Resolved: Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid to foreign countries is unjust.

Resolved: Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid to foreign countries is unjust.

Finally! A good topic! This is a topic with lots of clash and room to come up with creative positions without allowing  a lot room for abusive stances. Oh snap! Let’s get deep on this one.


1. Political Conditions – A political condition is any demand by a particular state which must be fulfilled as a prerequisite contingency for further action. To put it simply, it’s whatever the government says you must do to receive the aid.

2. Humanitarian Aid – This is assistance to help the citizens of a country. This can be in the form of money, supplies, food, and even military aid. Yes, military aid can classify as humanitarian aid if used for humanitarian purposes.

3. Unjust – This is the most important part of the resolution, and you will define it through your value structure. You must define what it means for something to be just or unjust and then explain why the resolution should be affirmed or negated based upon that definition.


1. People as a Means to an End – Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid is using people as a bargaining chip. The action has two immoral effects. First, it places an absolute monetary value on human life. That, in itself, is an offense to justice which demands that the only thing which matches human life in value is human life itself. Second, it uses people as a means to get political gain. Using people as a means to an end is a violation of the inherent dignity which they are due, and therefore, a violation of justice.

2. Utility – On utilitarian grounds, it doesn’t make much sense to demand political conditions before providing humanitarian aid. Often times, such negotiations break down, and even more often, the actions taken to meet the conditions are reversed after the aid is received.

3. Self Determination – Humanitarian aid is in itself unjust because in interrupts a nation’s ability to be self-determinate. When adding political conditions to that dynamic, it becomes an even greater violation on a nation’s self determination.


1. Where’s the Injustice? – Injustice requires a violation of human rights. It requires that somebody not get what they deserve. A nation has no obligation to provide humanitarian aid to anyone. So, to ask for political conditions for that aid cannot be unjust because it is no morally worse than the default. Not providing humanitarian aid is not unjust, so how can asking for a little something in return be unjust?

2. Virtue Ethics – Virtue ethics dictates that this is actually the middle course of action. A nation could just provide humanitarian with no conditions, or refuse to provide it at all. The middle course of action is to negotiate the humanitarian aid conditions so that both parties benefit. Not to mention, political conditions can also be used to ensure the aid is used for its intended purpose.

3. Utility – Humanitarian aid without conditions is uselss. In places where the aid is most relevant, oppressive regimes often utilize the “aid” for their own ends rather than for humanitarian purposes. Utilitarianism dictates that political conditions be assigned as contingencies for humanitarian aid because it ensures the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

There you go. Good luck!


14 responses to “Resolved: Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid to foreign countries is unjust.

    • Hi Bob,

      Most harm theories are variations on utilitarianism. They try to address the nuances and flaws of it. You may want to read Feinberg. He does a good job of reviewing the harm principle as it applies to political freedom and government coercion.

    • Aristotelian virtue ethics says that the right course of action is always the median between two extremes. So, we can either give unconditional aid, or no aid as the extremes. The middle course of action is to place conditions on the aid.

    • Hi Ankita,

      The definitions are not from a particular source. I develop the definitions in a way to show an understanding for the term. Finding a source is easy enough, but the goal is really to know what the word means in the context of the resolution.

    • Check out the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Search for the topics relevant to this resolution, and you’ll find some great articles.

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