This chapter examines the ethical problems that humanitarian agencies face when working under authoritarian rule and negotiating with authoritarian regimes. These problems entail ethical dilemmas, presenting humanitarian agencies with a difficult choice between a principled concern of avoiding complicity and failing to assist people in dire need. These ‘authoritarian dilemmas’ can be categorised into three general types: (1) mopping up after the humanitarian problems caused by regimes; (2) keeping down marginalised groups and political opposition by distributing aid in line with partial dictates from the authorities; and (3) propping up the authorities by aligning with their general political interests and strategies (beyond mopping up or keeping down) and thereby undermining the prospects for political change. Assessing ethical justifications when confronted with these dilemmas from four relevant ethical positions, namely deontological and consequentialist professional ethics and pluralist and solidarist political ethics, this chapter demonstrates how these ethical positions may lead to different prescriptions in particular settings, arguing against an oversimplified understanding of moral dilemmas and complicity in scholarly and public discourse on humanitarian ethics.
Lidén, Kristoffer & Kristina Roepstorff (2023) Mopping Up, Keeping Down, and Propping Up: Ethical dilemmas in humanitarian negotiations with authoritarian regimes, in Authoritarian Practices and Humanitarian Negotiations. Abingdon & New York: Routledge (219–244). DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003316541.