Applying the humanitarian principles: Reflecting on the experience of the International Committee of the Red Cross

Applying the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence in a relevant manner in concrete operational settings is a constant challenge for humanitarian organizations. Bound by this set of norms, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has incrementally developed over the years a rational framework that allows its leadership and staff on the ground to act according to these principles while developing adapted solutions and pragmatic approaches. This article begins by describing the history and development of the humanitarian principles; it then explains how the strategic choices of the ICRC are informed by these principles, and what the consequences are for the organization's capacity to act in favour of victims of armed conflicts.

About the authors

Jérémie Labbé

Jérémie Labbé is Head of the Principles Guiding Humanitarian Action project at the International Committee of the Red Cross (since July 2014). From 2010 to 2014, he developed a new programme on humanitarian affairs at the International Peace Institute in New York, and between 2003 and 2009, he worked with the ICRC both in its headquarters in Geneva and in different field missions.

Pascal Daudin
Senior Policy Adviser

Pascal Daudin is currently Senior Policy Adviser at the ICRC. After a short career as a freelance journalist, he joined the ICRC in 1985 and served in more than twenty different conflict situations including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Kuwait, Caucasus and Central Asia, holding positions of Line Manager and Protection Expert as well as managing projects on strategic HR reform. Between 2003 and 2007, he worked as Senior Analyst and Deputy Head of a counter-terrorism unit attached to the Swiss Ministry of Defence. In 2007, he was appointed Global Safety and Security Director for CARE International’s operations and institutional policy. In 2011, he returned to the ICRC as Senior Policy Adviser on humanitarian action-related matters.