Studying foreign cultures can give rise to research ethics problems. To what extent should one show respect for foreign customs and knowledge ideals? And how should one provide for other cultures' demand that research not become part of a cultural imperialistic project that threatens a foreign culture's distinctive character and independence? Compared with other interests, these cultures often constitute a weak part of the research process and special measures may be necessary for the securing of informed consent and the minimization of risks on a more intangible cultural plane. There are documents that have tried to discuss and provide guidelines for this type of research.
UNESCO has created a convention, which has been ratified by Sweden - the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The convention's implementation is steered by operational guidelines. In 2003 came UNESCO's Convention For the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and in 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions followed. From the Convention on biological diversity, the eight paragraph on "in situ conservation" is often cited. UNESCO also hosted a conference that resulted in the Oaxaca Declaration, which discusses questions of rights in the light of globalization and pluralism. The UN has also prepared a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The latest development is the release of Guidelines on Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
The older European Cultural Convention discusses these questions. The International Labour Organization also has an Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention.
Traditional Resource Rights
"Traditional Resource Rights (TRR)" has come to function as a comprehensive term for the traditional cultures' right to protect their resources. This refers to animals, plants and objects with a particular value in a culture; it does not refer merely to ownership, but also to cultural and spiritual values that often do not have an owner - it may be unthinkable to even speak of ownership in relation to these things. For an overview of TRR documents, click here.
More codes and declarations
Ethics in First Nations Research was formulated by the Assembly of First Nations. We can also mention The Bellagio Declaration (drafted in 1993 by the Conference on Cultural Agency/Cultural Authority). From indigenous peoples themselves, we have the Ukupseni Declaration. Bioethnologists have their own Code of Ethics concerning this.
The international biomedical standards set by bodies such as CIOMS and GCP reflect the research-intensive and high-technological countries' work procedures and convictions. Through documents on Ethical Considerations in HIV Research, however, UNAIDS has struck a blow for a new paradigm that includes other countries' views and affairs.
Last updated: 2015-10-02