Miriam Hird-Younger, The Productivity of Mistrust: The Ethics of Development Partnerships in Ghana (Ethics@Noon-ish)

Ethics at Noon

The Productivity of Mistrust: The Ethics of Development Partnerships in Ghana

Trust has been a central tenet of foreign aid for decades, resting on the notion that trust-building will foster the right kind of social relations for development. Expectations on the need to build trust are associated with requirements to work through partnerships with government and private companies for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Ghana. This presentation explores how Ghanaian NGOs experience the growing expectation that they work through an ethics of trust and the ways that they affirm, negotiate, and contest collaborations. This research draws on data collected during fifteen months of participant observation and in-depth interviews with national NGOs in an emerging and prominent network on the SDGs. By moving away from approaching trust as a disinterested truism and moral “good,” I identify the counterintuitive ways that mistrust is often an important ethical stance for NGO leaders in the partnerships I studied. Specifically, practices of mistrust are productive for the credibility and legitimacy of NGO-government partnerships. I illustrate how NGO leaders consider eating an “ethical thing” and that when they refuse to eat food at government events, they are publicly demonstrating an independence from government through a practice of mistrust. The perceived “uncompromised” position of NGOS is critical to the successful recognition of the NGO-government partnership by global development agencies. Thus, I open up to empirical study and theoretical consideration the productive potentiality of mistrust and the counterintuitive ways that mistrust can actually be required for a successful partnership.

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This is an online event. It will be live streamed on the Centre for Ethics YouTube Channel on Wednesday, February 10. Channel subscribers will receive a notification at the start of the live stream. (For other events in the series, and to subscribe, visit YouTube.com/c/CentreforEthics.)

Miriam Hird-Younger
Centre for Ethics Doctoral Fellow
University of Toronto

Wed, Feb 10, 2021
12:30 PM - 01:45 PM
Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto
200 Larkin