• Send page
  • Print page

Principles of and Response in International Humanitarian Assistance and Protection

10-09-1995 Report

Commission II: humanitarian values and response to crises, 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

Values and professional standards

 Values and professional standards  

Given the complexity of situations encountered in relief work today and the increase in the size and longevity of the assistance humanitarian programmes agencies are called upon to manage, the International Federation and the ICRC believe that humanitarian agencies need to reassert their basic values sets. For the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, neutrality, impartiality and independence are vital prerequisites for effective protection and assistance. The Movement believes that in situations where violence, political tension and economic collapse predominate, humanitarian agencies have a duty to ensure that their practice allows them to deliver assistance to those who need it most, where they need it most and when they need it most. 

For some agencies this presents a considerable challenge. Development agencies working in disasters discover that their development agenda and methodology no longer provide the guidance needed to cope with conflict. Agencies driven by a justice agenda and denouncing violations of the law discover that their policies make it difficult for them to consistently and continually deliver assistance on the basis of needs alone across a conflict area.

Humanitarian agencies also need to practise to a consistently high professional standard if they are to deliver effective protection and assistance in today's emergencies. The ICRC and the International Federation are committed to increasing the professionalism of their disaste r response, through advocacy for the newly-established global Code of Conduct for relief workers and through research, training and evaluation.

The linkages between humanitarian action and political, economic and military action

 The linkages between humanitarian action and political, economic and military action  

Dilemmas abound in today's humanitarian agenda. To feed refugees or help seek out perpetrators of human rights violations? To provide humanitarian assistance or lobby for political action? To seek a high profile in the media, or get on with the work anonymously? Dealing with these dilemmas is part and parcel of humanitarian work today.

While humanitarian action helps meet basic needs and alleviates suffering, it cannot cure the root causes of suffering. No crisis can be solved without political action. Emergency humanitarian aid alone can do no more than temporarily alleviate the acute symptoms of an endemic " disease " . The problems of Somalia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Former Yugoslavia or Rwanda cannot be solved solely with humanitarian aid.

This is not to detract from the need for effective humanitarian action. The International Federation and the ICRC remain firmly convinced that a special place must be reserved for humanitarian action, allowing the suffering victims to be reached without delay, independent of any political considerations.

Sadly, the term " humanitarian " is often used today in a sense quite rem ote from its original meaning, which is closely tied to the prevention and alleviation of suffering. Creating space for true humanitarian work does not imply isolation or political naivety, quite the opposite. Political action aimed at mobilising States and the United Nations to ensure greater respect for humanitarian norms and international humanitarian law is essential for the conduct of humanitarian activities.

In this context, it is important to make a distinction between the political responsibilities of States as well as of the United Nations and regional organisations, and the responsibilities attached to humanitarian activities conducted by neutral and impartial humanitarian agencies. There are two quite separate functions involved: one is that of the police and judiciary, stemming from the duty to see justice done, to ensure respect for the law and to punish violations; the other is that of the aid worker, whose sole concern is to protect and assist each and every victim in the name of humanity. The need to reinforce this distinction and ensure that humanitarian agencies respect the basic principles of humanitarian work as well as having access to those in need, was well highlighted at the 1993 meeting of the Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.[6 ]

The pressure exerted on governments, as displayed by present day media coverage, has created a political demand for high-profile action. Such an action can lead governments to lose sight of broader needs and to avoid or postpone necessary political or even military decisions. We must reiterate that humanitarian action is no substitute for these decisions.

 Military linkages  

Recent experience in confli ct areas has created a deeper understanding of the relationship between humanitarian, political and military intervention. While military intervention may accompany the deployment of humanitarian action, the two activities should on no account be confused. The parties to a conflict must be able to perceive the neutral and impartial character of humanitarian action if it is to be accepted. Wherever this is not the case, victims suffer all the more and humanitarian workers run a high risk of being taken as targets, particularly if the mandate of the peace-keeping military force includes, or is replaced by, peace-enforcing measures. A clear operational distinction has to be draw between military and humanitarian action.

 Political linkages  

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is advocating that greater account of humanitarian criteria be taken when political decisions are made. Likewise, humanitarian considerations should also be taken into account when economic sanctions are imposed, especially within the framework of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter as a collective measure of coercion. As an alternative to the use of military force, economic sanctions may indeed be a more adequate and, from a humanitarian viewpoint, a preferable way to enforce a decision of the Security Council than the dispatch of armed forces. Whereas economic sanctions aim legitimately to persuade the authorities of the concerned State to comply with the international legal order, they may inflict unavoidable suffering on the civilian population and particularly its most vulnerable groups.

Encouragingly, the United Nations Secretary General proposed in his Supplement to an Agenda for Peace measures to be examined in order to spare the civilian population from unintended side effects of such sanctions, in particular in order to assure humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups.


6. Council of Delegates, 1993, Birmingham UK: Resolution 11.

Movement policy issues - Principles and values

 Movement policy issues - Principles and values  

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was born out of a desire to alleviate suffering wherever and whenever it is found. In today's complex world of civil wars, mass flows of refugees, internally displaced persons and the need to programme relief for a long-term impact, adherence to, and the practising of, a consistent and adequate set of values is essential for agencies to both provide assistance today and ensure that they can continue to do so in the future. The Movement's value set, expressed in its fundamental principles, including the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, must be practised and be seen to be practised in all its work.

Today, many victims are fleeing from violence, whether actual violence directed against them or the fear of violence, and this means that fear, suspicion and intimidation are now common place. In such situations demonstrating neutrality and impartiality of action are of paramount importance.

In practical terms, the starting point for such an approach lies in needs-driven assistance. Assistance must be directed and quantified on the basis of needs alone and priority has to be given to the most urgent cases of distress. All the components of the Movement must clearly demonstrate that they gi ve assistance solely in order to alleviate suffering and without regard to nationality, race, creed or political opinion, all criteria that may drive and divide peoples.

Refugees and Internally displaced persons

 Refugees and Internally displaced persons  

Ever since it was founded in the 1860s, the Movement has been concerned about population displacements. The 24th International Conference which met in Manila in 1984 adopted a statement of policy that strongly encouraged the different components of the Movement to help refugees and internally displaced persons. The 25th Conference (Geneva, 1986) reaffirmed the Movement's policy, and so did the Council of Delegates in 1991 and 1993.

Humanitarian action on behalf of refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees is thus a permanent concern of the ICRC, the International Federation and its 163 recognised National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

With regard to refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of course plays a very prominent role and the International Federation regularly co-operates with the UNHCR to implement assistance programmes to refugees. The ICRC may act to protect and assist refugees, in a subsidiary capacity, if the refugees are protected by international humanitarian law or if they are exposed to severe security problems, in particular attacks on refugee camps, where the presence of a specifically neutral and independent intermediary is required and the refugees do not benefit from any othe r help .

Some 98 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world are currently involved in humanitarian work and advocacy for refugees, asylum-seekers, displaced persons and returnees. In 1994 the International Federation assisted some 6.6 million refugees and internally displaced persons. With its National Societies'presence in the field , often acting as the last link in the aid-delivery chain, and its national presence in donor countries as well as internationally, the International Federation provides one of the few comprehensive structures that directly link beneficiaries with donors, allowing for efficient reporting and thoughtful advocacy.

As massive displacement of populations are taking place during and because of conflict, the ICRC is heavily involved in working for displaced persons. According to its mandate, most of the ICRC's work for displaced persons is carried out during armed conflict. Its specific nature and virtually permanent contacts with all parties to conflicts generally enable it to obtain access to the victims it is mandated to protect and assist. It co-operates as much as possible with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

In Rwanda, the ICRC has cared for more than one million civilians, most of them displaced persons. In Chechnya and Bosnia-Herzegovina, it has assisted hundreds of thousands of people, many of them displaced. In all cases, as in general, its activities were not confined to these groups of people but formed part of a whole range of tasks on behalf of the civilian population involving prison visits, material relief, medical assistance and family reunification.[7 ]  

 Long term assistance  

Of increasing concern to the Movement is the duration of many assistance programmes to displaced persons and refugees. In Malawi, the Malawi Red Cross delivered food to the entire refugee population from Mozambique - eventually one million people - from the mid-1980s until their return in 1993/94. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, all components of the Movement have been involved in a continuous assistance programme since 1984. In the countries surrounding Rwanda, the International Federation is assisting some one million people at a cost of around one million US dollars per week. There is little prospect of a return to a normal situation in the near future.

Operational modes to tackle such long-lasting and large operations have to be altered. Considerable human and financial resources are now tied into servicing assistance programmes which, almost by definition, remain relief and welfare operations with little prospect of evolving into developmental programmes. For major long-term refugee and internally displaced person assistance programmes a more enlightened form of humanitarian funding is needed which recognises the long-term nature of these assistance programmes and provides funding for relief and welfare activities on an appropriate time basis.

 Protection by international humanitarian law  

The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are of particular relevance for the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons, as war is the most important cause of population displacements today.

First, these treaties protect the civilian population against the effects of hostilities. Whether in international or internal armed conflict, civilians should always be treated humanely. They shall not, in particular, be the object of attacks, and precautions shall be taken to spare them as much as possible.

Second, if involuntary population displacements take place, refugees and internally displaced persons will all the more be protected by humanit arian law. Refugees shall be protected if, in an international armed conflict, they find themselves in the power of the adverse Party. They shall benefit from a special protection according to the Fourth Geneva Convention. With regard to internally displaced persons, they shall, in internal armed conflicts, be covered by Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and Protocol II of 1977. The latter prohibits, inter alia , forced displacement of civilians.

As promoter and custodian of international humanitarian law, the ICRC has a primary responsibility towards the implementation of humanitarian law. This concern is shared by the International Federation and National Societies, which will assist the ICRC in its task.

 Co-operation with the United Nations  

All the components of the Movement have continued to co-operate with the United Nations system, in particular UNHCR.

In assistance programmes where the government has asked UNHCR to become the lead agency, the National Society, together with the International Federation, may conclude an operational agreement with UNHCR and act as a co-operating partner with the UNHCR within the limits indicated below. In cases where the International Federation and National Societies provided essential services from their own resources, an understanding will be reached informally with UNHCR about respective roles through proper co-ordination.

 Limits to international co-operation  

Whilst the different components of the Movement have increased their co-operation with other humanitarian actors, in particular UNHCR, in order to utilise limited resources in the most efficient way, they believe that in an increasingly politicised world, where it becomes more and more difficult to draw a clear line between humanitarian action and political or military considerations, its Fundamental Principles are gaining a new dimension. They are convinced that strict adherence to these principles is in the best interest of the very persons whom the International Federation and the ICRC have the mandate to help. Practice has shown that only truly neutral and independent humanitarian action allows access to all the victims.

In order for the Movement to apply its Fundamental Principles in a coherent way and to adopt a common approach, it is imperative that National Societies discuss their plans with the International Federation and/or the ICRC to conclude co-operation agreements with United Nations agencies or other international bodies. Likewise, the ICRC and the International Federation will develop their consultations with regard to such agreements.

Whilst such co-operation agreements are generally welcomed, they can become problematic when they involve a National Society of a country where there is armed conflict or internal disturbances. These situations are covered by the mandate of the ICRC, and National Societies should therefore give priority to their co-operation with the ICRC with respect to assistance and protection activities and the International Federation in terms of structural support to the National Society. This may mean withdrawing from agreements made with other agencies in non-conflictual times, but in the long run this is in the best interest of those the Movement seeks to assist. By strictly respecting its Fundamental Principles of action, the Movement, with its unique world-wide network, will be able to preserve its cohesion and unity and live up to the expectations of those in need.


 It is proposed that the Conference calls upon the components of the Movement to continue to co-operate and co-ordinate with the UNHCR, bearing in mind the need to respect the Fundamental Principles. Governments will be invited to respect the independence of the different components of the Movement and their right to seek to provide assistance, where it is needed, on the basis of need alone.  


7. The rules of functioning within the Movement aim at maximum efficiency of its components. Its statutes as well as the Agreement of 1989 between the ICRC and the International Federation are based on its components'specificities. In times of peace and following a conflict, the International Federation co-ordinates the relief work of National Societies. In situations of armed conflict and wherever the presence of a neutral and independent institution and intermediary is necessary, the ICRC assumes the general direction of the Movement's activities. An ongoing dialogue between the ICRC and the International Federation makes sure that the resources of all the components of the Movement are being used in a spirit of complementarity.

The use of armed escorts

 The use of armed escorts  

 Increasing risks for survivors and aid workers  

 More violence  

Of equal concern is the rapid rise in other forms of violence. Armed robbery and other criminal violence combined with a growing world-wide contempt for basic human and traditional values is in many cases jeopardising the use of any item having commercial value, even those intended solely for humanitarian purposes and relief. Much of this violence is unorganised and opportunistic in nature, reflecting the easy availability of small arms in many parts of the world and the increased levels of social unrest and poverty in many countries. Coupled with this is a worrying increase in the incidence of organised criminal violence, with a predilection for extortion and illegal activities of all sorts.

In carrying out their duty to provide assistance and protection to those most vulnerable, whether it be in times of conflict, natural disaster or chronic need, the different components of the Movement have increasingly become targets of violence and face growing difficulties in commanding respect for the emblem.


 The issue of Principle  

It is the experience of the Movement that providing the necessary security and protection from violence stems mainly from a behaviour which strictly sticks to the Fundamental Principles, from the foreseeable character of that behaviour, and from the credibility and reputation of the Movement and of the component concerned.

Security, the ability to deliver humanitarian assistance and to carry out humanitarian activities in situations of violence has far more to do with ethical and professional standards and behaviour and material measures and thus is not solely a function of armed escorts and flak-jackets. At the heart of the problem is the practice of neutrality. Understanding and applying neutrality is at the foundation of sound security. The experience of the ICRC and the International Federation demonstrates that if one acts in a neutral fashion and is perceived as being neutral by those involved in the violence and those fighting, one has a far better chance of carrying through a humanitarian mission.

Closely linked to neutrality is independence. Today there is a proliferation of humanitarian actors, be they NGOs, intergovernmental organisations or governmental bodies. The mandates of the traditional humanitarian institutions are questioned. New strategies and broad mandates are developed with a trend towards an integrated approach which includes political, military and humanitarian aspects. There is pressure on humanitarian agencies to act as implementing agents of donor policy and to concentrate on activities which are rewarded by a high media profile. If the Movement fails to maintain its independence, it risks being held responsible for the acts of others and for the results of their politics and strategies.

 The issue of Behaviour  

In addition to the respect of the Fundamental Principles, the way humanitarian workers behave plays an essential part in security. Several key elements have to be stressed:

First, open and continuous dialogue with all concerned, including the beneficiaries of the aid and the local population. When humanitarian actors devote the necessary time to painstakingly explain what their mandate is, what they are doing, how they behave and what the persons affected and the beneficiaries will get, problems of confrontation and misunderstanding decline.

Second, understanding of and respect for, the culture, the traditions and the specificity of the different people and population. One way to achieve this is to involve local people and organisations in the operations when feasible.

Third, the practice of high professional standards. The humanitarian action has to be conducted only according to the identified needs and must not be conducted or changed because of fund-raising or any other reasons not directly linked to the needs or unexpected changes of the security situation.

 The issue of the Emblem  

Another important element in security is the protective value of the emblem. This depends on efforts made by the States to protect the use of the emblem, on respect for the Fundamental Principles and on the conduct of the Movement's components and their staff. The emblem has for years been the symbol of humanitarian activities carried out in a neutral, impartial and independent manner. Sates have exclusively reserved (in the Geneva Conventions) the emblem for identification of medical services in armed conflict and of impartial humanitarian relief by the Movement.

The protective effect of the emblem comes from the respect the emblem inspires. and this respect derives from the actions of the Movement's components and large scale information campaigns and dissemination carried out by States and by the Movement. The presence of weapons, even only for self-protection, would undermine confidence in the values represented by the emblem and could instil the idea that the Movement harbours hostile and perfidious intentions.

In extreme situations, when the safety of the Movement's staff is endangered and the protective value of the emblem is no longer respected, the question of armed protection may arise. The dangers and possible long-term negative consequences of such a step make it necessary to establish principles and guidelines and circulate them widely within the Movement.

The Movement is consequentially preparing Guidelines on the use of armed protection. These will be considered by the Council of Delegates at its meeting in December 1995 and will subsequently be communicate to the States concerned.


Technological disasters

 Technological disasters  

In recent years the World has seen an increase in the number of technological accidents and disasters, accompanied by deaths, material losses and dangerous environmental pollution.

Developed countries are faced with outdated nuclear and chemical installations and in industrial states with rapidly changing social and political systems there is often little chance of these installations being renovated or rebuilt.

Rapid industrial growth in developing countries combined with (often imported) new technology, lack of legislation, inadequate supervision of safety procedures by public authorities and the lack or insufficient training of workers all lead to an increasing risk of technological disasters.

In almost all countries of the world many people live in proximity to chemical or nuclear installations, often forced to do so due to poverty or in ignorance of the possible dangers. Moreover, millions live near rivers, railways and roads along which chemical or nuclear materials are transported.

Just as today war and population movement represent the greatest causes of suffering, in the future technological accidents may become far more common and thus may represent a new challenge for the National Societies and the Inter national Federation.

 The International Conference will be asked to take note of the guidelines on National Society's involvement in technological disasters which are presented here as Annex I.  


The principles and rules for disaster relief

 The principles and rules for disaster relief  

The Principles and Rules for Red Cross and Red Crescent Disaster Relief is the key policy document guiding the co-ordination of disaster response within the International Federation. It governs the unique mechanism whereby societies in disaster affected countries are able to appeal to the Secretariat of their International Federation in Geneva, and be assured of a co-ordinated response . The Principles and Rules also set out procedures for the use of funds in assistance programmes, for reporting and for auditing.

The Principles and Rules for Red Cross and Red Crescent Disaster Relief were first drawn up by the XXIst International Conference of the Red Cross, Istanbul (1969), and were subsequently updated at the International Conferences in Tehran (1973), Bucharest (1977), Manila (1981) and Geneva (1986).

The revised Principles and Rules presented here in annex II seek to reorganise the text to follow a logical sequence from preparedness through relief to reporting. The text has been updated to take into account the change of name from " the League " to " the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies " , and to reflect the International Federation's growing concern for disaster preparedness and rehabil itation issues. The text has also been revised in consultation with the ICRC to clarify issues over accountability and auditing for operations where ICRC is also involved.

The vast majority of the changes made to the 1986 text have been formally accepted by the International Federation's General Assembly in Birmingham (1993). In the interim period a number of further smaller revisions to sections 1, 2, and 24 have been made and will be presented to the 1995 General Assembly of the International Federation for forwarding to the International Conference.

 The text attached as Annex II contains all the proposed revisions. The International Conference will be urged to adopt this revised text.  


The development dimensions of relief

 The development dimensions of relief  

 Why developmental relief?  

Many of today's relief programmes respond to complex and man-made disasters, ending up in long-term welfare support, particularly for refugees and other displaced people, though recently a number of these long-term " holding " operations have come to an end (i.e. refugees returning to Mozambique and Cambodia). 

Most other relief operations today are for people hit by repetitive disasters (annual floods and cyclones), major droughts (once or twice a generation), earthquakes, and in some heavily industrialised areas, technological disasters. For all these people relief must build for a future where the threat of disaster still exists. In this context relief programmes can and should pave the way for disaster preparedness work at the community, national and international level.

 Planning for good relief  

The ways in which agencies approach the planning and execution of relief operations and development are often divergent. Relief programmes often pay lip-service only to beneficiary participation in planning and implementation. Good development programmes try to build upon local community aspirations and involve them in planning and implementation. Ways have to be found to bring the two approaches closer together.

Often external relief organisations and funding bodies set up parallel structures to already existing local ones. Once established, these new structures are hard to change. Where local organisations are used, external agencies rarely find time to study their structures, motivation, management and governance. Local organisations are often asked to manage resources on a far greater scale than they are used to. This can lead to real problems where no parallel management assistance is provided. Local organisations often find themselves holding the spotlight in the national and international media. If handled incorrectly this can cast a slur on the image of the local organisation with the government and community.

To counter all such trends, the International Federation has developed guidelines on how to take a more developmental approach to relief. These guidelines are attached as Annex III.

 The International Conference will be asked to take note of these guidelines and governments will be urged to revise their support and funding strategies to allow for this more complete approach to relief to be implemented.  

The Code of conduct

 The Code of conduct  

 Genesis of the Code  

The Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief was developed and agreed upon by eight of the world's largest disaster-response agencies in the summer of 1994, i.e. Caritas Internationalis, Catholic Relief Services, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Save the Children Alliance, Lutheran World Federation, Oxfam, World Council of Churches (members of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response) and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Code represents a significant initiative in setting standards for disaster response and is being used by the International Federation, the ICRC and the other founding agencies to monitor their own standards of relief delivery and to encourage other agencies to set similar standards.

The Code, which was adopted by the Council of Delegates at its meeting in 1993, is presented here as annex IV to this report.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, there has been a steady growth in the number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), both national and international, involved in disaster relief. In the autumn of 1994 there were over 120 NGOs registered in Kigali, the war-ravaged capital of Rwanda.

Many of these agencies, including National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the church agencies, Oxfam, the Save the Children Fund or CARE, have a history going back many decades and have gained a reputation for effective work. Others, more recently formed, such as Médecins sans Frontières, have rapidly evolved to become respected operators. Along with these large and well-known agencies, there is today a multitude of small, newly-formed groups, often coming into existence to assist in one specific disaster or in a specialised field of work.

 The need for standards  

For all these agencies, from the old to the new, from multimillion dollar outfits to one-man organisations, there is no accepted body of professional standards to guide their work. It is still assumed in many countries that disaster relief is essentially " charitable " work and therefore anything done in the name of helping disaster victims is acceptable.

Agencies, whether experienced or newly-created, can make mistakes, be misguided and sometimes deliberately misuse the trust that is put in them. Disaster relief is no longer limited to individual gestures. The International Federation alone assisted some 19.4 million disaster victims in 1994 and the ICRC's overall expenditure reached three quarters of a billion of Swiss Francs.

The immediacy of disaster relief can often lead NGOs to unwittingly put pressure on themselves, which leads to short-sighted and inappropriate work: programmes which rely on foreign imports or expertise, projects which pay little attention to local custom and culture and activities which accept the easy and high media-profile tasks of relief but leave for others the less appealing and more difficult ones of disaster preparedness and long-term rehabilitation.

All NGOs, big and small, are susceptible to these internal and external pressures. As they are required to do more and as the incidence of complex disasters involving natu ral, economic and often military factors increases, the need for some sort of basic professional code becomes more and more imperative.

It is for all these reasons that six of the world's oldest and largest networks of NGOs came together in 1994 under the auspices of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to draw up a professional Code of Conduct to set for the first time universal basic standards to govern the way they should work in disaster assistance.

 Monitoring of the Code  

The Code of Conduct, like most professional codes, is a voluntary one. It is applicable to any international or national voluntary humanitarian organisation.

It lays down ten points of principle which all NGOs should adhere to in their disaster-response work and describes the relationships that agencies working in disasters should seek with donor governments, host governments and the UN system.

The Code is self-policing; one NGO is not going to force another to act in a certain way and there is as yet no international association for disaster-response NGOs which possesses any authority to sanction its members.

It is hoped that NGOs around the world will find the Code useful and want to commit themselves publicly to abide by it. Governments and donor bodies may want to use the Code as a yardstick to judge the conduct of those agencies with which they work. And disaster-affected communities have a right to expect that those who seek to assist them measure up to these standards.

The International Federation has undertaken to keep a register of all agencies who commit themselves to abiding by the principles of the Code, by signing the registration form provided with the Code. Lists of registered agencies are available upon request.

To date (summer 1 995), with the eight founding agencies, some 46 NGO's have registered their support for the Code, undertaking to abide by its principles.

 The Code and governments  

The Code also sets out recommendations for governments and intergovernmental organisations to help facilitate the effective participation and co-ordination of Movement components and NGOs in disaster response.

Above all the Code reminds governments that the Movement and humanitarian NGOs act from humanitarian motives and need the support of governments in respecting their independence and impartiality. This respect can be turned into action by assistance from governments to ensure that the Movement and NGOs have rapid and impartial access to disaster victims, by facilitating the flow of relief goods to disaster victims through waiving commercial import restrictions and by inviting the Movement and NGOs to join relief co-ordinating mechanisms.

 The International Conference will be asked to take note of the Code. Governments will be encouraged to promote the Code in their dealings with the Movement and NGOs and to take steps to ensure that the necessary working environment for effective humanitarian assistance is established.  

Support for humanitarian principles

 Support for humanitarian principles  

As previous sections of this paper have shown, the Movement is committed to maintaining and improving its own standards of efficacy and effectiveness in humanitarian response. It is also co-operating with other agencies to promote a basic set of humanitarian values and principles through the Code of Conduct.

 Values, action and independence  

However, if the International Federation and the ICRC are to continue to provide their present unique and global service to the victims of war, disaster and poverty, then the assistance of governments is needed to foster a conducive working environment both for the international and the national work of the components of the Movement. As the working paper for item III of Commission II demonstrates, the National Societies provide an invaluable service to countries and their governments, as providers of welfare services to the most vulnerable, as key actors in disaster response, in the dissemination of international humanitarian law and as advocates for universal humanitarian values.

The International Federation and the ICRC seek to maintain high standards of neutrality, impartiality and independence. These qualities do not com e automatically to humanitarian action, they have to be worked at both by the responsible component of the Movement and those who shape the environment within which it works. 

The Movement therefore seeks the commitment of governments to recognise the need for humanitarian action, undertaken by any component of the Movement, to be carried out according to the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. Governments need to be aware that their political actions and the use of their armed forces and other state bodies in humanitarian response, can compromise ICRC's and the International Federation's position unless great care is taken to ensure that political, economic and other objectives and actions are clearly separated at the operational level from the Movement's humanitarian activities.

 Governments at the International Conference will be called upon to reaffirm their support for the principles and practice of neutrality, impartiality and independence in the work of all components of the Movement.           

Crisis prevention diplomacy and action

 Crisis prevention diplomacy and action  

In maintaining the need for such independence of action, the Movement recognises that its actions to alleviate suffering in times of crisis address essentially the effects, not the causes of such crises. In today's complex situations, the imperative to provide relief to those who are suffering, on the basis of need alone, requires the Movement to proceed in this manner. However, to do so without also raising the issue of long-term solutions would be irresponsible.

The causes of many of today's crises are to be found in the economic, political and social processes governing a country. Addressing these causes and altering these processes is the role of governments, either nationally or - where appropriate - internationally. Humanitarian action is a necessary but insufficient response to the suffering and needs being tackled by the International Conference. The Movement urges governments to recognise the necessity for independent humanitarian action whilst also reinforcing their efforts to treat the causes of today's conflicts and disasters, and particularly to increase their efforts in the fields of conflict prevention and resolution through peaceful means, the alleviation of poverty and the mitigation of disaster hazards.

 Governments will be urged at the International Conference to redouble their efforts for the resolution of national and international conflicts as a necessary parallel activity to humanitarian assistance.  

The humanitarian consequences of economic sanctions

 The humanitarian consequences of economic sanctions  

When diplomacy fails and war is too drastic or unpalatable a domestic option, governments increasingly use economic sanctions to coerce other States. But sanctions may be indiscriminate, and have a disproportionate effect on the lives of ordinary people. 

 The problem  

For the UN Security Council, imposing sanctions exposes a potentially fundamental contradiction in implementing two of its core principles: promoting peace and promoting human rights. Sanctions are intended to deal with the former, but risk undermining the latter during the course of their implementation.

Equally, the principle of proportionality suggests that harm inflicted by sanctions to achieve change should not be out of proportion to the expected good.

Although many States, including the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Iraq and Haiti, had already suffered military or

economic disruption before sanctions were imposed, a recent study undertaken by the International Federation shows that sanctions appear to hit the most vulnerable and destroy their livelihoods and even their lives thus adding further suffering on top of that inflicted by war.

Since sanctions as instruments of international will are unlikely to be abandoned, the issue of whether such sanctions should be allowed free rein or, like warfare, operate within prescribed limits becomes critically important.

President Woodrow Wilson called sanctions a " peaceful, silent and deadly remedy " that no nation could resist. By that logic, sanctions are like unarmed warfare. As in International Humanitarian Law, the end does not justify any means in warfare, so also, in the view of the Movement the end does not justify any means when sanctions are imposed.

For 130 years the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has maintained its neutrality and impartiality to champion the cause of innocent people caught up in conflicts and other disasters. This concern has resulted in the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols which seek to limit the effects of warfare and protect civilians, injured combatants and prisoners of war.

Any sanction regime established in the context of armed conflict is governed by international humanitarian law which requires that the survival and essential needs of the civilian population be ensured. The provision of basic food and medical care must be assured. According to its functions under the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC acts as a neutral intermediary between the parties to an armed conflict and tries to assure, often in co-operation with the concerned National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies, this vital minimum.

Similarly, the different components of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement act in case of sanctions, where there is no immediate need to protect the civilian population from hostile acts in the absence of an armed conflict. Here, the vital minimum to be guaranteed during economic sanctions is certainly higher than the subsistence level that must be assured d uring active hostilities.

 A possible way forward  

Three steps can be taken to resolve this fundamental conflict at the heart of the UN and maintain proportionality.

First, ensuring that the UN Security Council gives due regard to the humanitarian impact when imposing and reviewing sanctions, and to this effect charge a UN agency or department to assess the impact of sanctions upon the most vulnerable before they are applied and while in force.

Second, designing sanctions procedures to allow the delivery of necessary humanitarian supplies, such as food and medicines, and ensure access to aid by those in need.

Third, streamlining sanctions procedures to allow humanitarian assistance by designated organisations, such as UN humanitarian agencies and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations.

These actions require no new international law do not go beyond that already practised in armed conflict, while they need not take away any of the political or economic impact of sanctions upon those in power.

Yet these vital changes would save lives and alleviate the suffering caused by sanctions today.

The Movement urges governments to consider ways of implementing these suggestions.

Whilst the Movement looks to governments to reform the manner in which economic sanctions are imposed so as to reduce their undesirable side effects, it is also conscious of its responsibility to address suffering when and where it is found, regardless of its cause. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are active, supported by the International Federation and the ICRC in sanction-affected countries, providing basic life-supporting assistance meant for those whose lives and well-being are most at risk.

The Movement will continue to strive to provide such needed assistance and reaffirms its right to do so solely on the basis of need. In exercising this right, the Movement looks to governments to respect the independence, neutrality and impartiality of the National Society operating on their territory and of any international assistance that Society may receive through the International Federation, or partake in alongside the ICRC.

Support for the Movement

 Support for the Movement  

For over 130 years the Movement has lent neutral, impartial and independent assistance to the victims of war and disaster. Throughout that time it has built up a unique reputation and position within the international community, a reputation and position which are especially relevant in today's world of internal strife and increasing violence. The Movement exists, and is able to render assistance by virtue of the trust put in it and the support it gets from governments and the public. This support will be needed as much in the future as it has ever been.

The role of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in response to technological disasters

 The role of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in response to technological disasters  

 Annex I  

 International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva  

Geneva, 3-7 December 1995

  1. Executive summary  
  2. Why should the Federation be concerned with technological disasters?  
  3. Some considerations about technological disasters  
  4. Potential risks of technological disasters  
   4.1 Health risks of chemical disasters
   4.2 Health risks of nuclear disasters
   4.3 Psychological and social effects
  5. Relief actions in technological disasters  
  6. Possible roles of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies  
   6.1 General
   6.2 Prevention
   6.3 Relief and rehabilitation
   6.4 Federation's Secretariat
  7. Acknowledgement  
  Annexes :Resolution "Disaster relief in case of technical and other disasters" (Resolution XXI)  


 The objective of this document is to describe the effects of technological disasters, notably chemical and nuclear disasters, and the appropriate roles of, and actions by, National Societies  

 The policy-making bodies of the National Societies are the main target group.  

 Like any global document, it deals with generalities. Its conclusions need to be judged against the situation of each National Society.  


 1. Executive Summary  

In recent years the world has seen an increase in the number of technological accidents and disasters, accompanied by deaths, material losses and dangerous environmental pollution. Several conditions may lead to a further increase in the vulnerability of populations to technological disasters.

 Technological disasters are defined here as resulting from the release of chemical or nuclear material or  ionizing  radiation into the environment (disasters as a result of the use of chemical or nuclear weapons are not considered in this document) .

Although every disaster - be it natural, technological or conflict - is unique in itself, technological disasters may create an extra dimension. In almost every country in the world chemical and/or nuclear material is used, yet the probability of technological disasters occurring is very dependent on human factors.

Unlike many naturally triggered disasters, the occurrence of technological disasters cannot be predicted. This type of disaster may happen everywhere and at any time. Minor technological incidents can turn suddenly into major accidents and disasters. All of a sudden, communities - even in countries far away from the actual site of the disaster - may become involved as victim of this disaster. The Bhopal chemical disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster are striking examples.

At several international meetings (e.g. the International Conference of the Red Cross in 1986 and the Regional Conference of European National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 1992) participation of National Societies in relief activities for the victims of technological disasters was recommended.

But, what should be the role of the Federation (National Societies, the Secretariat and the delegations) in another " Bhopal " or " Chernobyl " ? What can National Societies do and what can they not do? For instance, are National Societies able to work in contaminated areas? Do National Societies have to limit themselves to their traditional roles or are they able to take up new roles? How should National Societies prepare themselves for techno logical disasters and what kind of support can be given by the Secretariat?

The document gives information about the different aspects of technological disasters, their potential risks on the health of the affected population, aspects of relief operations and the possible roles of the National Societies and the Federation s Secretariat. In the annexes some background information about technological disasters is given.

 It is recommended that National Societies should only work in sectors where they have, or can build, competence, and where they can provide auxiliary support and additionality to the disaster response system.  


 2. Why should the Federation be concerned with technological disasters?  

In 1986 the Twenty-fifth International Conference of the Red Cross adopted the resolution " Disaster relief in case of technical and other disasters " (Resolution XXI). In this resolution the participants of the Conference recommended that " the League and the Henry Dunant Institute undertake a study concerning the possibilities and the necessities of improved assistance from the Movement in case of technical and other disasters " . After the 1989 General Assembly a " Study on the role of the National Societies in the event of technological disaster " was started. This present document is a direct result of the Study.

In recent years the world has seen an increase in the number of technological accidents and disasters, accompanied by deaths, material losses and dangerous environmental pollution. At any time technological incidents c an turn suddenly into major accidents and disasters. Damaging situations of this kind can also occur below the threshold of disaster, which require immediate and preventive action on the part of all agencies called upon to help. Immediate action may prevent a (major) accident from becoming a real disaster.

The effects of major accidents and disasters may - independently of where they occur in one State - spread to the territory of other States. These kind of accidents and disasters require special and additional measures of prevention, assistance and mutual information and support, which must be planned and carried out both by States and by (inter-)national organizations.

Rapid industrial growth in developing countries combined with (often imported) new technology, lack of legislation, inadequate supervision of safety procedures by public authorities and the lack of or insufficient training of local workers are some conditions for an increasing risk for technological disasters.

Developed countries are faced with outdated nuclear and chemical installations and in industrial States with rapidly changing social and political systems there is often little chance of these installations being renovated or rebuilt.

In almost all countries of the world many people live in close proximity to chemical or nuclear installations, often forced to do so due to poverty or ignorance of the danger. Moreover, millions live near rivers, railways and roads, along which chemical or nuclear materials are transported.

Nuclear and chemical disasters are " cross-border " disasters. People living in neighbouring countries (and sometimes even in countries which are much further away) may become victims of technological disasters. Any of these conditions may lead to an increasing vulnerability of the population to technological disasters.

Based on the Fundamental Pri nciples, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies endeavours, in its international and national capacity, to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found.

From the humanitarian perspective, the cause of any disaster - be it technological, natural or conflict - is of secondary importance. What is important is that Red Cross/Red Crescent actions, as described in the Strategic Work Plan for the Nineties, should seek to assist the most vulnerable and reduce their future vulnerability. Furthermore, like any professional organization, the Federation should work in sectors where it has, or can build, competence, and where it can provide auxiliary support and additionality to the disaster-response system.

 The objective of this document is to describe the potential risks of technological disasters, notably chemical and nuclear disasters, and the appropriate roles of, and actions by, National Societies .

Like any global document, it deals with generalities. Its conclusions need to be judged against the situation of each National Society.

The document is a tool to help National Societies:

* to understand the diversity and nature of technological disasters,

* to decide whether involvement in technological disaster response is a priority for them, and

* (if it is a priority) to decide upon the role they may play in technological disaster response.

Comments on the documents and suggestions to improve the support by the Federation s Secretariat and Delegations in technological disasters are welcomed and should be addressed to the Federation's Secretariat in Geneva.


 3. Some considerations about technological disasters  

 Technological disasters are defined here as resulting from the release of chemical or nuclear material or ionizing radiation into the environment.  

The probability of technological disasters occurring is very dependent on human factors. The nature of technological disasters means that the technology and procedures to deal with them are often improvised on an ad-hoc basis for each disaster that occurs. Responses to technological disasters in impoverished countries remain severely limited due to lack of resources, and the failure of those who impart technology to the developing world. This places them outside the scope of most countries disaster preparedness plans.

Technological disasters may have both a short- and a long-term impact on people and the environment. The short-term impact on people happens immediately or within a few days after a disaster, for example injuries (wounds and burns), poisoning, and radiation disease.

Often people have questions about the long-term impact of the incident with regard to their future health or well-being. These questions have to do with the possibility of mutagenic or carcinogenic effects and possible genetic defects in their offspring. It must be clear how future exposure to contaminating agents will be stopped or limited to safe levels.

Radio-active particles, gases and aerosols are carried by air. Often, this material is spread over a large area. After the Chernobyl disaster radio-active material was found as far afield as northern Canada. Such aerial pollution is impossible to contain once the hazardous substance has been released, though dilution of the pollutants will depend upon the prevailing meteorological situation (e.g. in a coastal area with strong winds gases will be diluted in a quicker way than in areas without wind). The hazardous material may affect people mostly not with direct effects but with questions and fear.

Radioactive particles and liquid or solid chemical substances may come into the water and be carried by it or dissolved by it. Toxic effects on people are possible when contaminated water is ingested.

Also hazardous material can be stored in soil. Usually the exposure will not be in a range where immediate health effects can be expected. However - especially with contaminated food products - preventive levels can be exceeded.

Short- and/or long-term contamination of organisms living in the water is possible. The hazardous material will enter the food-chain. For instance, fish living in contaminated rivers will ingest or absorb the toxic material. The toxic material may cumulate in the fish; eating contaminated fish may result in an increased body burden. A well-known example is the accumulation of mercury in fish. Persistence and accumulation of pollutants in ground water is also possible. The effects on people may not be caused by the same substance as the short- and long-term effects on the environment. The disaster in Schweizerhalle (Switzerland) for example had some minor short-term effects on people from the gases released at the explosion, but the effects on the environment were caused by the chemicals released into the river.

Some disasters have short- and long-term effects on the environment but do not affect people directly.


 4. Risks of technological disasters  

 4.1 Health risks of chemical disasters  

The risk of acute exposure to chemical agents is not limited to people living in the vicinity of chemical installations or storage facilities. During the transport of chemical substances by road, rail or water accidents may happen, whereby people can face a direct threat. Moreover, during the disaster relief operation relief workers can be affected when no proper protective measures have been taken.

Exposure to chemical agents can be jeopardized by the release of combinations of chemical agents or the release of pyrolytic or combustion products due to heating. In such situations, victims with different or combined injuries can be found. For instance, in case of fires, people with burns will be found, explosions will result in mechanical traumas, and poisonous gases can result in respiratory problems.

Various situations may lead to the release of chemical agents:

* manufacturing, processing or storage accidents;

* transport accidents;

* accidents during use of chemicals (e.g. by ignorance of used substances, handling error, inadequate mixture or storage);

* natural catastrophes and armed conflicts leading to damage or destruction of chemical installations.

 4.2 Health risks of nuclear disasters  

The risk of acute exposure to nuclear radiation is also not limited to people living in the vicinity of nuclear installations or storage facilities. People living along roads, railways or rivers and relief workers can be affected.

Contrary to mechanical and chemical injuries, acute life threatening situations will occur very rare ly after exposure to ionizing radiation, although in combination with other injuries (e.g. due to an explosion) obviously acute life-threatening situations may occur. Treatment of vital injuries has a higher priority than evaluation of possible radiation injuries.

Only in case of an explosion and/or big fire in a nuclear reactor, one may expect a large group of people with an acute radiation disease.

Various situations may lead to the release of radioactive material:

* accidents with nuclear installations like nuclear reactors;

* accidents with radioactive sources (e.g. during transport). These sources can be divided into open sources and closed sources. From an open source radioactive material can leak; over-radiation may occur by closed sources.

People can be exposed to:

* external irradiation (whole body or parts of body);

* external contamination (radioactive particles on the skin or clothes);

* internal contamination (by inhalation, ingestion, or injection through wounds).

 4.3 Psychological and social effects  

The psychological effects of a disaster are normal reactions to an abnormal event. This is very important to know for people struck by a disaster. The various symptoms of the psychological effects can be very different from one person to another.

The maximum of the psychosocial disruption will emerge from disasters characterized by:

* suddenness;

* high uncertainty;

* prolonged duration;

* broad scope of physical destruction, death and injury;

* occurrence at night;

* massive exposure of survivors to dead and badly injured individuals.

If the affected people do not get help and support in their suffering, the psychological problems may increase and lead to serious psychological and physical diseases which have consequences for the social life and welfare of the family and community.

Long-term psychological effects may have a serious impact on a community. People unable to work as a consequence of their psychological illness may find it hard to feed their families and earn their living. Others may face a destroyed life and an uncertain future and may have difficulty in finding the will to go on.

To reduce suffering and aid recovery it is vital that relief agencies are able to identify those who are affected and contribute to their psychosocial recovery.

An appropriate and timely psychological support may help to avoid some of these psychological effects. It is important to provide informed humanitarian support based on a knowledge of common human needs rather than relying solely upon complex mental health interventions by specialists.


 5. Relief actions in technological disasters  



A toxic gas-release has a great and most sudden impact on many people. Therefore the emergency response to these chemical accidents must be very fast. (Liquid or solid chemical material spread by water or soil allow more response time and usually do not have a major impact on people. More often they c ause long-term effects on the environment.) In addition to the toxic effects, victims may have injuries caused by fire or explosion.

Chemical and radioactive material can be spread over large areas. However, the problem with chemical agents is that it is quite difficult to detect them.


 Contaminated zone  

Experts must evaluate the situation and analyse the nature and concentration of the hazardous material involved as quickly as possible and make recommendations on protective measures for the relief workers and the affected population (e.g. evacuation of the population). Based on the level of radiation the experts decide how long relief workers may stay in the contaminated area. Protective measures for relief workers include protective gloves and/or clothes and gasmasks.

In addition to the presence of chemical material, risks of explosion and lack of oxygen may exist.

 Decontamination zone  

Before people from the contaminated zone are allowed to enter the safe zone, they have to be decontaminated in order to prevent the spread of chemical material. Decontamination can be done by removing contaminated clothes, and by cleansing with water and soap. (Major problems in a decontamination procedure are the availability of and the access to water; in the " cold areas " decontamination may even lead to hypothermia).


 6. Possible role of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies  

 6.1 General  

Primary responsibility for the prevention of disasters, assistance to victims and reconstruction must remain the domain of public authorities, even in the most underdeveloped countries. While most industrialized countries have an extensive civil defence infrastructure, countries in the developing world frequently lack the capability from both expertise and resource standpoint to fulfil this crucial role.

