The Ethics of INGO Advocacy


Wednesday, November 18, 2009 (All day)


124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

Why It Is OK That No One Elected Oxfam

Jennifer Rubenstein, University of Virginia

About the Seminar
Advocacy campaigns by international anti-poverty non-governmental organizations are an increasingly prominent feature of global politics. Professor Rubenstein focuses on two possibilities for how these campaigns be conceptualized and normatively evaluated: 1) INGOs should be viewed as non-elected representatives” and evaluated based on how representative they are; 2) INGOs should be viewed as agents of justice” and evaluated based on how well they promote some conception of global justice.

The attraction of viewing INGOs as representatives is that doing so appears to make INGO advocacy more democratic; viewing INGOs as agents of justice, in contrast, appears undemocratic. Rubenstein argues, to the contrary, that holding INGOs to justice-based standards is not only more just but also more democratic than holding them to representation-based standards. She traces this counter-intuitive result to INGOs status as “second-best” actors operating in highly “non-ideal” circumstances.

You can watch an introductory video here.

You can watch the seminar here.

About the Democracy Seminar Series
The Democracy Seminar Series brings distinguished speakers to Harvard Kennedy School for the academic year to address critical challenges facing democratic governance.