The Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages

Find out what the Code is all about and why it matters in this animation: 

Background to the Code of Conduct

In 2007, Dóchas members adopted a Code of Conduct on Images and Messages. The purpose of this Code is to provide a framework which organisations can refer to when designing and implementing their public communication strategy.

The Code offers a set of guidelines to assist organisations in their decision-making about which images and messages to choose in their communication while maintaining full respect for human dignity.

By signing the Code, Development NGOs commit to a set of principles, ensuring that they will avoid stereotypical or sensational images. The adoption of the Code means that aid agencies will choose images and messages that represent the full complexity of the situations in which they work, and that they will seek the permission of the people portrayed in the photos they use.

Core Values and Guiding Principles

Code of Conduct on Images and Messages, Dochas, Ireland


The Code of Conduct’s guiding principles stipulate that “choices of images and messages will be made based on the paramount principles of:

  • Respect for the dignity of the people concerned;

  • Belief in the equality of all people;

  • Acceptance of the need to promote fairness, solidarity and justice.

Accordingly, in all our communications and where practical and reasonable within the need to reflect reality, we strive to:

  1. Choose images and related messages based on values of respect equality, solidarity and justice;

  2. Truthfully represent any image or depicted situation both in its immediate and in its wider context so as to improve public understanding of the realities and complexities of development;

  3. Avoid images and messages that potentially stereotype, sensationalise or discriminate against people, situations or places;

  4. Use images, messages and case studies with the full understanding, participation and permission of the subjects (or subjects’ parents/guardian);

  5. Ensure those whose situation is being represented have the opportunity to communicate their stories themselves;

  6. Establish and record whether the subjects wish to be named or identifiable and always act accordingly;

  7. Conform to the highest standards in relation to human rights and protection of the vulnerable people.

Signatories to the Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages are obliged to ensure that: the materials and communications they produce are in-keeping with the principles as set out in the Code; and to provide the public with a facility to feedback, both positively and critically, on these communications.

The organisation’s feedback mechanism is to be the first point of contact for those who wish to make a complaint. However, in the case where an organisation fails to respond or where their response is not deemed satisfactory by the complainant, they may choose to initiate a complaints process through Dóchas.

If you would like to give us feedback here in Dóchas on how we are adhering to the Code please feel free to get in touch with us here.

Further Resources:

Dóchas Communicating Development Resource Page