The role of an operating National Society has to be seen in the light of its national context, e.g. limitations within national legislation and the Fundamental Principles. Most of the roles are not unique for technological disasters, but are applicable for all types of disasters. For instance, is there any difference whether evacuees come from an area stricken by e.g. a flood or by a nuclear disaster. The strength of National Societies lies in their constant readiness for rapid action and the flexibility of the various forms of assistance. The best possible preparedness - be it for natural or technological disasters - should be maintained. This is in clear accordance with the traditional role of National Societies.


 It is recommended that National Societies should work only in sectors where they have, or can build, competence, and where they can provide auxiliary support and additionality to the disaster response system.  

 6.2 Prevention  

 Raising awareness  

Technological disasters are a threat to humanity just like the risk of mass starvation or war. National Societies may consider playing a role in increasing people s knowledg e about technological hazards to which they may be exposed. People should be informed about technological risks in their region, by evaluating the dangers resulting from chemical or nuclear installations, by providing information and consultation to interested and worried people and by collecting addresses of voluntary local experts (toxicologists, doctors, technicians, fire-fighters etc.).

 Advocacy role  

The Federation seeks to assist the most vulnerable and to reduce their future vulnerability. This can be done through advocacy and lobbying as well as direct actions.

For instance:

* Defending the rights of the most vulnerable individuals and groups by lobbying for safety measures in

hazardous industries in order to achieve better working and living conditions and for strict environmental and housing rules for people living in the vicinity of chemical or nuclear installations

* Urging the government to establish and to test regularly emergency plans for technological disasters.

 6.3 Relief and rehabilitation  

 6.3.1 Operating National Society  

 First aid and transport of injured  

In addition to the standard knowledge about first aid, first aid workers have to know how to work in an area with chemical or nuclear contamination, unless the First Aid activities take place only in safe zones. Working in contaminated areas also means that First Aid workers have to know how to use protective clothes etc. Finally they have to know the basic principle of triage.

Working in areas contaminated by chemical or radioactive material or radiation can only take place when certain conditions can be fulfilled. Experts should be present to evaluate the level of contamination and to give recommendations about protection for the First Aid workers. Also decontamination facilities should be available. Rehearsals of working in contaminated areas should take place very regularly.

Before taking a decision whether the National Society should or should not work in contaminated areas, some ethical questions have to be answered. For instance, what to do when it is not clear that an area is contaminated because of a lack of reliable measurement results? And what to do when no protective clothes will be available for their First Aid workers? Do we leave the patients where they are or do we send our volunteers to help while knowing that they might become victims themselves?

 Social services  

A second traditional activity of National Societies is in the provision of social services to the most vulnerable in a disaster (e.g. distribution of food and clothes and sheltering). Experiences from Chernobyl and other (technological) disasters have shown that psychosocial support to the disaster victims is also of tremendous importance throughout the relief operation.


National Societies can take care of victims of disasters with long-term health and psychological effects. They may organize relief programmes to help the affected population in order to return to a normal life by integrating the affected people into ongoing health programmes of the country or the Society.


Many people might be evacuated to safer places. Families will be split up in the havoc. Tracing family members will have a positive psychological impact.

 Information during and after the disaster  

Clear and reliable information to the victims of the disaster helps to reduce the psychological effects of the emergency. National Societies should try to establish their own sources and expertise for the independent gathering of information in the disaster area.

Not only during the disaster is it important to give people reliable information, but also (even many years) after the disaster. Many scientific programmes monitor the affected population without giving individual feedback to the persons examined; this may lead to the impression of being used as guinea pigs. The Chernobyl Programme run by the Belorussian, the Russian and the Ukrainian Red Cross Societies and supported by the Federation checks and immediately informs the affected population whether late effects of nuclear radiation have been discovered and how nuclear contamination can be prevented.

 6.3.2 Participating National Society  

The role of Participating Societies in technological disasters is in itself not unique, but may be the same as for all types of disasters. Participating National Societies should focus on material and financial support. Examples of material support are shelter materials for evacuees and water supply systems. Due to the response time it is not opportune to send experts to the disaster stricken country. Moreover, it is the primary responsibility for the public authorities and the intergovernmental organizations to send these experts.

 6.4 Federation's Secretariat  

Also the role of the Federation s Secretariat in technological disasters is not unique, but is in principle the same as for all types of disasters.

In addition to its coordination role, the Secretariat should be able to support National Societies in preparing for technological disasters (e.g. guidelines for First Aid to victims of technological disasters).

The Federation may create a " Reference Centre for Technological Disasters " , operated by the Federation s Secretariat or hosted by a National Society. This Centre will collect and distribute information related to prevention and relief of technological disasters.


 7. Acknowledgement  

The Federation would like to thank the original authors of this document, Christopher Muller and Andrea Weber, and their supervisor, Prof. Ch. Schlatter (University of Zurich, Switzerland).




 (Adopted at the final plenary meeting of the XXVth International Conference of the Red Cross, 1986)  

The Twenty-fifth International Red Cross Conference,

 recognizing that technological developments in many areas constantly progress and that many States carry out nuclear activities,

 being aware that in the development and application of existing and new technologies it cannot be totally excluded that at any time technical incidents can turn suddenly into serious accidents and disasters, which directly endanger the health and life of a great number of people,

 recognizing that damaging situations of this kind can also occur below the threshold of disaster, which require immediate and preventive action on the part of all agencies called upon to help,

 knowing that the effects of such serious accidents and disasters can independently of where they occurred in one State spread to the territory of other States,

 being aware that these kinds of accidents and disasters require special and additional measures of prevention, assistance and mutual information and support, which must be planned and carried out both by States and by international organizations,

 expressing the wish that to this end international co-operation may be reinforced and intensified,

 acknowledging the fact that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is more especially obliged to provide mutual assistance and support in any kind of disaster,

 recognizing the necessity for the Movement to address itself more comprehensively and more intensively than up to now to the issue of possible dangers and consequences of technical or other disasters with a view to more adequate and improved assistance,

 noting with gratitude that the members of the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna recently adopted a Convention on early notification of nuclear accidents and on mutual assistance,

 1. requests governments to intensify future international cooperation for the safe development and application of new technologies and to undertake efforts to conclude further bilateral and multilateral agreements on mutual, timely and comprehensive information as well as on measures for mutual assistance,

 2. recommends to governments and international organizations when concluding such agreements and conventions also to take proper account of the capacity of their corresponding National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and of the entire Movement to participate in relief action and to include them in their information system at an early stage,

 3. further recommends to governments vigorously to support their National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in their efforts to improve their capacity for assistance in the field,


 4. calls upon National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to approach their governments in the manner outlined above and to undertake efforts that promote improvement of their own capacity for assistance,

 5. encourages National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to intensify their efforts to arrive at bilateral and multilateral agreements and commitments to mutual assistance in case of major disasters of any kind,

 6. recommends that the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Henry Dunant Institute undertake a study concerning the possibilities and necessities of improved assistance from the Movement in case of technical and other disasters and that the result of this study be reported to the next International Conference,

 7. calls upon the Movement not to slacken its efforts to support National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in their endeavour to conclude agreements for mutual assistance in case of technical disasters and all other kinds of disasters in as comprehensive a manner as possible and in the spirit of human solidarity and to carry out a regular exchange of experience.

The Principles and Rules for Red Cross and Red Crescent Disaster Relief

 The Principles and Rules for Red Cross and Red Crescent Disaster Relief  

 Annex II  

 Prepared by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in consultation with the ICRC  


 Basic Principles  

 1. Field of application  

1.1 The present Principles and Rules apply to disasters resulting from natural or other calamities.

1.2 Every disaster relief operation carried out in a country where there is war, civil war, or internal disturbances, shall be regulated by the provisions of the Agreement of 1989 between the ICRC and the Federation, or by any subsequent such agreement.

1.3 However, Articles 24 to 29 of the present Principles and Rules shall also apply to situations described under paragraph 1.2.

  2. The duty to assist  

2.1 The Red Cross and Red Crescent in its endeavour to prevent and alleviate human suffering, considers it a fundamental right of all people to both offer and receive humanitarian assistance. Hence it has a fundamental duty to provide relief to all disaster victims and assistance to those most vulnerable to future disasters.

2.2 We recognize that in helping disaster victims to survive, relief programmes must also look to the future and ensure that people are not left more vulnerable to the future disasters. Wherever possible, relief programmes should attempt to build upon the capacities of those being assisted, involve them in the management and implementation of the programme and act with a sense of accountability towards the beneficiaries.

 3. Role of the Red Cross and Red Crescent   

3.1 Prevention of disasters, assistance to victims and reconstruction are first and foremost the responsibility of the public authorities. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, (hereinafter referred to as the Federation [1 ] ) will actively offer assistance to disaster victims through the agency of the National Society in a spirit of cooperation with the public authorities. In principle, Red Cross and Red Crescent help is of a complementary and auxiliary nature and is given primarily in the emergency and reconstruction phase. However, if circumstances require and provided the Red Cross and Red Crescent is assured of the necessary resources and means, it may undertake longer-term disaster assistance programmes. Such programmes should be designed to reduce vulnerability to disasters, and prepare for future possible disasters.

 4. Coordination   

4.1 Considering that assistance to disaster victims requires coordination at both the natio nal and international levels, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, whilst remaining true to its Principles, should, in the implementation of its programme, endeavour to take into account the help given by other national and international organizations.

4.2 Considering the Federation's position as one of the leading disaster response agencies, the National Society should offer its service to their disaster affected government to assist with the coordination of NGO disaster relief. The Federation should support such endeavours.

 5. Role of the Federation   

5.1 The Federation acts as the information centre for its member Societies regarding situations caused by disaster and coordinates, at the international level, the assistance provided by National Societies and the Federation or channelled through them.

5.2 The Federation should also support National Societies in their contacts with their governments with a view to establishing and developing their position and role in disaster preparedness and response.

 6. Preparedness and mutual aid   

6.1 It is the duty of National Societies to prepare themselves to give assistance in the event of a disaster.

6.2 In view of the solidarity binding them together they shall help one another when faced with a situation exceeding the resources of any one Society.

6.3 In assisting each other in this way, while respecting the independence of each other and the sovereignty of the stricken country, National Societies contribute to the strengthening of friendship and peace among peoples.

 7. Ways and means of assistance   

7.1 Red Cross and Red Crescent assistance to victims is given without any distinction as to sex, nationality, race, religion, social condition or political opinion. It is made available solely on the basis of the relative importance and urgency of individual needs.

7.2 Red Cross and Red Crescent relief is administered with economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Its utilization is the subject of reports, including audited accounts of income and expenditure, reflecting a true and fair view of the operation.

 Disaster Preparedness  


 8. National relief plan   

8.1 In order to cope with the effects of disaster, each country should have a national plan outlining an effective organization of relief. If such a plan does not exist, the National Society should instigate its establishment.

