Informed consent

When interviewing, photographing and videoing those affected by humanitarian crises on behalf of CARE International, it is imperative that meaningful, informed consent is obtained from the subject. Not only is this a legal requirement in many countries, but it is a moral obligation to ensure that those we interview and photograph are fully aware of where, how and what their image and stories could be used for in order to maintain the humanitarian principle of ‘do no harm’.

While legally, a signature or mark is important, the policy requires that all subjects be told, in a clear manner, how any materials may be used in a way that ensures they fully understand the implications. In the case of use by CARE, the subject(s) – once fully informed – can give consent orally in certain exceptional circumstances, but written consent in the form of a signature or mark is the policy standard.  

Assessing risk to the subject

The levels of risk depend on what the context is, but as a general rule, you should always remove one of the ‘three pillars of risk’ when photographing vulnerable people including  minors (under the age of 18). If the subject is a minor (under 18 years old), the minor’s parent or guardian must first be fully informed before signing on behalf of the minor. If a parent or guardian is not available, another adult in authority (such as teacher, mentor, community elder, etc.), who is believed to have the minor’s best interests in mind, may sign instead, and provide a clear indication of his/her relation to the child.

The three pillars of risk are: 

  1. face/identity;
  2. exact location and;
  3. name

You should remove two or three if they are considered high risk (e.g. a child who is currently or formerly associated with an armed group, or a survivor of sexual assault).

If a decision to change the name of a vulnerable person is made, this must be clearly articulated in the materials, including associated captions, metadata information and notes, by using an asterisk * and noting *Name has been changed to protect identity.

It is important to note that there will be some instances when the subject is happy for their face to be shown in photos, but their story may be such that it is best for them that their face is not shown.

In breaking emergencies, it can often be challenging to obtain full written consent with people on the move and in distress. In these instances, recorded verbal consent can be used. Similarly, for subjects who are illiterate, oral recorded consent, finger print marks or other forms of marking can be used.

If in doubt, or you have any queries on CARE’s global consent policy, please contact the CI Secretariat communications team.

CARE’s consent policy and consent forms in English, French, Spanish and Arabic can be found here on the Global Communications Hub and in the annex section of the Toolkit below.