The 1980s saw much debate over representations of the majority world, as degrading images of starving African children proliferated in TV reports and aid agencies’ fundraising materials, grossly distorting public perceptions of the global South. The debate led to the adoption of a code of conduct by the General Assembly of European NGOs in April 1989, which instructed NGOs to refrain from using “apocalyptic or pathetic images”, “images which foster a sense of Northern superiority” (the ‘colonial gaze’) and “images which fuel prejudice”. In June 2007, the General Assembly of Concord approved a new code of conduct originally developed by Dóchas, the Irish NGO platform. The new code reaffirmed that all NGO communications of the majority world must be based on the values of human dignity, respect and truthfulness.
Despite this, we are now seeing a resurgence of the worst forms of imagery in certain aid agencies’ communications. This page has been set up to highlight the use of such images, in the hope that we can eradicate them once and for all. On some, you can click on the image to go through to the original video or web page – and please use the comments section below to link to others.
Jorgen Lissner’s seminal Merchants of Misery, New Internationalist, June 1981
Shahidul Alam, The visual representation of developing countries by developmental agencies and the Western media, Policy & Practice, autumn 2007
Binyavanga Wainaina, How to Write about Africa, Granta, Winter 2005
Kate Manzo, Imaging Humanitarianism: NGO Identity and the Iconography of Childhood, Antipode, Vol 40, No 4 (2008) pp632-657
plus other pieces on the Imaging Famine website
and the excellent book by Nandita Dogra, Representations of Global Poverty: Aid, Development and International NGOs