Ethics and Development

The HDCA Ethics and Development Study Group brings together a range of interested thinkers and practitioners concerned with ethics in both its theoretical and applied forms. While the group engages with a wide range of topics relating to development – including culture and identity, democracy, environment, gender, justice, rights and poverty – it will also be concerned with theoretical issues, such as the merits of alternative ethical theories.


Activities will include regular meetings at such venues as HDCA, International Development Ethics Association conferences, and other regional and international associations in both North and South. The group will particularly promote the publication of work by younger scholars. Group activities will aim to include both theorists and practitioners interested in the relevance of ethics to concrete problems.

2019 HDCA Pre-conference Events

Workshop on Louis-Joseph Lebret and development ethics

Date: Sept. 8, 2019
Time: 9:00 am - 12:30 pm
Location: Room 828, UCL Institute of Education (IOE), 20 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0AL
Registration/Cost: The event is free. Registration required:
(Registration for the full conference is not required for participation.)

9:00 – 9:15 Introduction/Introductions – Des Gasper (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Lori Keleher (New Mexico State University)

9:15 – 10:30

  • Des Gasper – The Trajectory of L-J. Lebret: Questions Arising for Development Ethics
  • Lori Keleher – Toward an Integral Human Development Ethics
  • Montserrat Culebro (PhD, Universidad de Salamanca) - Denis Goulet’s development ethics in the XXI Century

10:30 – 10:50 Break

10:50 – 12:00 Panel 2

  • Alex Apsan Frediani (University College London) – Lebret, SEGMACS and Urban Development in Brazil
  • Jérôme  Ballet (Université de Bordeaux) - A Page of Development Ethics: From Louis-Joseph Lebret to the Abidjan School and Beyond
  • Rebecca Gutwald (Munich School of Philosophy) – Basic Human Needs in the philosophy of Louis-Joseph Lebret

12:00 - 12:30 General Discussion

Louis-Joseph Lebret (1897-1966) was a French Dominican priest, economist, development planner and philosopher. He founded the movement Economie et Humanisme in 1941. From the late 1940s it extended attention to Latin America, and later to Africa and Asia. He founded institutes/organizations and published numerous book. Lebret significantly influenced Denis Goulet, the American philosopher-social planner, and the progressive social doctrines of the Catholic Church, including in Gaudium et spes and Populorum Progressio. Lebret seems too little known in English-language development ethics.

This workshop aims to (1) start to better map Lebret’s work for Anglophone audiences, (2) look at impacts and parallels in Anglophone development ethics, Catholic social thought, and work on ‘integral human development,’ (3) to lay the ground for future discussions and a journal special issue.

Development Ethics Knowledge Exchange: Practitioners – Students – Researchers


1:30-2:00 Jay Drydyk (Carleton University) and Lori Keleher (New Mexico State University): Interrogating development with The Routledge Handbook of Development Ethics
2:00-2:30 Educator session: A case study project at MPhil level, Shashi Motilal (Delhi University)
2:30-3:30 'Lightning' presentations (+/- 5 minutes each)
3:30 – 4:00 Coffee Break
4:00 – 5:00 Anna Malavisi (Western Connecticut State University): The Toolbox Dialogue Initiative: Theoretical discussions among and with practitioners
5:00 – close
Closing discussion: next steps for collective action (led by Eric Palmer)

The program begins with an introduction by Jay Drydyk and Lori Keleher the editors of the Routledge Handbook of Development Ethics (2019) outlining some critical questions about development that are raised and supported by the Handbook with the goal of knitting together the discussion of development practitioners, educators and students, and academic authors.

Two invited presentations showcase activities developed for engaging students and practitioners in similar discussions. First, Shashi Motilal presents a case study project used in an MPhil class at Delhi University. Later, Anna Malavisi, presents the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative (TDI), a research project that facilitates communication and collaboration in cross-disciplinary research and practice. These presentations are supplemented with brief ‘lightning talks’, during which practitioners and educators present similar activities that they have developed, led, or participated in.

