Besides media and political circles, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also contribute to shaping the public perception of the Global South through their fundraising and public relations work. The content of the communication also frequently perpetuates stereotypes – paternalistic images of development portray developed countries as showing "underdeveloped" countries how things are done properly. People of the Global South are often represented as objects and recipients of aid or support, while development organizations and their staff, in contrast, are portrayed as doers and experts.
Many communications activities rarely address the context in which development cooperation takes place, more particularly the structural causes of poverty and exclusion. The systemic interconnections too, in other words the general political, economic and social environments, are often overlooked. The upshot is that the public at large has very limited concrete notions as to the workings and impacts of development cooperation. Frequent contradictions and inconsistencies also arise between development policy campaign work and fundraising, and carry the risk of eroding trust in NGOs.
This manifesto offers some guidance for the staff of NGOs engaged in international cooperation. The core comprises sector-specific guidelines for responsible communication in international cooperation, which represent an undertaking to the public. Our goal is not perfection, but a self-critical and transparent reflection about our own work of communication.