About the Code

Why a code?

To provide a framework on which organisations can build when designing and implementing their public communications strategy.

1.  What is the Code of Conduct?

Code logo

 The Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages is a voluntary, self-regulatory code for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), in particular those working in the development sector. It was created by NGOs involved in emergency relief, long-term development and development education.The purpose of this Code is to provide a framework which organisations can refer to when designing and implementing their public communication strategy. It offers a set of guiding principles that can assist organisations in their decision-making about which images and messages to choose in their communication while maintaining full respect for human dignity.

The Code defines standards of best practice for NGOs and represents the active commitment of its signatories to conduct their activities with respect to values of human dignity, respect and truthfulness.

The Code was officially adopted by Dóchas members in 2007, and there are currently over 80 signatory organisations.

2.  Why was the Code developed?

The Code was developed to:

  • Improve development NGOs public communications practices byproviding them with a framework on which they can build when designing and implementing their communications strategy.

  • Raise standards.

  • Increase public trust and confidence.

3.  What are the principles of the Code of Conduct?

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; and

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

Signatory organisations will avoid stereotypical or sensational images in their public communications. 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.

4.  What are the benefits of being a signatory to the Code of Conduct?

Benefits of being a signatory to the Code include:

  • Being part of a publicly listed group of organisations that can be identified as committed to social justice values, ethics, accountability and transparency.

  • Ability to use the Code of Conduct to measure and improve the organisation’s communications activities.

  • Opportunity to access support, meet and exchange best practices with other signatories. 

  • Ability to display the Code logo on public communications (websites, publications, etc).

5.  How does my organisation become a signatory to the Code?

Fill in an application form and return it to us at: media@dochas.ie. Application form is available at http://dochas.ie.www127.your-server.de/sites/default/files/application_f...

6.  How is compliance with the Code monitored?

Since the Code is voluntary and self-regulatory, the core idea of the Code is that organisations will be responsible for their own performance, and that members of the public can hold organisations to account. Yet, as of July 2013 signatories must fulfil nine minimum criteria to ensure their organisation is meeting a minimum level compliance with the Code’s commitments. These are:

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

A new mechanism to monitor compliance to the Code’s principles has recently been put in place whereby the Chair of the board of each organisation that is a signatory of the Code must sign a letter confirming to the Dóchas Chairperson that their organisation is compliant with the principles and criteria of the Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages at the end of each year. 

7.  What if I think that a signatory organisation does not comply with the Code?

By signing the Code, organisations commit to provide a feedback mechanism whereby anyone can comment on the fulfilment of the Code and where any member of the public will have a ‘right to challenge’ their application of the Code. The organisation’s feedback mechanism is therefore to be the first point of contact for those who wish to make a complaint in this regard. If you think a signatory has breached the Code of Conduct, we advise you to let the organisation know about it (preferably in writing).

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 with Dóchas. Details of that process can be found in this guide: Complaint mechanism through Dóchas

8.  How do I know if an organisation is a signatory to the Code?

Over 70 organisations are now signatories to the Code. One of the easiest ways to tell if an agency is a Code signatory is if it displays the Code logo on its website or publications such as its annual report.

Download the Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages