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Getting it right: an account of the moral agency of NGOs

Obrecht, Alice (2011) Getting it right: an account of the moral agency of NGOs. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis provides an outline for how we should think of the ethics of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) by giving sense to what it means to treat an NGO as a moral agent. That is, it aims to answer the following question: Which special moral obligations do NGOs have in virtue of the distinctive type of organisation that they are? In brief, the answer provided by this thesis is that NGO agency is defined by the multiple relationships that threaten to undermine its unity. Obligations are identified as what an NGO must do in order to maintain such a unified organisational self. In Chapter 1, I define an NGO as an autonomous, norm-enacting organisation not motivated by profit and reliant on voluntary interaction. The idea of NGOs as unique agents is then developed indirectly in the middle four chapters. Each chapter engages with a central topic pertaining to NGO ethics, arguing for a particular position with respect to the topics of accountability (Chapter 2), resource allocation (Chapter 3), contributions to domestic and global justice (Chapter 4), and NGOs’ impact on the viability of universal welfare rights (Chapter 5). The second task performed by each chapter is the identification of a particular ability, or power, possessed by NGOs as agents. These four abilities characterise the moral agency of an NGO and form the basis for identifying four types of NGO obligation: 1) accountability, 2) acting consistently with organisational norms, 3) demonstration of positive social change, and 4) epistemic procedural virtue. In Chapter 6 I produce a basic framework for NGOs to use as a way of assessing themselves with respect to these four obligations. This framework is then connected to the findings from a 10-month qualitative research project, conducted from 2007-2008, on the ethical perspectives of NGO workers in Mongolia.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Alice Obrecht
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Supervisor: Voorhoeve, Alex and Seckinelgin, Hakan

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