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Charities given code of conduct warning over depictions of distant suffering

AID agencies should recognise disaster victims with dignity rather than hopelessness, a new report finds.

The study by media think-tank Polis|,based at LSE, with global children’s charity Plan UK|, calls on organisations to comply with ethical codes of conduct.

It urges them to adhere to Article 10 of the International Red Cross Code of Conduct for NGOs in Disaster Relief should ‘recognise disaster victims as dignified humans, not hopeless objects.’

The report;‘Who cares? Challenges and opportunities in communicating distant suffering’|, was conducted in the context of a three-year Birkbeck/LSE investigation funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

"In the current financial climate, and in the light of increasing scrutiny of their operations, many NGOs are rethinking their communication and fundraising from the bottom up. How to sustain a positive image, how to build trust with the public, how to distinguish their brand and not compromise their ethics, and how to engage new audiences – these and other questions preoccupy NGOs communicators, advocates and fundraisers. The report reflects on these issues, and allows NGO voices to be heard,” says Dr Shani Orgad|, report co-author and a lecturer in the department of Media and Communications.

little girls playing with soilResearch, which included interviews with members of the public and officials from ten NGOs, explored the British public’s perception of media coverage of poverty and disaster related suffering overseas.

“The public are telling us they are saturated with suffering, we are charming or disarming them into acts of compassion, and we’re abusing their emotions,” says Leigh Daynes, Plan UK’s Director of Communications.

It also looked at charity approaches to communications and fundraising on these issues.

The report urges charities to embrace the digital age and to look further afield than traditional media to get their message across.

New media provides an opportunity for charities to reach new audiences and potential supporters.

It also means that donors can, in many cases, communicate directly with beneficiaries of aid, so eroding NGOs’ role as ‘gatekeepers’.

In uncertain economic times and with shrinking budgets, charities must be able to demonstrate value for money.

This has the added benefit of building trust with potential supporters who know where their donations are going.

Press office enquiries: 020 7955 7060, pressoffice@lse.ac.uk|

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