Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images & Messages

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 Dóchas Code 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.

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.


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 fairnesssolidarity andjustice.

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

  • Choose images and related messages based on values of respect equality, solidarity and justice;
  • 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;
  • Avoid images and messages that potentially stereotype, sensationalise or discriminate against people, situations or places;
  • Use images, messages and case studies with the full understanding, participation and permission of the subjects (or subjects’ parents/guardian);
  • Ensure those whose situation is being represented have the opportunity to communicate their stories themselves;
  • Establish and record whether the subjects wish to be named or identifiable and always act accordingly;
  • Conform to the highest standards in relation to human rights and protection of the vulnerable people.

Feedback Mechanism

SERVE is a signatory of the Dochas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages and commits to applying the Code’s principles for all their communications.  SERVE strives to support the Code’s implementation and to promote it across all members of staff, as well as partners, contractors and the wider NGO sector.

The Code is an attempt by Irish NGOs to regulate themselves and to lead by positive example.  It strives to encourage an accurate representation of development issues and the people with whom Irish NGOs work in many different countries and contexts and the people with whom Irish NGOs work in many different countries and contexts, and to facilitate a critical engagement of the Irish public with development issues.

Your comments and feedback on all of our communications (website, brochures, flyers etc.) are greatly appreciated because only you can tell us how we come across and how you feel about the people and issues we portray.

Please fill out the contact form to provide your feedback.

Thank you,

The SERVE Team.

Code of Conduct on Images & Messages Feedback Form

Complaints Mechanism

If for any reason you are not satisfied with the response that you receive from SERVE, or how your we have handled your complaint, you can raise this issue Dóchas (Please note that you MUST first raise this issue with SERVE, before contacting Dóchas). Complaints must be addressed to the Director of Dóchas at media@dochas.ie

Please indicate how and where the principal(s) of the Code have been breached. From this point, Dóchas will relay the complaint to the organisation and seek a satisfactory outcome for all parties involved.