International Development Ethics Association (IDEA)


The International Development Ethics Association is a unique international, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary group of philosophers, development and environmental theorists, and practitioners. The aim of IDEA is threefold:

  • To apply ethical reflection to development goals and strategies and to relations between the "North" and "South". Numerous groups are concerned with international development. Only IDEA, however, explicitly formulates and applies ethical principles to the theory and practice of global, national, and local development.
  • To effect ethically sound development policies, institutions, and practices. In the light of reasonable ethical principles, IDEA is committed to bringing about improvements in development and environmental policies, institutions and projects.
  • To promote solidarity, mutual support, and interchange among those development theorists and practitioners throughout the world who are seeking to implement ethically better development paradigms and strategies.
  • IDEA was initiated in Costa Rica in 1984. David A. Crocker, former president of IDEA, organized a seminar at the University of Costa Rica on "Ethics and Third World Development," as part of a World Federation of Future Studies Conference. The 14 persons attending the seminar organized themselves as the Development Ethics Working Group under the leadership of David Crocker who later become its first President, a position he held for 15 years until 2002.

    In 1987, IDEA held its First International conference on Ethics and Development at the University of Costa Rica. The 30 participants, representing four nations, included academics, development policy makers, and representatives from several grassroots development projects. Denis Goulet (University of Notre Dame) gave the keynote address. Principal papers from the First Conference were published in Revista de Filosofia de la Universidad de Costa Rica.

    Two years later, IDEA held its Second International Conference in Merida, Mexico at the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan. More than 100 philosophers, social scientists, and development workers from 20 nations came together to consider the them "Economic Crisis, Ethics, and Development Alternatives." The keynote address was given by Horacio Cerutti Guldberg (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico).

    In January 1991, IDEA's North American chapter, together with Montclair State University and Colorado State University, sponsored a workshop on "Ethical Principles for Development Needs, Capacities, or Rights?". The workshop, building on Paul Streeten's 1970's "Basic Human Needs" development approach, concluded that normative conceptions of needs, capabilities, and rights had important roles to play in a development ethic for the 1990s. The proceedings were published as Ethical Principles for Development: Needs, Capacities or Rights? Edited by Ken Aman (Upper Montclair, New Jersey Institute for Critical Thinking, 1991).

    IDEA solidified its African link when it organized several sessions, in which 12 members gave papers, at the World Conference of Philosophy, held in Nairobi, Kenya, July 21-25, 1991. The late Odera Oruka (University of Nairobi) and IDEA Board member organized the conference and Johnny Washington (Southwest Missouri State University) organized IDEA participation. IDEA held its Third International Conference on Ethics and Development in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, June 21-27, 1992. Seventy-five Honduran and 125 foreign philosophers, development and environmental scholars, policy makers, and representative of grassroots groups from 25 nations addressed the theme, "The Ethics of Ecodevelopment: Culture, the Environment, and Dependency." Executive Board member Ramon Romero was the Conference Director.

    IDEA's Fourth International Conference on Ethics and Development was held in Santiago, Chile, October 25-28, 1995. The theme of the Conference was "The New Economic Order and Development: Ethical Challenges for the 21st Century." The conference, organized by Cristián Parker, brought together a multi-national group to evaluate the present conditions and future possibilities of free-market liberalism in the context of development. Chilean ex-President Patricio Alywin gave the keynote address. A follow-up workshop took place in November 1996. IDEA co-sponsored a regional Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland June 25-28, 1996, organised by Nigel Dower, the current President. The Conference addressed the theme "Ethics, Development, and Global Values" and pursued closer links with kindred organizations, such as the Ethics Working Group of the IUCN and the Development Ethics Study Group of the Development Studies Association (UK).

    IDEA co-sponsored an International Conference on Ethics and Development in partnership with the Centre for Research on New International Economic Order (CReNIEO), in Madras, Tamil Nadu, India from January 2-9, 1997. The Conference theme was "Globalization, Self-determination, and Justice in Development," with an emphasis on India and South Asia. The conference organizers were IDEA members Peter Penz (York University) and Deane Curtin (Bustavus Adolphus College), and CReNIEO Director K. Rajaratna.

    IDEA's Sixth International Conference on Ethics and Development was held in Honduras from June 19-22, 2002. The theme was "Poverty, Corruption, and Human Rights: Ethics of Citizenship and Public Service." The conference was held in Zamorano, a stunning agricultural university near Tegucigalpa, Honduras. This IDEA Conference aimed to understand the causal relationships between corruption and poverty, on the one hand, and corruption and human rights violations on the other, and evaluate it from normative points of view.

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