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Ethical Considerations in Research with People in Situations of Forced Migration

Posted on: May 14, 2021

Summary:

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) worked with others to develop ethical guidelines for research with people in situations of forced migration.

The guidelines include a checklist for organizations who are approached by researchers, to help evaluate whether the research will be conducted ethically, and taking into consideration the particular vulnerabilities of people who have been forcibly displaced.

Background:

"In situations of forced migration, the stakes are particularly high because of precarious legal status, unequal power relations, far-reaching anti-terrorism legislation, and the criminalization of migration. In response, the Canadian Council for Refugees, York’s Centre for Refugee Studies, and the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies collaborated to complement established ethical principles with specific ethical considerations for research with people in situations of forced migration. This executive summary highlights our guiding principles and applies the ethical concepts of voluntary, informed consent; respect for privacy; and cost-benefit analysis. It is of relevance to anyone involved in gathering information - whether in an academic or community setting - and those who are asked to take part in research."

Guiding Principles for Researchers:

  • Equity: We will strive to make our research relationships as equitable as possible, by being conscious of power dynamics and guarding against risks of abuse of power.
  • Right to self-determination: We will respect and support the right of people in contexts of forced migration to make their own decisions about their lives and the degree of participation in research processes.
  • Competence: We will use appropriate research methods and practices, recognize our own limits, and accept a duty of care.
  • Partnership: We will include relevant partners in our research throughout the research process: from purpose of the research, design, data collection, analysis, and use of the findings, to dissemination of results

Applying the Guiding Principles:

  • Voluntary, Informed Consent: All research respondents must voluntarily and formally consent to participate in research after having been informed of the potential risks and benefits of their participation. They must be able to withdraw from the research at any time with no discrimination, retaliation, or harm.
  • Confidentiality and Privacy: Researchers have a duty to protect respondents’ personal information and not disclose any identifying characteristics that would compromise anonymity, especially if sample sizes are small.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Minimize harm and maximize benefits of research.

Downloads:

research-ethical-guidelines-summary

The document “Your Rights in Research provides an information sheet for people taking part in forced migration research. It discusses what voluntary, informed consent is, their right to privacy and confidentiality, and the researcher’s obligation to do no harm.

Ethical Considerations - Research with People in Situations of Forced Migration - your rights

Summary

The Canadian Council for Refugees worked with others to develop ethical guidelines for research with people in situations of forced migration. The guidelines include a checklist for organizations who are approached by researchers, to help evaluate whether the research will be conducted ethically, and taking into consideration the particular vulnerabilities of people who have been forcibly displaced.
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