8.2 The national plan shall assign to all sections of the community - public services, Red Cross and Red Crescent, voluntary agencies, social welfare organizations and qualified persons - precise tasks in the fields of disaster prevention, relief and reconstruction.

8.3 To ensure rapid mobilization as well as complete and effective use of material and personnel resources, the national plan should envisage coordination through the establishment of a centralized managing body. Such a body should be able to provide authoritative information on the effects of a disaster, its evolution and the needs.

 9. Preparedness of the National Society   

9.1 The extent of the Red Cross and Red Crescent relief programme depends on the magnitude o f the disaster, the needs already covered by others and the responsibilities delegated to the National Society by its government or by the national relief plan.

9.2 Each National Society must prepare itself to assume the responsibility devolving on it in the case of disaster. It must establish its own plan of action, adapt its organization accordingly, recruit, instruct and train the necessary personnel and ensure the availability of the reserves in cash and kind which it might need in the emergency phase of a relief operation. Such plans must be regularly reviewed and capacity further developed in the light of experience.

9.3 All National Societies face the possibility of responding to disasters beyond their capacities. National Societies should therefore make preparations for receiving and managing international assistance provided by the Federation.

9.4 National Societies should make every effort to obtain facilities from governmental or private transport services in their countries for the rapid transport, whenever possible free or at reduced rates, of relief supplies, including goods in transit, for disaster victims.

9.5 National Societies should also endeavour to obtain from their governments exemption from all taxes and customs duties, concerning the entry into and transit through the country, of funds and relief supplies intended for the victims of disasters.

9.6 Furthermore, they should seek to obtain travel facilities and the quick granting of visas for Red Cross and Red Crescent personnel taking part in relief operations.

 10. Preparedness of the Federation   

10.1 The Federation will endeavour to assist National Societies with their organization and preparedness for relief actions. In particular by offering them the services of te chnically qualified personnel (delegates) and by contributing to the instruction and training of their personnel. It will encourage and facilitate exchanges of information between Societies so that the experience of some will be of benefit to others. It will encourage investment by Federation members in disaster preparedness activities in the most disaster prone countries.

 11. Agreements on mutual assistance   

11.1 As part of their disaster preparedness strategy, National Societies should endeavour to conclude agreements on future mutual assistance in the event of disaster, with the National Societies of neighbouring countries. The Federation shall be informed.

11.2 For the most disaster prone countries, the Federation shall endeavour to negotiate pre-disaster agreements with the National Society of the disaster prone country aimed at enhancing the disaster preparedness activities of the Operating National Societies and improving the timeliness and effectiveness of Federation response to major disasters. Where appropriate these agreements may be tripartite, involving a Participating National Society.

 International Disaster Relief Assistance  

 12. Initial information  

12.1 To enable the Federation to act as the disaster information centre, National Societies shall immediately inform it of any major disaster occurring within their country, including data on the extent of the damage and on the relief measures taken at the national level to assist victims. Even if the National Society does not envisage appealing for external assistance, the Federation may, in the spirit of Federation solidarity, send a representative/s to the disaster-affected area to gather in formation and assist the National Society in dealing with the international dimensions of the disaster.

 13. Use of the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund  

13.1 In accordance with its rules, as amended by the 1991 General Assembly, the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund may be used by the Federation to finance emergency pre-disaster activities or initial emergency response to disasters.

 14. Request for assistance and appeal   

14.1 Any request from a National Society of a stricken country for international assistance shall be addressed to the Federation. Such a request must contain an overview of the situation in the disaster area, the number of persons to be helped and the nature, quantities and priorities of relief supplies needed by the National Society.

14.2 On receipt of such a request, the Federation will, when conditions call for it, launch an Appeal to all National Societies or, depending on the circumstances, to a certain number of them. No Appeal will be launched by the Federation without a request from the National Society of the stricken country or without its agreement.

14.3 The Federation may, however, take the initiative to offer assistance, even though the National Society has not asked for it. The National Society will consider such offers with urgency and goodwill, bearing in mind the needs of the disaster victims and the spirit in which such offers are made.

 15. Relations with the international news media  

15.1 Since the media can have a major influence on public support for a relief operation and the generation of funds, the National Society of a stricken country should make ever y effort, consistent with the efficient conduct of the relief operation and any regulations laid down by the authorities, to facilitate journalists'coverage of an emergency situation.

15.2 When a disaster situation attracts large-scale international media interest, the Federation may assign a delegate, or delegates, to assist the National Society in coping effectively with the requirements of the media and responding to the public information needs of Participating National Societies and the Federation's Secretariat in Geneva.

 16. Regular communication of information   

16.1 The National Society of the stricken country will keep the Federation informed on the development of the situation, the relief given and the needs still to be met. The Federation will forward this information to National Societies to which the Appeal had been made.


 17. Information on assistance   

17.1 When, as a result of a Federation Appeal or as a result of mutual agreement or other special circumstances, a National Society gives assistance to the Society of a stricken country it will immediately inform the Federation. Such information will contain the amount of gifts in cash and all available data on gifts in kind, including quantity, value and means of transportation.


 18. Implementation of Federation assistance   

18.1 When a National Society is in receipt of international assistance, the Federation may assign to that National Society a representative or a team of delegates, whose name or n ames will be communicated to it as rapidly as possible and whose number will depend on the magnitude of the disaster.

18.2 Where technical assistance personnel are provided, the Head of Delegation will be responsible for the judicious and effective utilization of the team of experts with a view to helping the National Society with such activities as the reception, warehousing and distribution of relief supplies received from abroad, as well as information, communication and all other activities that will contribute to the effectiveness both of the relief operation itself, undertaken by the National Society involved, and of the assistance of sister Societies.

18.3 All staff assigned by the Federation will have the task of assisting the National Society and not of taking over its basic responsibilities.

18.4 The Representative or Head of Delegation shall be given all necessary communication facilities for the swift dispatch to the Federation, of all the information likely to enable it to back up its Appeals to National Societies and inform them as fully as possible on the needs resulting from the disaster and then on the use made of the relief received. He/she should advise the National Society concerned of the measures taken and foreseen, both by the Federation and National Societies, which are giving their support.

 19. Execution entrusted to the Federation   

19.1 When the administrative organization of the Society in the stricken country does not enable it to meet the situation, the Federation, at the request of that Society and with its cooperation, may assume the local direction and execution of the relief action.

 20. Representatives of Participating Societies  

20.1 Participating Societies wishing to send representatives to the spot, particularly to collect information material to enhance public support for the relief actions, shall obtain the prior agreement of the central headquarters of the National Society of the stricken country. They should also inform the Federation.

20.2 Any such representatives will be bound by the Rules of Conduct for Federation field personnel and shall report on their actions to the Federation Representative or Head of Delegation.

 21. Foreign personnel  

21.1 All personnel provided by Participating Societies to assist in the implementation of the operation, will be placed under the direction of the Federation, when the direction and execution of the relief operation have been entrusted to it.

 22. Transmission and forwarding of relief  

22.1 Assistance donated by a National Society to a stricken country shall always be sent through Red Cross and Red Crescent channels, either direct to the National Society or through the intermediary of the Federation. Funds sent to the Federation will be specifically earmarked for the disaster for which they are contributed and will either be sent to the National Society of the stricken country or, with its concurrence, be utilized by the Federation according to the needs of the relief operation.

22.2 National Societies and the Federation may agree to transmit relief from non-Red Cross sources to a stricken country. In such cases, the relief will be utilized by the National Society or, with its concurrence, by the Federation in conformity with the present Principles and Rules.


 23. Soliciting of contributions abroad   

23.1 Unless there is a previous agreement, the National Society of a stricken country will not try to obtain, either directly or indirectly, funds or any other form of assistance in the country of another Society and will not permit its name to be used for this purpose.

 Accounting and Auditing for Joint or Separate Federation and/or ICRC Operations  

 24. Principle of accountability  

National Societies receiving gifts from sister Societies, the Federation, the ICRC or any other source in the context of a joint or separate Federation and/or ICRC operation or programme must conform to the following rules as regards accounting and auditing:

24.1 Gifts in cash  

24.1.1 B ank accounts  

The Operating Society shall open in its own name a special bank account whose sole purpose shall be to receive all the funds and cover all the expenditure of the operation / programme. It shall not be used for any other transactions. There shall be one bank account per operation / programme. If for unforeseen reasons, it is not possible to open a separate bank account, a separate cash ledger should be maintained per operation / programme.

 24.1.2 Financial reporting  

The Operati ng Society shall render a periodic account of the funds held by it for the operation / programme showing: opening balance brought forward from the previous period; income from all sources during the current period; actual disbursements during the period and the closing balance for the period. The periodicity of these reports shall be established in the agreement, but under no circumstances should be less than quarterly. Additional information required for the following period comprises: anticipated income, an estimate of expenditure and cash requirements. The Federation and/or the ICRC would in that way be prepared to give consideration to making an appropriate supplementary advance in cash. The actual disbursements charged to the operation / programme shall be shown in a detailed statement which, together with copies of vouchers for all amounts debited and recapitulatory bank statements, shall be submitted promptly to the Federation and/or the ICRC local Delegation, no later than the end of the following month. In the event of such reports not being submitted, the local Delegation should take appropriate steps to assist the Operating Society in producing the necessary report. In exceptional circumstances, where monthly reports are not forthcoming, the Federation and /or the ICRC may decide on the suspension of the financial assistance. In recognizing the importance of financial reporting, the Federation and /or the ICRC shall undertake to provide or make available technical assistance to the Operating Society in order to ensure the timely production of accurate and complete financial reports . Such reports should be regarded both as a management tool for the Operating Society, and as a reporting service to the Federation.

24.1.3 Auditing

Auditing is a normal, integral step in any professionally managed operation. In the interest of sound financial administration, the National Society's accounts related to the operation / programme shall be audited at least yearly by auditors designated by the Federation and/or the ICRC. The cost of the audit will be met from the funds available for the operation / programme. This audit shall result in the Auditor's Report and a Management Letter. The said results shall be communicated to the National Society and, if necessary, corrective actions to be taken shall be indicated. In the exceptional event when no corrective action have taken place, the Federation and/or the ICRC may consider suspension of financial assistance.

24.2 Gifts in kind

Where gifts in kind are made, records of the stocks showing the origin and use of such contributions shall be submitted monthly and upon completion of the operation / programme

 25.  Exceptional Rules of Procedures  

25.1 The Federation and /or the ICRC may, in certain exceptional circumstances, not be fully satisfied with the way in which resources for Federation and/or the ICRC operations and programmes are managed and accounted for by either Participating or Operating Societies.

25.2 In such circumstances, the Federation and/or the ICRC is authorized to entrust a qualified Federation and/or the ICRC representative to look into the matter.

25.3 The National Society in question be it operating or participating, shall ensure that the Federation and /or the ICRC representative, has access to such records of the Society as the Federation and /or the ICRC representative considers necessary for the purpose of their task.    

  26. Use made of gifts   

26. 1 A National Society which benefits from the assistance of sister Societies will give the Federation's and/or ICRC's Representative or Head of Delegation the opportunity to see, on the spot, the use made of the gifts received.

