Beneficence is action that is done for the benefit of others. This principle implies that the expected benefit to participants or the wider community justifies any risks of harm or discomfort to participants. To fulfil this principle research must be of value to participants, their community, country or development practice more broadly, be designed to minimise risks and participants must be duly informed of potential benefits and risks of the research. In a development context, the research process itself should be viewed as an ‘intervention’, with its own impacts and consequences, and as such, should carry a commitment to support empowerment and participation.
Beyond beneficence, the concept of “do no harm” (non-maleficence) is also critical, particularly in fragile states. There are many types of harm that require anticipation and consideration. Harm can be immediate or long-term and can be physical, social, emotional or psychological. Harm may pertain to the welfare and security of an individual, institution or group. To ‘do no harm’ means such risks and harm are anticipated, planned for, and used to seriously question proceeding with proposed research.