International Committee of the Red Cross

Aide-mémoire: How to maintain the civilian and humanitarian character of sites and settlements

Article 21 March 2018

Preserving the civilian and humanitarian character of sites and settlements is fundamental to the protection of civilians fleeing armed conflict. It is, however, increasingly put at risk today by the presence of, or proximity to, fighters and armed activities. Infringements to the civilian and humanitarian character result in major protection concerns for internally displaced people and refugees hosted in the sites and adversely impact humanitarian actors.

In light of the challenges and the continued need for effective cooperation among humanitarian actors, the ICRC and UNHCR initiated consultations with field staff and other partners to collect operational practices and develop guidance with regard to maintaining the civilian and humanitarian character of sites and settlements in situations of armed conflict.

The Aide Memoire resulted from these consultations and was developed jointly by the ICRC and UNHCR with valuable input from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). The first part of the Aide-Mémoire sets out the necessary context and principles with regard to the civilian and humanitarian character of sites. It provides a description of the main operational challenges and dilemmas that humanitarian actors confront and examines the content of applicable legal frameworks. The second part offers measures for humanitarian actors to consider – within the remit of their respective mandates and expertise– when working toward maintaining the civilian and humanitarian character of sites. These measures include efforts to engage actors beyond the humanitarian community in the spirit of complementarity and in respect of humanitarian principles, recognizing that an effective interplay with security and political actors is fundamental in achieving protection outcomes.