Professional standards for protection work – Q&A

16-12-2009 FAQ

The number of humanitarian and human rights organizations carrying out protection work during war and other situations of violence is on the increase. It is therefore necessary to agree upon common professional standards, for the sake of those whom these organizations are aiming to help. That is the objective of a document the ICRC has just published in conjunction with a number of other organizations.

 How were the  Professional standards for protection work   prepared, and who was involved?  

 Although this project was initiated by the ICRC, substantial contributions were made by an advisory group. Members of the group served in their personal capacity, drawing on the breadth and diversity of the protection experience that they had acquired through their humanitarian and human rights work in various UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The advisory group was involved in the standards creation process for two years.

In early 2009 the ICRC used the preliminary version of the standards prepared by the advisory group as the basis for an extensive four-month consultation with humanitarian and human rights organizations represented in various forums. These organizations include the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), InterAction US, and the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR).

 Are these standards meant to replace the guidelines or procedures that organizations currently employ in their protection work?  

No. The standards simply set forth the minimum obligations that apply to any organization engaged in protection work in armed conflict or other situations of violence. These organizations must ensure that their directives and procedures are compatible with the s tandards. Organizations involved in the field of protection are obviously free to go beyond the minimum obligations in their own guidelines and internal rules.

 Are organizations that are not engaged in protection work supposed to implement these standards?  

The standards are meant for all humanitarian and human rights organizations involved in one or more protection-related activity aimed at helping individuals and communities at risk in armed conflicts, even if a given organization's work goes beyond the field of protection to include relief and/or development activities.

Organizations whose work is limited to relief or development may find these standards to be a source of inspiration alongside the Sphere standards (i.e. the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response, which were prepared by a number of humanitarian organizations, issued in 2000 and then revised in 2004).

However, if an organization involved in a relief programme gathers information on incidents or cases of abuse from victims of violence with the intention of using this information in its dealings with the government or media, it is implicitly engaging in protection work and is thus subject to these standards.

 What mechanisms are planned to ensure or certify that the standards are actually applied?  

There is no specific oversight mechanism. The standards meet a need that was recognized years ago and embody the consensus view of professionals in the field of protection. We are counting on each organization to take the time needed to examine its activities in the light of the standards on a regular basis.