The closing discussion session will provide a brainstorming opportunity collective projects and a space for developing liaison among scholars, educators and practitioners. Session organizers intend that participants will carry their conversations into the main event of the HDCA, building alliances and settling plans by the end of those meetings.


PS-2.13: Alliance approach, connecting capabilities, and behavioral and cognitive sciences: a relational perspective
Chair(s): Dr. Lori Keleher (Associate Professor Department of Philosophy New Mexico State University)
Time: Monday, 09/Sep/2019: 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Location: Room 828, IOE Room 828, IOE
Social interactions between agencies promote relational acts. It is through social interactions that one care and influence others. This social interaction is also a means to share responsibilities, to influence choice of others, to connect capabilities and can also influence rules, norms, institutions, innovations, and development. Starting from decision-making of social innovations, to the assessment of the implementation of such innovations, it requires a social interaction, precisely, a behavioural and cognitive bond based on similar interests. In short, it requires an interdisciplinary, an interagency alliance to work, to bring sustainable changes in choice, in decision, in implementation, and in assessment of the implementation. Grounded on this thought, the panel, proposes an Alliance Approach as the “mean and end” of connecting capabilities, for, true human empowerment, human development necessitates connecting capabilities in thoughts and actions. By introducing the approach; explaining the inherent concepts, underlying the approach, the panel then extends to the implementation level analysis. Specifically, the panel seeks to contribute to three issues; (1) how ethically embedded alliance approaches, beyond the doctor-patient relationship, can act as means and ends of developing connected human capabilities; (2) how to empower members of Farmer Organisations (FO), through interdisciplinary alliance, tools, and measures; and (3) how the backyard poultry farmers can be empowered, for the sake of public health protection, through participation in the “just and fair” decision-making of culling process and practice. The Alliance Approach is an attempt to generalize the concepts at work in a working or therapeutic alliance between a doctor and the patient, or group of patients. It is inspired and modeled after the therapeutic working Alliance Approach in cognitive and behavioral sciences. Being grounded on ethical behavioural modifications, an Alliance Approach promotes how a common goal and agreed task can be achieved through a sustainable “symmetric relation” by being “human-centered”. Following this line of thought, the first paper of the panel, argues for (a) the extension of the Alliance Approach to any social interactions and innovations and (b) the consideration of the Alliance Approach as a means and end of connecting human capabilities. Considering agro-innovations as one instance of interdisciplinary alliance and focusing on the well-being aspect of human empowerment, the second paper of the panel analyzes the current attempts to measure the impact of Farmer Organisations (FOs) on their members. The paper highlights that the Alliance Approach can be found to be effective in helping farmers adopt complex tools developed through multiagency and multi-disciplinary interface and can also be a tool for empowerment. It argues that, globally, FOs, have the abilities to bring in the changes in the methods of empowering member farmers, can influence social orders, and can also negatively impact poverty. Focusing on the shared need and common goal of the alliance approach, the third paper of the panel argues that mutual agreement on the necessity of the public health intervention such as culling can be reached through Incompletely Theorized Agreement. It claims that farmers’ participation in the decision-making process would not only make the process just and fair but would also empower them at agency level by exercising shared responsibility, shared interactions, and shared values about public health. Delving into the theoretical concepts of Alliance Approach and extending it to the interdisciplinary contexts, papers of this panel, thereby, will address a few relevant issues: • “The Alliance Approach as an end and as a mean for connecting capabilities” by Dr. Laurent Parrot (UPR HORTSYS, University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France) • “Impact of Farmer Organisations on Agricultural Development: State of the Art and Theoretical Embedding” by Dr. Eli Wortmann-Kolundžija (Justus-Liebig University, Giessen, D) • “Culling, Relational Decision Making, and Capabilities: A Perspective from India” by Dr. Rhyddhi Chakraborty (London Churchill College, London, UK)

