its capacity in various sectors, including education, healthcare, and infrastructure development.


Ethics in contemporary international aid demand a holistic approach that prioritises transparency, accountability, respect for sovereignty, cultural sensitivity, sustainability, and the dignity of recipientI. is essential to learn from past mistakes and continually refine aid practices to align with these ethical principles. Finally, International aid should be based on the  spirit of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – One Earth, One Family, One Future”


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