Ethics in a Crowded World: Globalisation, Human Movement and Professional Ethics: Volume 22

Cover of Ethics in a Crowded World: Globalisation, Human Movement and Professional Ethics

Table of contents

(8 chapters)

This chapter explores the ethics of a critical vulnerability suffered by migrant health professionals (MHPs): the problem of ‘pathways to nowhere’. This problem arises from dynamic change in the processes, practices and policies governing how migrant professionals achieve accreditation, training and employment in destination countries, whereby established pathways to professional practice are unexpectedly altered or removed. The authors detail the significance of this phenomenon in Australian and Canadian contexts. Drawing on the literature on legitimate expectations and the rule of law, the authors outline the ethical stakes and responsibilities that attach to states creating and then disappointing people’s legitimate expectations, and discuss how these considerations apply to destination countries’ treatment of MHPs.


Achieving localisation (the transfer of control to local actors) has proven extremely challenging in the development sector, and the humanitarian sector appears to be facing equal challenges. This chapter seeks to engage with that struggle and examine why this lesson has been so difficult to learn. Drawing on conference workshops and 10 key informant interviews, this paper examines the obstacles and opportunities for localisation, seeking to understand what makes it so hard for those who hold disproportionate power in humanitarian encounters to hand over power. The authors found a clear sense of localisation being a process rather than an outcome; optimism that momentum is slowly gathering towards this process, and a clear sense of the steps required to fully achieve it. Examining practitioners’ perspectives in this way adds an important voice to discussions of humanitarian practice.


International development and humanitarian work, including research and evaluation practice, relies upon the development of strong and trusting relationships between practitioners, researchers, local partners and communities. Due to these relationships, research conducted in developing countries and particularly in relation to development practice raises distinct ethical issues and dilemmas. The aim of this chapter is to discuss the importance of the consideration of ethics in international development and humanitarian research and how organisations can incorporate a culture of ethical inquiry into research and evaluation practice. It will highlight that good intentions and policy documents are alone not enough for when practitioners are working in development. It will also examine how principles and guidelines drafted expressly for and by the Australian international development sector is being used as a facilitator of ethical inquiry and good practice.


The humanitarian principle of impartiality requires that assistance be based on need alone. In order to ascertain needs, and later to assess whether assistance has been effective in meeting those needs, we need to gather evidence. In humanitarian crises this is generally done through assessments, monitoring and evaluation, and it generally involves seeking information from those we seek to assist. In the fast-paced environment of humanitarian crises, the question of whether the collection of this information is ethical is frequently overlooked. For research participants, the consequences can be extremely severe.

This chapter examines the ethics of research, primarily in the form of assessments, monitoring and evaluation, in humanitarian crises. The chapter first considers the question of what constitutes research in humanitarian crises, and why it is needed. It then examines the general principles of ethical research (respect, beneficence, research merit and integrity, and justice), and highlights three key considerations that require particular attention in humanitarian crises: the justificatory threshold, the vulnerability of research participants, and safety and security. The chapter also examines key components of the research process that are particularly important (and frequently overlooked) in humanitarian crises, including the privacy and confidentiality of research participants, informed consent and feedback to research participants. It concludes with the suggestion that basic instruction in the principles of ethical research should be included in the orientation and training provided to humanitarian practitioners, including to emergency response teams who are commonly involved in carrying out assessments in the early stages of a humanitarian response.


The idea of ‘identity politics’ has become quite prominent in news commentary. It has been referred to in explaining the 2016 US Presidential election result, the 2016 Brexit vote and a variety of other events in contemporary social life. The idea emerged under that title in the late twentieth century, and refers to political conflicts where groups unite and act on the basis of some shared identity. While the term initially referred to action by groups seeking to remedy past oppression, ‘identity politics’ may now refer to a wider range of cases where there is contestation based on recognition of some shared identity. Individuals’ identity is central to resurgent modern virtue ethics, but it has been suggested that virtue ethics is less relevant to political conflict than utilitarian views or theories of justice. However, an important distinction can be made between narrative identity, on the one hand, and social identity that emerges from individuals’ self-perceived group membership, on the other hand. It is narrative identity that figures in major accounts of virtue ethics. In many situations, narrative identity is importantly affected by group identity, but it is still only narrative identity that has intrinsic ethical weight. This suggests that virtue ethics has relevance to identity politics just because it urges attention to individuals’ narrative identity rather than to group identity.


The notion of virtue ethics emphasises individual character as the key element of ethical thinking, which may in turn affect individual actions. There is, however, a lack of attention to this aspect in mainstream theories and practices of motivation in organisations. To address this gap, this chapter focusses on theory of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and argues that it may be integrated with the conceptual framework of virtue ethics proposed by MacIntyre at the individual and organisational levels. A change in value-orientation may also enable a focus on good work instead of a narrow focus on monetary rewards. This chapter reviews literatures on motivation and MacIntyre’s framework, and develops a conceptual model to integrate virtue ethics with motivation. At the end, some avenues for future research are discussed.

Cover of Ethics in a Crowded World: Globalisation, Human Movement and Professional Ethics
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Book series
Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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