 27. Unsolicited relief supplies   

27.1 If a National Society wishes to send relief supplies which are not mentioned in the Appeal launched by the Federation and/or ICRC, it shall first obtain the agreement of the National Society of the stricken country or of the Federation and/or ICRC. When there has been no Appeal but a National Society nevertheless wishes to send relief supplies to the Society of a stricken country, the previous agreement of that Society is also required and the Federation and/or ICRC shall be informed.

27.2 In the absence of such an agreement, the receiving National Society is free to use unsolicited relief supplies at its own discretion, without being bound by the provision of Article 29.3.

 28. Donating supplies while receiving assistance   

28.1 A National Society in receipt of international assistance for its own country shall not contribute assistance of a similar nature to a sister Society without the prior authorization of the Federation and/or ICRC.

 29. Use of gifts   

29.1 Gifts sent to a National Society may be used only for the purpose designated and will serve in the fi rst place to give direct assistance to the victims.

29.2 An Operating Society may in no event use cash gifts to cover administrative expenses included in its ordinary budget, nor may it transfer cash gifts donated to it to another organization or group for use by that organization or group.

29.3 If in the course of a relief operation it becomes necessary to sell or exchange a part of the goods received, the donors will be consulted through the Federation and/or ICRC. The funds or goods thus obtained may only be used for the relief action.


 30. Relief balances   

30.1 Goods or funds remaining on hand after the termination of a relief action may be; used for subsequent rehabilitation activities, used for Society disaster preparedness activities, transferred to other priority programmes, or returned to the Participating Society. All such use of funds or goods should take place under an agreement between the National Society of the stricken country and the Federation after consultation by the Federation with the Participating Societies concerned.

 Final Provisions  

 31 Obligations   

31.1 A National Society which accepts spontaneous or special assistance is bound to conform to the obligations laid down in the present " Principles and Rules " even though it has not requested assistance within the terms of Article 12.1.

XXIst, XXIInd, XXIIIrd, XXIVth International Conferences of the Red Cross, Istanbul (1969), Tehran (1973), Bucharest (1977), Manila (1981) and Geneva (1986).


1. In the Federation, the organization of disaster relief actions belongs to the attributions of the Secretary General, assisted by the Secretariat.

Key factors for developmental relief

 Key factors for developmental relief  

 Annex III  

 Prepared by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies  


In February 1995, the International Federation, in collaboration with the Danish Red Cross, the European Community humanitarian office (ECHO) and DANIDA undertook an examination of a number of recent relief operations to identify those factors which should typify a relief programme that uses a developmental approach to implementation.

Nine key factors were identified. These factors are now being incorporated into the Federations training programmes and disaster response methodology.

 I. Building on capacities as well as addressing vulnerabilities : The need to access vulnerabilities is recognized as being important, but relief programmes that deliberately seek out and work with capacities, skills, resources and organizational structur es within the disaster survivors, will be more effective than those that assume the survivors are a passive, helpless, recipient community.

 II. Identifying the needs and capacities of the diverse groupings of disaster survivors: Developmental relief programmes recognise that the survivor population is made up of many groups with different capacities, vulnerabilities and needs. The relief programme is shaped to address these diverse groups and their capacities as well as their different needs.

 III. Participation : Developmental relief programmes deliberately involve disaster survivors in the decision making process which empower them to re-take charge of their lives. Even in particularly difficult situations, such as relief to large-scale displaced populations a beginning may be made by engaging diverse community leaders in the assessment of the situation, and identifying the resources that they have available to cope.

 IV. Accountability : In relief programmes, agencies traditionally see themselves as being accountable upwards, towards their headquarters and donors, but they should also practice accountability towards the disaster survivors. At a minimum, information on the planning, execution and expected duration of the relief programme should be openly shared with the programme beneficiaries.

 V. Strategies based on the reality of the disaster faced : Relief programmes address many different types of disasters, those triggered by natural events, those which develop slowly over vast areas of a country, those caused by war and economic collapse. Developmental relief programmes adapt their strategies to suit the environment of the disaster rather than relying solely on pre-packaged delivery derived from a model of only one type of disaster.

 VI. Decentralized control : A developmental relief programme allows management decisions to be taken as close to the beneficiary population as possible.

 VII. Demonstrating a concern for sustaining livelihoods : Developmental relief programmes are concerned with what comes after relief as well as how the relief programme is carried out. They provide assistance that complements rather than competes with the normal means of livelihood of the disaster survivors.

 VIII. Building on local institutions : Imposed relief programmes can undermine local structures, often use them without strengthening them and often abandon them after the relief operation. Developmental relief programmes look to work with local institutions and build their capacities to carry on humanitarian work after the need for relief has passed.

 IX. Setting sustainable standards services : Relief programmes often set in motion the development of service and welfare systems, in health, education and water provision which will need to carry on after the relief ends. These should be of a standard and provided in a manner which has a realistic chance of being sustained after the relief operation ends.

 Overcoming the constraints of existing systems  

In between relief operations, aid workers and agencies all agree that they should find ways of doing relief in a more developmental way, but when the crisis hits and decisions have to be made quickly with minimal information, managers shy away from taking the risk of using other than the tried and tested responses.

The international aid system contains many actors, all of whom need to participate in a change process if the end product of the system, relief delivery, is to change. Being committed to finding better ways of providing relief the International Federation makes the following recommendations to implementing agencies, donors and research institutions.

 Recommendations to implementing agencies  

 1. Altering staffing structures and attitudes  

In composing relief teams, it should be assured that sufficient expertise is included and responsibility assigned for focusing the relief activities on developmental implementation and maximising utilisation of community capacity. Staff training programmes need to include the concepts of programming relief for development.

 2. Programming standards  

In order to practice developmental relief, agencies must set themselves high and defensible humanitarian standards. We recommend that as a starting point, agencies subscribe to the standards laid down in the Code of Conduct for The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief.

 3. Specialized competence and co-ordination  

Large relief programmes attract large numbers of external relief agencies. In order to improve the effectiveness and quality of the services we deliver, we recommend that agencies critically examine their own strengths and seek to develop greater competence, in limited fields if necessary, rather than a breadth of mediocrity in service delivery.

In addition we recommend that agencies recognize the need to balance their right to independence of action against the humanitarian value to be gained through co-ordination. Agencies should be willing to coordinate when it adds to the greater good of the relief programme.

 4. Altering budget structures  

We recommend that agencies build into their plans of action and associated budgets the flexibility necessary to address longer term perspectives, building on local capacities as well as addressing vulnerabilities. This requires a change to current budgeting practices.

 5. Supporting local people and structures  

We recommend that agencies seek to strengthen local capacities by employing local staff, purchasing local materials an d trading with local companies. Wherever possible, agencies should work through local humanitarian organisations as partners in planning and implementation, and cooperate with local government structures. 

 6. Programming for sustainability, disaster prevention and preparedness  

Agencies should seek to sustain livelihoods as well as lives. Relief programmes must not undermine the long-term sustainability of the assisted population. We recommend that all relief programming should address the issue of sustainability and disaster preparedness.

 7. Consistency of action, policy and messages  

We recommend that agencies examine their present policies for disaster response and adapt them to reflect a developmental approach to relief. In addition agencies should ensure that their publicity and advocacy material is consistent with this approach. and that they advocate rigorously for their partner organizations in government and the international community to also address relief in a developmental fashion.

 8. Programme reviews  

Many relief programmes go on year after year in the same way. We recommend agencies to review programmes annually to identify changes that progressively make more use of local leadership, skills and capacities.

 9. Sharing experience with donors and the media  

Agencies need to get better at sharing field experience of success and failure with donors and engage in a dialogue about needed policy change. Equally they need to work more effectively with the media to build understanding of the issues and to break down stereotypes such as those of " helpless disaster victims " .

 Recommendations to donors  

 10. Linking relief and development programming  

The present organizational structure and funding mechanisms of many donor institutions reflects the view of relief and development as two divorced activities. We recommend that donor institutions seeks ways of promoting dialogue between their relief and development divisions and seek ways of allowing a degree of development funding into relief programmes.

 11. Accountability, measuring the quality of relief programmes  

Measuring the quality of developmental relief programmes requires a different set of parameters and associated skills from evaluating simple relief delivery. We recommend that donor institutions explore new ways of evaluating and reporting in relation to relief programmes which reflect the attributes of a developmental approach.

 12. Support for local structures in relief and disaster preparedness  

Working through, enhancing and supporting local structures is central to the developmental approach to relief. We recommend that donor institutions recognize and support the legitimacy of funding local structure strengthening as part of disaster preparedness and relief programmes.

 13. Supporting review activities  

Promoting new ways of working require an enhanced learning process. We recommend that donor institutions support both national and international relief programme reviews with a view towards promoting developmental relief.

 Recommendations to research bodies  

 14. Development of practical methods of capacity and vulnerability analysis for disaster situations  

Developmental relief places greater emphasis on understanding local capacities and vulnerabilities than does needs-driven assistance delivery relief, yet few methodologies exist to help assess these features. We recommend that research bodies develop methods of capacity and vulnerability analysis which are appropriate for relief situations, by drawing upon existing experience.

 15. Development of methods for evaluating the quality of the relief process  

Measuring and evaluating the quality of developmental relief programmes requires a different set of parameters and associated skills from evaluating simple relief delivery. Few methodologies have been developed to allow such appropriate evaluations to take place. We recommend that research bodies develop such evaluation techniques, building on existing experiences and in close collaboration with implementing agencies and donor institutions.

 16. Developing accountability systems  

Present relief accountability systems stress financial reporting supported by process descriptive narrative. We recommend that research bodies assist in the development of more holistic reporting systems which provide information on features of relief programmes additional to quantitative delivery information, i.e. capacity building, participation, accountability to the disaster survivors.

 17. Impact evaluation of international relief on local organizations  

Many implementing agencies are concerned with the negative impact major relief prog rammes have on local institutions, yet little systematic documentation and research have been done in this area. We recommend that research bodies be commissioned to carry out such research.

 18. Popularising the results of research  

Good research only has effect if it gets into the hands of the implementors. We recommend that the results of the research mentioned about be popularized though publications, meetings and other methods targeted at the implementing and donor agencies.

The Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief

 The Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief  

 Annex IV  

 Prepared jointly by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the ICRC [1 ]


This Code of Conduct seeks to guard our standards of behaviour. It is not about operational details, such as how one should calculate food rations or set up a refugee camp. Rather, it seeks to maintain the high standards of independence, effectiveness and impact to which disaster response NGOs and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement aspires. It is a voluntary code, enforced by the will of organization accepting it to maintain the standards laid down in the Code.

In the event of armed conflict, the present Code of Conduct will be interpreted and applied in conformity with international humanitarian law.

The Code of Conduct is presented first. Attached to it are three annexes, describing the work ing environment that we would like to see created by Host Governments, Donor Governments and Intergovernmental Organizations in order to facilitate the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.


 NGOs: NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) refers here to organizations, both national and international, which are constituted separate from the government of the country in which they are founded.

