UCL Faculty of Laws


In-Person | Offsetting the Costs of Assistance

07 March 2023, 3:00 pm–5:00 pm

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This event is organised by the Institute for Laws, Politics and Philosophy (ILPP)

Event Information

Open to



UCL Laws


UCL Chandler House
Room G10
2 Wakefield Street

Please note that the time allocated for this colloquia will be devoted to discussion of the paper.

Speaker: Prof. Helen Frowe (Stockholm University)

About the Paper

Consider Refuge:


Anna and Becky face equally grave harms in their own countries that they can avoid only by resettlement abroad. France is considering whether to resettle Anna or Becky. Anna speaks French and will be able to work. Her contributions to the French economy via taxation will offset any financial costs of her resettlement. Becky does not speak French, will struggle to learn, and will not be able to work. She will not offset the financial costs of her resettlement.

I expect that many people’s intuitive response to Refuge is that it is impermissible for France to pay attention to the fact that Anna will be able to offset the costs of her resettlement and that it would be bad for refugees if we were to permit this kind of discrimination. And yet, as I argue, whether a victim can offset the cost of assisting her bears whether one has a duty to assist her. Offsetting can render otherwise supererogatory assistance morally required. And one may not include costs that will be offset in the costs one has incurred in discharging one’s duty to rescue.

Insofar as states’ duties to resettle refugees reflect our duties to aid, then, states are morally required to discriminate between offsetting refugees and non-offsetting refugees. But, counterintuitively, this is likely to make refugees better off than ignoring the ability to offset. States may not invoke the cost of resettling an offsetting refugee as a reason to exclude her. And they may not include the cost of resettling offsetting refugees when calculating the resources they have expended in discharging their duties to aid. At least prima facie, this will increase the number of refugees whom states are required to resettle.

About the Speaker

Helen Frowe is Professor of Practical Philosophy and Knut and Alice Wallenberg Scholar at Stockholm University, where she directs the Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace. During 2022-2023, she is a Visiting Fellow at Perry World House, University of Pennsylvania. She has previously held visiting fellowships at Rutgers, Harvard, Australian National University, York University, Canada and the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies. She has longstanding research interests in permissible harming, particularly defensive harming and the ethics of war, and in duties to rescue. From 2017-2020, she was co-PI (with Derek Matravers) on a project on Heritage in War; the resultant monograph, Stones and Lives: The Ethics of Protecting Heritage in War, is forthcoming with Oxford University Press, along with an edited collection, Heritage and War: Ethical Issues. She is the author of Defensive Killing (OUP, 2014) and The Ethics of War and Peace: An Introduction (Routledge, 2011; 2015; 2022) and was the recipient of the 2019 Marc Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy. She is currently writing a book on duties to rescue and developing a project on the ethics of deterrence.

About the Institute

The Institute brings together political and legal theorists from Law, Political Science and Philosophy and organises regular colloquia in terms 2 and 3. Read more about the Institute's work.

If you would like to be added to the ILPP mailing list please contact us at laws-events@ucl.ac.uk.

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