PS-5.08: The concept of freedom in capability approach perspectives from Buddhism, Islam and Catholicism
Chair(s): Lori Keleher (New Mexico State University, United States of America)
Time: Tuesday, 10/Sep/2019: 2:30pm - 4:00pm
Location: Room 777, IOE Room 777, IOE
As the author of first abstract in the panel observes if “Amartya Sen’s assertation that “development is freedom” is to be taken seriously, capability theorists need to take serious what exactly is meant by ‘freedom.’” This panel explores the scope and nature of the concept of freedom within the Capability Approach and compatibility of such a concept within three distinct faith traditions: Buddhism, Islam, and Catholicism. Each author finds that the Capability Approach can be consistently and helpfully understood from within the respective tradition. The first paper on the panel draws on what modern literature calls “Buddhist ethics” to present the Buddhist view of the human person. The author then argues that this view is not only compatible with that found within the capability approach, but a simplified version of it could even serve as a “baseline” understanding of Sen’s universal “good life.” Thus, it could be used a starting point for broader deliberations about the needs and desires of actual human societies. The second paper addresses the role of freedom for wellbeing in the capability approach. The author and suggests that depending on the group of people under assessment, a particular negative freedom might need to be foregrounded before other dimensions of wellbeing can be addressed: freedom of religion. The argument draws on qualitative research with two Pakistani-background Muslim women groups in The Netherlands. During interviews and focus group discussions, participants were asked to list dimensions core to human wellbeing and dignity. The author found that Nussbaum’s list resonates with the values, skills and opportunities listed by her research participants, and has proved a useful guide in categorizing them. Yet, when asked to reflect on the concept of freedom, participants only explicitly mention freedom of religion, as a prerequisite for other capabilities. Thus, the author concludes that the resonance with a multidimensional list of capabilities notwithstanding, one dimension is not only one amongst many, but also functions as a pre-requisite of the others, namely, religion and the freedom of religious expression. Moreover, participants feel that this freedom is being curtailed in the Netherlands. Finally, the third paper strives to identify and clarify the concepts of ‘freedom’ and ‘agency’ as they might be most interesting and useful to those who wish to understand and promote these values in a way that is consistent with both Catholic Social Teaching (CST) and the Capabilities Approach (CA), for example, within a capability informed version of Integral Human Development. The author works to identify and sketch the overlapping aspects of the conceptual territory shared by CST and the CA. She argues that both CST and the CA can accommodate a broad understanding of agency as “making choices about what one actually does and becomes.” Within this space, whether an agency action is more and less robust depends not only on the choice of achievement, but also on the unchosen choices available within individual’s capability set. The author then argues that the overlapping conceptual territory of freedom shared by CST and the CA will reflect CST’s relatively narrow concept of freedom understood as “being free to do what we ought to do,” which is very different from the freedom to do anything we have a desire to do. She explains that although this understanding of freedom is grounded in certain notion of human nature, and in turn, a moral perfectionism, one need not adopt a Catholic world view to share this notion of authentic freedom. Her conceptual analysis of agency and (authentic) freedom reveals that although those working within both CST and the CA understand the individual to be the ultimate unit of moral concern, they also understand the importance of social and political structures in permitting, protecting, and promoting the common good in such a way that fosters the agency and authentic freedom of individual human person. It follows that, those who wish to promote agency and freedom in a way that is consistent with both CST and the CA will need to understand and address structural limitations of agency and authentic freedoms. Thus, the author concludes with the suggestion that concepts found in social political philosophy, social epistemology, and social ontology, can helpfully identify and address limitations in freedom and in turn, promote freedom and agency in a way that is consistent with both CST and the CA. One Taste: Amartya Sen and the Buddha on Freedom and the “Good Life” by Matthew Regan (University of Maryland) Freedom (of religion) as first amongst equals by Fernande Pool (Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam) Freedom and Agency within Catholic Social Tradition and the Capabilities Approach by Lori Keleher (New Mexico State University)