Why do we need a Code of Ethics?



For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been studying and doing research about Codes of Ethics. More specifically, as a group, we have to draft a Code of Ethics about campaigners.

I have to admit that I was not really familiar with this topic and I found it quite interesting. Through research I was able to see and notice the many differencies that appear when it comes to meanings,definitions and practices relating with this kind of codes.

To begin with, I’d like to do a basic distinction between the term “Code of Ethics” and “Code of Conduct”, because many times they seemed to be recognised as similar(but they are not):

Codes of Ethics contain behaviors and actions which are actually unwritten rules and regulations. The violations of these is frowned upon by the organisation or the company, nevertheless is not prohibited under law.These codes are not specific , they are expected to be followed and that’s why their violation does not lead to punishment.They set fundamental principles and provide the basic guides in terms of ethical and moral responsibility.

Codes of Conduct are specific rules and regulations that must be followed by the employees of a company or an organisation and they reqiore strict adherence otherwise there are penalties.They clearly describe the required standards of behavior.

Thus,a code of conduct is about how things should be done whereas a code of ethics is an underlying set of principles that determines why certain actions would be preferred.Ethical codes are focus on broader issues and are often framed as a belief statement regarding the organization’s mission, its values and expectations for its members. A conduct code is designed to translate the ethics code into specific do and don’t guidelines and to promote adherence to the code of ethics by providing specific examples of real world applications of the code of ethics.

After making this distincion, I wondered why a Code of Ethics is needed especially in NGO’s.

An NGO ” is a not-for-profit group, principally independent from government, which is organized on a local, national or international level to address issues in support of the public good”( http://www.unrol.org/article.aspx?article_id=23). These organisations, have grown quite rapidly in the last decades.Furthermore the structure of these organisations has changed as today many of them are professional,are organisations witth strict structures.But as our world has absolutely changed and transformed in terms of globalisation,technology,rising living standards, the framework (political,social and economical) where NGO’s operate has also changed.The areas where NGO’s are getting involved have increased,thus their basic principles and goals have been reconsidered.

I know that the answer to this question could be analysed in a whole essay due to the many factors and aspects that make the need of these codes necessary. But what comes a first in my mind when I think about Ethics and NGO’s is this:

NGO’s are focused to adress and work on issues that support the public good and society.NGO’s duties to society are to inspire people,to promote citizen’s participation and engagement,to respect  diversity,to avoid discriminations.That’s why I believe that it is fundamental that these duties,values, principles,beliefs about the kind of society they aspire to make should not only be adressed to all people but also should be illustrated and incorporated within the organisation.

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