Message from the IPRA President: My second year begins January 2017


As I, unusually for IPRA, enter a second year as President, I wish all members of IPRA a fruitful and healthy New Year. According to the Chinese Zodiac, at the end of January we start the Year of the Fire Rooster. The characteristics of the Fire Rooster are ‘Trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work’.


Trust the Fire Rooster

I am aware of the perilous attraction in tying one cultural aspect to another. However, the lure of drawing a parallel between the element of ‘trust’ of the Fire Rooster year and our communication profession in 2017 is too hard to resist. Reflections on trustworthy behaviour in the full sense of the word has been hardwired in IPRA’s history. It is easy to overlook this backbone of our Association’s existence. And there is more reason than one to spent some time on that here.


From 1965 until 2009, IPRA officials and members discussed and adopted three separate Codes aimed at providing an ethical framework for the activities of the profession. Aptly if not practically named after the cities where IPRA congregated at the time of drafting, the Codes of Venice (1961), Athens (1965) and Brussels (2007) - which were subsequently amended between 1968 and 2009 - addressed key issues in our communication profession for which IPRA sought to have widely acceptable guidelines established.

Then three became one

The first Code (Venice) addressed ethical behaviour in the area of conduct towards employers and clients, as well as towards the public and media and colleagues and was later amended to include digital channels of communications. The Code of Athens, on the other hand, recommended that IPRA members observe in their professional daily activities the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as it’s set out in the United Nations Charter. Finally, the Code of Brussels recognised the digital world and its need for integrity, transparency, dialogue and accuracy.


I say ‘finally’, but that isn’t actually the case. In 2010, recognising the need for consolidating the previous Codes into a single comprehensive one, IPRA adopted its now current ‘Code of Conduct’. Looking it over 6 years after its debut, I am struck by the strength of its brevity. It recalls a remark I once overheard of a lawyer specialised in constitutional rights and freedom of press. The less words one uses to formulate basic rights, he observed, the better it will stand up against forces or arguments seeking to unravel.


In a similar vein, IPRA’s Code of Conduct is as robust as it is ambitious. Aiming to provide a framework of professional behaviour across a global membership, the Code touches upon all essential aspects of our daily work. In its condensed form, and phrased in an unambiguous though simple set of words, the Code deserves to be mentioned, as I said at the beginning of this text, for more reason than one.

Quite obviously, the Code serves as a practical guideline. True, I cannot easily conceive of a colleague who would need to refer back to the Code regularly to base a day’s work on (although in some parts of the world this might actually be the case). Therefore, more likely, the Code functions primarily as a sort of baseline. One belongs to IPRA in recognition of the Code. That said, it is quite possible too that membership of IPRA and active awareness of the Code are not one and the same thing. I am putting this forth as a speculative thought, and welcome any observation on this point.


In my last message I mentioned our intent to strengthen the membership of IPRA. This objective is closely tied with our Code of Conduct; hence the reason I spent some time on it here. In my next message I will continue this conversation with an overview of our current membership.


Bart de Vries

President 2016 - 2017


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