 NGHAs : For the purposes of this text, the term Non Governmental Humanitarian Agencies (NGHAs) has been coined to encompass the components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement - The International Committee of the Red Cross, The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and its member National Societies - and the NGOs as defined above. This code refers specifically to those NGHAs who are involved in disaster response.

 IGOs: IGOs (Inter-Governmental Organizations) refers to organizations constituted by two or more governments. It thus includes all United Nations Agencies and regional organizations.

 Disasters : A disaster is a calamitous event resulting in loss of life, great human suffering and distress, and large scale material damage.

 The Code of Conduct  

 Principles of Conduct for The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Response Programmes  

 1. The Humanitarian imperative comes first  

The right to receive humanitarian assistance, and to offer it, is a fundamental humanitarian principle which should be enjoyed by all citizens of all countries. As members of the international community, we recognize our obligation to provide humanitarian assistance wherever it is needed. Hence the need for unimpeded access to affected populations, is of fundamental importance in exercising that responsibility. The prime motivation of our response to disaster is to alleviate human suffering amongst those least able to withstand the stress caused by disaster. When we give humanitarian aid it is not a partisan or political act and should not be viewed as such.

 2. Aid is given regardless of the race, creed or nationality of the recipients and without adverse distinction of any kind. Aid priorities are calculated on the basis of need alone  

Wherever possible, we will base the provision of relief aid upon a thorough assessment of the needs of the disaster victims and the local capacities already in place to meet those needs. Within the entirety of our programmes, we will reflect considerations of proportionality. Human suffering must be alleviated whenever it is found; life is as precious in one part of a country as another. Thus, our provision of aid will reflect the degree of suffering it seeks to alleviate. In implementing this approach, we recognize the crucial role played by women in disaster-prone communities and will ensure that this role is supported, not diminished, by our aid programmes. The implementation of such a universal, impartial and independent policy, can only be effective if we and our partners have access to the necessary resources to provide for such equitable relief, and have equal access to all disaster victims.

 3. Aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint  

Humanitarian aid will be given according to the need of individuals, families and communities. Not withstanding the right of NGHAs to espouse particular political or religious opinions, we affirm that assistance will not be dependent on the adherence of the recipients to those opinions. We will not tie the promise, delivery or distribution of assistance to the embracing or acceptance of a particular political or religious creed.

 4. We shall endeavour not to act as instruments of government foreign policy  

NGHAs are agencies which act independently from governments. We therefore formulate our own policies and implementation strategies and do not seek to implement the policy of any government, except in so far as it coincides with our own independent policy. We will never knowingly - or through negligence - allow ourselves, or our employees, to be used to gather information of a political, military or economically sensitive nature for governments or other bodies that may serve purposes other than those which are strictly humanitarian, nor will we act as instruments of foreign policy of donor governments. We will use the assistance we receive to respond to needs and this assistance should not be driven by the need to dispose of donor commodity surpluses, nor by the political interest of any particular donor. We value and promote the voluntary giving of labour and finances by concerned individuals to support our work and recognize the independence of action promoted by such voluntary motivation. In order to protect our independence we will seek to avoid dependence upon a single funding source.

 5. We shall respect culture and custom  

We will endeavour to respect the culture, structures and customs of the communities and countries we are working in.

 6. We shall attempt to build disaster response on local capacities  

All people and communities - even in disaster - possess capacities as well as vulnerabilities. Where possible, we will strengthen these capacities by employing local staff, purchasing local materials and trading with local companies. Where possible, we will work through local NGHAs as partners in planning and implementation, and co-operate with local government structures where appropriate. We will place a high priority on the proper co-ordination of our emergency responses. This is best done within the countries concerned by those most directly involved in the relief operations, and should include representatives of the relevant UN bodies.

 7. Ways shall be found to involve programme beneficiaries in the management of relief aid  

Disaster response assistance should never be imposed upon the beneficiaries. Effective relief and lasting rehabilitation can best be achieved where the intended beneficiaries are involved in the design, management and implementation of the assistance programme. We will strive to achieve full community participation in our relief and rehabilitation programmes.

 8. Relief aid must strive to reduce future vulnerabilities to disaster as well as meeting basic needs  

All relief actions affect the prospects for long term development, either in a positive or a negative fashion. Recognizing this, we will strive to implement relief programmes which actively reduce the beneficiaries'vulnerability to future disasters and help create sustainable lifestyles. We will pay particular attention to environmental concerns in the design and management of relief programmes. We will also endeavour to minimize the negative impact of humanitarian assistance, seeking to avoid long-term beneficiary dependence upon external aid.

 9. We hold ourselves accountable to both those we seek to assist and those from whom we accept resources  

We often act as an institutional link in the partnership between those who wish to assist and those who need assistance during disasters. We therefore hold ourselves accountable to both constituencies. All our dealings with donors and beneficiaries shall reflect an attitude of openness and transparency. We recognize the need to report on our activities, both from a financial perspective and the perspective of effectiveness. We recognize the obligation to ensure appropriate monitoring of aid distributions and to carry out regular assessments of the impact of disaster assistance. We will also seek to report, in an open fashion, upon the impact of our work, and the factors limiting or enhancing that impact. Our programmes will be based upon high standards of professionalism and expertise in order to minimize the wasting of valuable resources.

 10. In our information, publicity and advertising activities, we shall recognize disaster victims as dignified humans, not hopeless objects  

Respect for the disaster victim as an equal partner in action should never be lost. In our public information we shall portray an objective image of the disaster situation where the capacities and aspirations of disaster victims are highlighted, and not just their vulnerabilities and fears. While we will cooperate with the media in order to enhance public response, we will not allow external or in ternal demands for publicity to take precedence over the principle of maximizing overall relief assistance. We will avoid competing with other disaster response agencies for media coverage in situations where such coverage may be to the detriment of the service provided to the beneficiaries or to the security of our staff or the beneficiaries.

 The Working Environment  

Having agreed unilaterally to strive to abide by the Code laid out above, we present below some indicative guidelines which describe the working environment we would like to see created by donor governments, host governments and the inter-governmental organisations - principally the agencies of the United Nations - in order to facilitate the effective participation of NGHAs in disaster response.

These guidelines are presented for guidance. They are not legally binding, nor do we expect governments and IGOs to indicate their acceptance of the guidelines through the signature of any document, although this may be a goal to work to in the future. They are presented in a spirit of openness and cooperation so that our partners will become aware of the ideal relationship we would seek with them.

 Annex I : Recommendations to the governments of disaster affected countries  

 1. Governments should recognize and respect the independent, humanitarian and impartial actions of NGHAs  

NGHAs are independent, bodies. This independence and impartiality should be respected by host governments.


 2. Host governments should facilitate rapid access to disaster victims for NGHAs  

If NGHAs are to act in full compliance with their humanitarian principles, they should be granted rapid and impartial access to disaster victims, for the purpose of delivering humanitarian assistance. It is the duty of the host government, as part of the exercising of sovereign responsibility, not to block such assistance, and to accept the impartial and apolitical action of NGHAs. Host governments should facilitate the rapid entry of relief staff, particularly by waiving requirements for transit, entry and exit visas, or arranging that these are rapidly granted. Governments should grant over-flight permission and landing rights for aircraft transporting international relief supplies and personnel, for the duration of the emergency relief phase.


 3. Governments should facilitate the timely flow of relief goods and information during disasters  

Relief supplies and equipment are brought into a country solely for the purpose of alleviating human suffering, not for commercial benefit or gain. Such supplies should normally be allowed free and unrestricted passage and should not be subject to requirements for consular certificates of origin or invoices, import and/or export licences or other restrictions, or to importation taxation, landing fees or port charges.

The temporary importation of necessary relief equipment, including vehicles, light aircraft and telecommunications equipment, should be facilitated by the receiving host government through the temporary waving of licence or registration restrictions. Equally, governments should not restrict the re-exportation of relief equipment at the end of a relief operation.

To facilitate disaster communications, host governments are encouraged to designate certai n radio frequencies, which relief organizations may use in-country and for international communications for the purpose of disaster communications, and to make such frequencies known to the disaster response community prior to the disaster. They should authorize relief personnel to utilize all means of communication required for their relief operations.


 4. Governments should seek to provide a co-ordinated disaster information and planning service  

The overall planning and coordination of relief efforts is ultimately the responsibility of the host government. Planning and coordination can be greatly enhanced if NGHAs are provided with information on relief needs and government systems for planning and implementing relief efforts as well as information on potential security risks they may encounter. Governments are urged to provide such information to NGHAs.

To facilitate effective coordination and the efficient utilization of relief efforts, host governments are urged to designate, prior to disaster, a single point-of-contact for incoming NGHAs to liaise with the national authorities.


 5. Disaster relief in the event of armed conflict  

In the event of armed conflict, relief actions are governed by the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law.

 Annex II : Recommendations to donor governments  

 1. Donor governments should recognize and respect the independent, humanitarian and impartial actions of NGHAs  

NGHAs are independent bodies whose independence and impartiality should be respected by donor governments. Donor governments should not use NGHAs to further any political or ideological aim.


 2. Donor governments should provide funding with a guarantee of operational independence  

NGHAs accept funding and material assistance from donor governments in the same spirit as they render it to disaster victims; one of humanity and independence of action. The implementation of relief actions is ultimately the responsibility of the NGHA and will be carried out according to the policies of that NGHA.


 3. Donor governments should use their good offices to assist NGHAs in obtaining access to disaster victims  

Donor governments should recognize the importance of accepting a level of responsibility for the security and freedom of access of NGHA staff to disaster sites. They should be prepared to exercise diplomacy with host governments on such issues if necessary.

 Annex III : Recommendations to intergovernmental organisations  

 1. IGOs should recognize NGHAs, local and foreign, as valuable partners  

NGHAs are willing to work with UN and other intergovernmental agencies to effect better disaster response. They do so in a spirit of partnership which respects the integrity and independence of all partners. Intergovernmental agencies must respect the independence and impartiality of the NGHAs. NGHAs should be consulted by UN agencies in the preparation of relief plans.


 2. IGOs should assist host governments in providing an overall coordinating framework for international and local disaster relief  

NGHAs do not usually have the mandate to provide the overall coordinating framework for disasters which require an international response. This responsibility falls to the host government and the relevant United Nations authorities. They are urged to provide this service in a timely and effective manner to serve the affected state and the national and international disaster response community. In any case, NGHAs should make all efforts to ensure the effective co-ordination of their own services.

In the event of armed conflict, relief actions are governed by the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law.


 3. IGOs should extend security protection provided for UN organizations, to NGHAs  

Where security services are provided for intergovernmental organisations, this service should be extended to their operational NGHA partners where it is so requested.


 4. IGOs should provide NGHAs with the same access to relevant information as is granted to UN organisations  

IGOs are urged to share all information, pertinent to the implementation of effective disaster response, with their operational NGHA partners.


Non-govermental Organisations who would like to register their support for this Code and their willingness to incorporate its principles into their work should fill in the form below and return it to





1. Sponsored by: Caritas Internationalis*, Catholic Relief Services*, The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies*, International Save the Children Alliance*, Lutheran World Federation*, Oxfam*, The World Council of Churches*, The International Committee of the Red Cross. (* members of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response)