As early as 1994, at the start of the genocide in Rwanda, several of the world’s largest aid organizations signed on to a code of conduct intended to govern communication with the press and the public. It was compiled by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Signatories to the code agreed that in their briefings, publicity and advertising they would acknowledge victims of disasters to be “dignified human beings, not hopeless objects.“
That’s Linda Polman in her book on humanitarian aid, The Crisis Caravan (War Games in the UK). Expect a review sometime in the near future.
The list of signatories to that code are here, comprising nearly 500 NGOS, including many organizations we’re familiar with today (like MSF). It’s disheartening, but not surprising, that so many signatories went on to ignore this part of the code – I fear the fundraising incentives are a little too strong for this one.