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close this bookDisaster Management Ethics (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1997, 70 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentFOREWORD
View the documentINTRODUCTION
Open this folder and view contentsTOPIC 1 Military intervention in disaster relief: cooperative relationships and implications for long-term rehabilitation and development
Open this folder and view contentsTOPIC 2 Providing humanitarian assistance to displaced populations and refugees
Open this folder and view contentsTOPIC 3 Disaster response and its relationship to on-going participatory development
Open this folder and view contentsTOPIC 4 Disaster fundraising, appeals and the utilization of funding resources
Open this folder and view contentsTOPIC 5 Disaster declaration and response
View the documentANNEX 1 Outline of Code of Conduct
Open this folder and view contentsANNEX 2 Resources for Further Reading


The dilemmas facing humanitarian assistance providers are numerous and often entail choosing between undesirable alternatives. In the context of disaster, decisions made on an ethical basis may have significant and lasting impacts on the communities served. The questions to be asked include: Who has the authority to make such significant ethical decisions? How should ethical decisions be made? What principles and values should guide those engaged in ethical decision making processes? and, What is responsible action in response to human need?

The methodology needed for ethical decision making must reflect the complexity of human and international relationships, technological developments, environmental vulnerability, and interdependency. Tensions and shifts in fundamental concepts of reason, truth and goodness challenge our long-standing decision making procedures. The traditional tools of “objective” logic, rationality, and consistency may not be adequate.

The Disaster Management Ethics module addresses some of the ethical issues and dilemmas faced by the humanitarian assistance community as it seeks to respond to human need in the context of natural and human-caused disasters. The format simulates a discussion which aims to foster conversation and interaction. It brings together the voices of fifteen practitioners and scholars to discuss five ethical issues in humanitarian assistance. While no collection of papers can adequately present a truly global perspective, it is hoped that the differences and conflicts in values and questions, presented here hold promise for new understanding

It is hoped that as this module is used, additional perspectives and contributions to the conversation will be recorded and included. Ethical decision making cannot be carried out by any one person or community. It requires discussion and a commitment to being open to the history, experience and perspective of those who are different Mutual critique will lead to a more adequate ethical foundation to guide our actions in a world of diversity. The process of implementation may also be facilitated if the ethics guiding the decision making process address the values and concerns of all engaged in the commitment to alleviate human suffering and vulnerability.

I extend my thanks to each of the contributors to this resource. In addition, I thank the many people who provided suggestions and participated in conversations with me as I designed and edited this resource. Within the disaster management community there is, indeed, great concern, careful thought and commitment to alleviating the suffering of people in the context of disaster. There is also a concern to create durable solutions, addressing the root causes of disasters. I believe a commitment to inclusive ethical decision making processes that are sensitive to power imbalances and that move beyond narrowly reasoned approaches will contribute to this effort.

Eva Jensen