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Netherlands: Conference marks 10th anniversary of humanitarian code of conduct

28-09-2004 News Release 04/112

On 20 September an international conference was held in The Hague to mark the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief.

The event was organized by the Netherlands Red Cross and a group of NGOs based in the country. It was attended by 120 participants comprising signatories of the Code, their implementing partners, donors, think tanks and NGOs concerned with the quality of humanitarian aid.

The conference reaffirmed the Code, which sets common standards for humanitarian action. According to Thea Hilhorst, associate professor of disaster studies at Wageningen University, the Code defines " humanitarians " in such a way as to distinguish them from other actors in the humanitarian field. This is of special relevance in contemporary conflicts, where the borderline between independent humanitarian action and politically motivated aid is becoming increasingly blurred. The ICRC drew particular attention to Annex 2 of the Code, which calls on donor governments to recognize and respect the independent and impartial action of humanitarian agencies. In today's world, where a number of donor governments are parties to conflicts themselves, this provision should serve as a basis for dialogue with those who question the validity of such action.

The ICRC also underlined the fact that international humanitarian law provides a strong basis for much of what the Code stands for, such as the right to assistance for those not taking part in a conflict and the need to draw a clear distinction between military units and impartial humanitarian organizations.

The participants outlined a number of orientations for future work, while reaching a strong consensus that the Code should remain unchanged. Emphasis was placed on promoting its 10 principles and rally ing the humanitarian community behind them. The need to facilitate its implementation, for example by exchanging experiences and best practices, was also underscored. 

These orientations will be taken up jointly by the International Council of Voluntary Agencies and the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, which will prepare a commentary on the Code as a practical reference tool. The ICRC has agreed to become actively involved in this process as a member of the drafting committee.


 For further information, please contact:  

 Ian Piper, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++4122 730 2063