Ethical Communications

The Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages is becoming the Dóchas Guide to Ethical Communications. The new Guide will be officially launched at our AGM on 18 May 2023.

New Research on Ethical Communications

The Code of Conduct on Images and Messaging has been a hugely important resource for our members and others for the past fourteen years. However, it is time that we re-examined the code and check if it is still fit for purpose, if we need to change or update it. 

Dr. Eilish Dillon was commissioned by Dóchas to carry out a review and research into the Dóchas Code of Conduct and into the wider area of ethical communications in the Irish international development sector. This research is now complete and the full report is available below.

On 15 November Dr. Dillon presented an overview of her research at a Dóchas workshop attended by members and other stakeholders including Irish Aid and members of Conchord, the European Association of National Platforms. The workshop was attended by over 50 people from various speciality areas including communications, advocacy, fundraising, development education and public engagement. The video of the workshop is available to view above. 

You can read the notes from the workshop here.

It is our intention to establish a task group on Ethical Communications with a view to updating the Code of Conduct on Images and Messages. If you feel that you could contribute to this group please contact ronan(at) 



For more information on this please do not hesitate to contact us.

Introduction to the Code

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

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

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

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.

You can download some useful documents below.

Helpful Check-list

Before making a final decision on the use of an image or message, consideration of the following questions may be useful:

Want to share your tips? We would love to hear from you - send us an email at comms(at)


What would like to talk about: