Allocating adaptation finance: examining three ethical arguments for recipient control
International Environmental Agreements , 16(5), p.655–670. doi:10.1007/s10784-015-9288-3
Most agree that large sums of money should be transferred to the most vulnerable countries in order to help them adapt to climate change. But how should that money be allocated within those countries? A popular and intuitively plausible answer, in line with the strong standing of the norm of ownership in development aid circles, is that this is for the recipient country to decide. The paper investigates the three most important types of ethical arguments for such ‘recipient control’: the epistemic argument, the entitlement argument, and the legitimacy argument. It is argued that there is a good case for recipient control in democratic countries, because such countries can be expected to act in the name of the people to whom adaptation finance is ultimately owed. However, the three arguments do not support, even if taken jointly, recipient control in nondemocratic countries. This is a significant result seeing as the majority of the most vulnerable countries are nondemocratic.