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Images and messages relating to the whird World

05 / 1993

A code on images and messages relating to the Third World has been elaborated by and is addressed to European non-governmental organisations who are actors or partners in the global development process. The purpose is to inspire a debate on images and messages and encourage European NGOs to examine their own materials. The code consists of 12 practical guidelines.

1. Avoid catastrophic or idylic images which appeal to charity and lead to a clear conscience rather than a consideration of the root problems.

2. All people must be presented as human beings and sufficient information provided as to their social, cultural and economic environment so that their cultural identity and dignity are preserved. Culture should be presented as an integral part of development in the South.

3. Accounts given by the people concerned should be presented rather than the interpreations of a third party.

4. People’s ability to take responsibility for themselves must be highlighted.

5. A message should be formulated in such a way that generalisations are avoided in the minds of the public.

6. The internal and external obstacles to development should be clearly shown.

7. Interdependence and joint responsibility in underdevelopment should be emphasised.

8. The causes of poverty (political, structural or natural)should be apparent in a message in order to enable the public to become aware of the history and real situation in the Third World, and the structural foundations of these countries before colonisation. It is the situation today, coupled with a knowledge of the past, which should be the starting point for examining ways in which extreme poverty and oppression can be eliminated. Power struggles and vested interests should be exposed and oppression and injustice denounced.

9. Messages should avoid all forms of discrimination (racial, sexual, cultural, religious, socio-economic).

10. The image of our Third World partners, as dependent, poor and powerless is most often applied to women who are invariably portrayed as dependent victims, or worse still, simply do not figure in the picture. An improvement in the images used in educational material on the Third World evidently requires a positive change in the images projected of Southern Women.

11. Southern partners should be consulted in the formulation of all messages.

12. If an NGO calls on the services of other partners (institutions, organisations or private companies)for a fund raising activity, it should ensure that the recommendations of this Code are respected by all parties. Reference should be made to the Code in the sponsoring contract(s)between the NGO and its partner(s).

Palabras claves

educación, información

, Europa


This code is both a challenge and a guide for European NGOs. Its aim is to encourage NGOs to examine the material they produce on the Third World and to be especially attentive to images that over-simplify or concentrate on the apocalyptic or idyllic aspects of life. It invites NGOs engaged in fund raising activities to reexamine their appeals to the public. It serves as a reference for NGOs working to strengthen the solidarity, cohesion and force of the NGO movement. It is recommended that the EC Commission take this code of Conduct into account in its work with European NGOs.






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