Most people are accustomed to talking about ethics on the individual level. However, discussion of ethics at the collective level, especially in the context of international affairs, is often more difficult. For some, international politics is still conducted according to the maxim of the “Melian Dialogue” in The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides: “The strong do what they will, the weak do what they must.”

While international statecraft requires a healthy dose of realism, it does not explain everything. For instance, it explains neither the substantial advances made in recent years in the areas of moral restraint nor the ongoing evolution of international moral norms. For another, it is hard to conceive of contemporary international relations—or politics itself—without some reference to fundamental human rights.

Understanding how ethical norms affect the struggle for power and peace among nations—to paraphrase the subtitle of Hans J. Morgenthau’s classic treatise on international relations—is perhaps more important today than ever before.

Through conferences as well as publications, the Nelson Institute seeks not only to educate about issues such as armed conflict, human rights, environmental concerns, global economics, and justice after conflict and mass violence, but also to explore some of the ethical dilemmas posed by these phenomena. See here for information on conferences and publications.