A debate is now underway within the relief community about the proper ethical guidelines to apply when doing research in refugee populations and among internally displaced peoples. Refugees are vulnerable subjects for research for several reasons. For example, they are often part of complex emergencies where human rights abuses are rampant, and because they have limited political rights.

International guidance on research ethics, such as the Declaration of Helsinki and CIOMS guidelines, do not address the special circumstances raised when enrolling refugees in research. Jennifer Leaning explains that the debate pivots on the tension between the need to develop evidence-based emergency health measures and the need to protect vulnerable populations from possible exploitation or harm. The article contains a summary of proposed guidelines to reduce the risk of unethical research being conducted amongst refugee populations.

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