Ethical Principles for Community Spokespeople and Social Mobilizer

Spokespeople and mobilizers will be important allies for communication activities and in supporting communities to engage in protective behaviors that can eventually halt the outbreak. Training these allies is important to ensure that they are adequately prepared to deliver the required activities and messages. Although specific training needs will be determined according to the local situation, some ethical principles are overarching when working with communities and individuals. Below is a list of five of these principles that we recommend you share with spokespeople and mobilizers.

Respect for all persons: The principle of respect, valuing each individual’s ideas, opinion, beliefs and practices, regardless of that person’s background. In particular, this extends to vulnerable and marginalized groups who are often considered less worthy of respect. Spokespeople and mobilizers need to acknowledge the equal value of these and of all individuals, respect their autonomy and ensure they are all included in their messaging and activities.

Impartiality: Spokespeople and mobilizers should not judge or discriminate against any individual based on their background, history or behaviors.

Confidentiality: When talking with community members about specific behaviors, spokespeople and mobilizers may come across personal information. It is important that they respect the confidentiality of that information. Mobilizers and spokespeople should guarantee the privacy of both individuals and their families.

Accuracy: Getting the facts right is crucial to ensuring that the population has correct information to limit the spread of rumors. It is a moral duty of mobilizers and spokespeople that they be trained on the facts and messages they need to share with community members. They should feel comfortable to say when they do not know something. If the community raises concerns that mobilizers and spokespeople are unable to answer, there should be referral mechanisms in place to support them in accessing the right information to address those concerns.

Do no harm: As a general rule, people working with communities should be guided by the principle of limiting potential harm. This includes showing sensitivity to people who have experienced trauma as a result of the emergency, respect for their privacy, providing factually correct information and an awareness that some community members may be affected emotionally by the emergency.