The relevance of the Fundamental Principles to operations: learning from Lebanon

Many aid agencies and commentators suggest that humanitarian principles are of little value to the humanitarian crises of today. However, through profiling the experience of the Lebanese Red Cross, this article highlights the enduring value and impact of the application of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Fundamental Principles as effective operational tools for acceptance, access and safety. Having suffered a series of security incidents during the civil war and subsequent disturbances and tensions, this National Society deliberately sought to increase its acceptance amongst different groups. One of the approaches used was the systematic operational application of the Fundamental Principles. Today, the Lebanese Red Cross is the only public service and Lebanese humanitarian actor with access throughout the country. This article seeks to address the relative absence of attention to how humanitarian organisations apply humanitarian principles in practice – and their responsibility and accountability to do so – by describing the systematic approach of the Lebanese Red Cross.

Keywords: Fundamental Principles, humanitarian principles, Lebanon, Lebanese Red Cross, perception, access, acceptance, security, safer access.

About the authors

Sorcha O’Callaghan
Head of Humanitarian Policy

Sorcha O’Callaghan is Head of Humanitarian Policy at the British Red Cross.

Leslie Leach
Head of Project

Leslie Leach is Head of Project for National Society conflict preparedness at the ICRC.