Page-Dignified-Storytelling Teachers have been creating a supportive and inclusive environment in this school in Sri Lanka where these children can improve their reading skills with tremendous support from school faculty, parents and the community as a whole. Credit: Save the Children

Dignified Storytelling

Today, thousands of stories are being told regardless of who tells them and how they are told. Many of these stories lack authenticity, transparency, or are driven by ulterior motives which serve a predetermined narrative. These are just some of the few obstacles that get in the way of honest, wholesome and dignified storytelling within development and humanitarian contexts. In order for a piece – be it visual, written or spoken – to reach an audience, it goes through a long process of filtration, revising and editing that sometimes alters the original content and makes it almost fictional. This in turn, ends up painting the wrong picture of the contributors who oftentimes are not aware of where their stories, visual or written, will be displayed and to what purpose will they be used.


Dignified Storytelling was born out of the need to unite the voices of content makers, editors, journalists, photographers, filmmakers, storytellers, and contributors and equip them with the awareness and hands-on knowledge that will enable them to capture moments and tell stories without compromising human dignity. In order to fulfill this need, Dignified Storytelling kickstarted global consultations a year ago, to solicit cross-sectoral perspectives on storytelling within development and humanitarian contexts, as well as set and agree on the Dignified Storytelling Principles that today serve as guidance and an advocacy tool for bringing together various stakeholders from around the world to form a global movement that will be a game changer in maintaining and promoting human dignity through storytelling.


These foundational principles are also guiding the consultative development of an accessible and practical Dignified Storytelling Handbook which provides ‘how-to’ guidance and concrete best practice case studies. Cross-sectoral perspectives and insights from a diverse group of storytellers and experienced stakeholders from governments, UN agencies, international and local NGOs, and civil society are currently informing this valuable framework and resource.


However, Dignified Storytelling goes well beyond a set of principles and a handbook. To be truly effective, a Dignified Storytelling approach needs to be embedded in the day-to-day policies and practices of entities within the development and humanitarian  sectors and beyond. The first iteration of Dignified Storytelling will culminate at Expo 2020 Dubai, a global destination that brings the world together to be inspired, learn, innovate, and create progress. Expo 2020 Dubai will provide the platform to showcase the importance of Dignified Storytelling through a Dignified Storytelling Forum, to be held on December 10, 2021. This Forum will provide a platform for dialogue, engagement, and advocacy for Dignified Storytelling, attended by members of civil society organizations, governments, the private sector, and international agencies alongside advocates, activists, and storytellers. 


The Forum is part of Expo 2020’s rich calendar of specialist programming, which reflects and celebrates the spirit of Dignified Storytelling throughout the 6-month event. Encompassing cultural, social, economic, environmental and UAE-based themes, the program series has been curated in close collaboration with Expo’s International and Non-Official Participants, International Organizations, Commercial Partners, as well as various UAE entities, and seeks to garner solidarity around global challenges, spotlight areas of mutual interest and importance, and ensure the emergence of a meaningful legacy at the national, regional and international level.


Over the longer-term, Dignified Storytelling will create an environment of positivity that strengthens long-term relationships between the public, private, development and humanitarian sectors by placing dignified and ethical storytelling at the epicenter of knowledge sharing, stakeholder engagement, and capacity development to inspire and inform storytellers.