There are always ethical issues involved in research. It does not matter what subject is being researched; a few ethical issues apply across the board. For instance, there is always a chance that a researcher may try to skew their results or “fudge the numbers” to make their research seem more valid or to cover up weaknesses in their analysis. Therefore, we value peer-reviewed and scholarly sources because, theoretically, having multiple educated minds review the process and the product confirms the validity and reliability of the research.
In the case of researching conflict, it could be that the researcher works for or is affiliated with a group or state that has a vested interest in the conflict, or perhaps in intervening in a conflict. The reverse could also be true; maybe the state or organization is determined to stay out of the conflict. They might, therefore, hire a researcher or instruct their researcher(s) to ignore certain sources or variables, or deliberately belittle the validity of certain sources to make their cause seem more legitimate or their opinion seem more valid. Conversely, they may instruct the researcher(s) to play up the significance of certain variables or results.
Ethnocentricity is another ethical concern in both field and archival research. According to dictionary.com, ethnocentrism is 1) “the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own ethnic group or culture” or 2) “a tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one’s own” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/ethnocentricity?s…). This is something I touched on in my previous forum post for week 7; it is not right or effective to intervene in a conflict and then try to rebuild that country in our own image when it does not fit the cultural and political needs of that country.
This can be applied to conflict research in that ethnocentricity can create a bias in researchers that may cause them to overlook relevant data or to make inaccurate or inappropriate suggestions as to possible solutions for the resolution of a conflict. As Wesley puts it: “a bottom-up understanding of state formation—accepting that stable and effective states must emerge from within the traditions, compromises, and conflicts particular to the political, economic, and social spheres of each society—needs to replace a top-down belief that a single blueprint for effective state design can be exported and imposed at will (2008, 381). Barnett also says, “what a Western audience defines as a legitimate value or institution might be viewed as illegitimate by the local community” (2006, 93).
Researchers also need to be aware of how their research—especially field research—may negatively impact the existing conflicts in terms of politics, ethnic issues, religious divisions, and/or safety. If research is conducted haphazardly or irresponsibly, it could deepen divides between conflicting groups and complicate a bad situation even further. This might also result in future researchers and peacebuilders being viewed as threats or enemies, and may make their job that much more difficult.
The Ethical problems with conflict resolution. I believe the ethical problems with conflict resolution can be many. For one often in this field other nations act as if they know whats best for the people in the country in which they are attempting to solve a problem for. If it doesn’t work it often fosters years of hatred and distrust. We are seeing this right now in Iraq with the United States invading to get rid of a dictator but made the problem worst than better for the United States and the rest of the world with the rise of ISIS. Likewise in Vietnam the United States attempted to make Vietnam into their eyes what was best for them. Rather than understanding Vietnams long history and trying to make things in what the people of Vietnam felt best for themselves.
Another ethical dilemma is hypocrisy. I’ve brought this up over and over again because of some of what we have read. How generally speaking when there is a clear winner in a civil war usually things get resolved for the better. This differs from when it ends in a stalemate. Yet in our own history it took until the 1964 civil rights act to really make things right for the people the American Civil War was fought over. To this day in the eyes of many one hundred and fifty years later we still have problems. Who are we as Americans to judge anyone else any different. For that matter try and show whats best for them yet ignore our own internal problems. Michael Barnett brought up this exact problem. In order for a nation to succeed as a peacemaker they must live by what they inject into other nations. (Barnett 2006, 108-109)
Legitimacy is certainly a big one. What were the motives of the nation which helped to broker the agreement? Did we see any gain by that nation? Did the nation which brokered the agreement have any potential biases to one side or the other?
With legitimacy Michael Barnett wrote about how often it occurs how elections are conducted too soon in a country still in conflict. The country has no institutions yet it is holding elections. (Barnett 2006, page 94) I for one agree with what Barnett stated on imposing liberal ideas. I for one don’t believe democracy is always the answer in conflict resolution. In particular due to how coercion and violence can be used to influence the vote. This can be commonplace in a nations early beginnings in which theres lack of rule of law and enforcement taking place. Its often forgotten how the election in which Diem was elected Prime Minster of South Vietnam was elected by more votes than there was even voters. This occurred in the late 1950s. Diem was later overthrown in a coupe in 1963 by the U.S. government. (Duane 1983)