Fact-finding

The first step in the project is to obtain accurate information concerning the existence of ethics committees in the country. What is necessary is a “diagnosis” of the ethics infrastructure so that data can be gathered concerning available ethics expertise, ethics education at university level, ethics advisory bodies at different levels, ethics related legislation and guidelines, codes of conduct and ethics review mechanisms.

 

Obtaining information about committees

To gather information regarding ethics institutions, UNESCO has launched the Global Ethics Observatory (GEObs) - Database 2 on Ethics Institutions.

Types of institutions are: Commissions, Councils, Committees, Review Boards. The following information is provided:

  • Type of founding organization (government, NGO, professional association, research council)
  • Scope of operation (international, country, state or region, institution)
  • Number of members
  • Frequency of meetings
  • Secretariat
  • Foundation year
  • Areas of ethics covered
  • Type of activity (research, policy making, case consultation)

For institutions not yet included in the database, please contact: geobs(at)unesco.org. A questionnaire needs to be filled in to provide UNESCO with standardized data.

 

Fact-finding activities

To obtain accurate information, to exchange experiences and to analyze what can be done to reinforce or to improve the ethics infrastructure, missions and meetings are organized in (groups of) Member States.

  • To obtain accurate information, to exchange experiences and to analyze what can be done to reinforce or to improve the ethics infrastructure, missions and meetings are organized in Member States. In cooperation with National Commissions for UNESCO such missions have been undertaken in Cape Verde, Gabon, Ghana, Jamaica, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius and Togo during 2007 and the first part of  2008. In the second part of 2008 technical exploratory missions have been undertaken in Chad and Guinea. (Reports of missions)
  • First Regional Meeting of National Bioethics Committees, Cairo, Egypt, 5-7 May 2007 [PDF]
    This meeting was organized in cooperation between UNESCO and WHO EMRO Office (Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office). It brought together 15 experts from the region plus representatives of ALECSO (Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization), GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and IOMS (Islamic Organisation for Medical Sciences).

 

Surveys

It is not always clear what a National Bioethics Committee is. Different models and approaches are being used. Even names can differ (Committee, Council, Board). Often Research Ethics Committees exist at national level, at least on paper.

UNESCO has a broader approach: ethics committees are not only assessing research but also providing advice on ethical problems, formulating recommendations, and fostering debate, education and public awareness.

  • Up-to-date information regarding ethics committees can be obtained through searching the Global Ethics Observatory Database 2.
  • Extensive information is available on the website of the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • The German National Ethics Council recently published a survey of national ethics councils [PDF].
  • The EU funded NEBRA research project examined the situation of ethics committees, for example in West and Central Africa. Report [PDF]
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