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26th International Conference 1995: Resolution 4

07-12-1995 Resolution

Principles and action in international humanitarian assistance and protection

26th International Conference of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Geneva, Switzerland, 3-7 December 1995

The 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

 conscious that the number of people in need of assistance as a result of disasters, and the number of refugees and internally displaced persons in need of assistance and protection, has increased dramatically over the past decade

 conscious of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's (Movement) unique position as a global, neutral and independent provider of assistance and protection to victims of disaster and war victims, benefiting from the complementarity of its components,

 desirous to improve the framework in which humanitarian organizations, in particular the components of the Movement, perform their humanitarian activities, and welcoming the standing invitation to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (International Federation) to participate in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of the United Nations convened by the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, as a means of ensuring operational cooperation by humanitarian organizations in the delivery of humanitarian assistance,

 recalling that, according to the Statutes of the Movement, each component of the Movement should respect at all times the Fundamental Principles enshrined in these Statutes (Fundamental Principles), and that States should at all times respect the Movements adherence to the Fundamental Principles,

 recalling that in situations of armed conflict refugees and internally displaced persons together with the remainder of the civilian population are protected by international humanitarian law and that, in addition, refugees are protected by the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol,

 reaffirming the principle of non-refoulement,

 taking note of Resolution 11 of the Council of Delegates of the Movement held in 1993 in Birmingham concerning the " Principles of Humanitarian Assistance " , which inter alia reminded States of:

- the victims right to receive humanitarian assistance,

- the States 'duty to assist people who are placed under their authority or their obligation to authorize humanitarian agencies to do so, and

- the right of humanitarian agencies - abiding by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence - to have access to victims,

 recalling Resolution XXI and the accompanying Statement of policy on aid to refugees adopted by the 24th International Conference of the Red Cross, and Resolution XVII on the Movement and refugees adopted by the 25th International Conference of the Red Cross,

 recalling Resolution XXI on disaster relief in case of technical and other disasters adopted by the 25th International Conference of the Red Cross,

 noting that religious and ethical values can foster respect for human dignity and the principles of international humanitarian law,


 A. With regard to internally displaced persons and refugees:  

1.  calls upon States:

(a) to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law, in particular the general prohibition of forced displacement of civilians, and to respect the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol, in particular the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, as well as other relevant regional instruments,

(b) to accede to , for those States which have not already done so, and to implement fully the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol,

(c) to provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons and to assist States having accepted refugees,

(d) to ensure efficient and adequate access to internally displaced persons and refugees for neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organizations, in particular National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (National Societies), the ICRC and the International Federation, as well as other international organizations, in particular the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), according to their respective mandates, so that they may provide protection and humanitarian assistance to these persons,

(e) to ensure a rapid response to appeals by the ICRC, the International Federation, the National Societies and other international organizations for funding of emergency assistance and protection for refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees,

(f) to renew their support, through appropriate funding, for the provision of food aid and other supplies for humanitarian assistance to long-standing but unsolved refugee and displaced persons situations, keeping in mind the needs of the most vulnerable,

(g) to recognize that National Societies, the ICRC and the International Federation can play a vital role in providing protection and humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees and returnees, in accordance with the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law;

2.  invites the components of the Movement, in accordance with their respective mandates:

(a) to continue to provide assistance and protection to, and to work with determination on behalf of and together with, internally displaced persons, refugees and returnees,

(b) to devise and apply innovative approaches to humanitarian response, including mechanisms for rapid action, based on effective mobilization and use of resources, which will enable them to provide timely and appropriate assistance for internally displaced persons and refugees, taking due account of the action of other humanitarian organizations,

(c) to promote conflict prevention through the promotion of humanitarian principles and values, as well as the dissemination of international humanitarian law, in particular at the community level,

(d) to stand ready to work in the framework of international relief operations in accordance with the Statutes of the Movement,

(e) to continue and promote operational cooperation with the United Nations, including in particular the UNHCR, in a spirit of complementarity, as well as with other international humanitarian organizations, as appropriate;

3.  invites National Societies:

(a) to continue , in accordance with their status as auxiliaries to the public authorities in the humanitarian field, to offer their services to their governments, in order to respond to the needs of refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees,

(b) to call upon the resources of the ICRC and the International Federation to make effective use of the Movement's capacity when needs exceed the resources locally available,

(c) to seek efficient cooperation with other organizations, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations, in particular the UNHCR, recalling the provisions of Resolution XXI of the 24th International Conference concerning International Red Cross aid to refugees, and in particular the provision on agreements between National Societies and the UNHCR;


 B. With regard to natural and technological disasters:  

1.  calls upon States to take note of the guidelines on National Society involvement in technological disasters (Annex I of the background paper)  

2.  encourages National Societies and the International Federation to intensify their activities in favour of the victims of natural and technological disasters, to develop their expertise in this field and to mobilize financial resources


 C. With regard to the Principles and Rules for Red Cross and Red Crescent Disaster Relief:  

takes note of the revised Principles and Rules for Red Cross and Red Crescent Disaster Relief (Annex II of the background paper) and calls upon the components of the Movement to implement them


 D. With regard to the need to build longer-term developmental perspectives into humanitarian assistance:  

1.  calls upon States:

(a) to ensure that their international relief funding policies allow for the strengthening of the operational capacities of recipient National Societies,

(b) to explore ways of encouraging a developmental approach to relief through their humanitarian assistance programming, and to take note in this context of Annex III of the background paper ,

(c) to promote , in international organizations of which they are members, including in particular the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the implementation of a development approach that takes into account emergency situations and humanitarian needs,

2.  calls upon the International Federation and the ICRC to further develop tools and approaches in order to implement a more developmental approach to relief as well as to give due emphasis to the strengthening of Red Cross and Red Crescent structures, as outlined in the guidelines presented in Annex III of the background paper;


 E. With regard to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and  

 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief:  

1.  takes note of and welcomes the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief (Annex IV of the background paper) , and further;

2.  invites all States and National Societies to encourage NGOs to both abide by the principles and spirit of the Code and consider registering their support for the Code with the International Federation;


 F. With regard to the humanitarian consequences of economic sanctions:  

1.  encourages States to consider:

(a)  when designing, imposing and reviewing economic sanctions , the possible negative impact of such sanctions on the humanitarian situation of the civilian population of a targeted State and also of third States which may be adversely affected by such measures,

(b)  assessing the short- and long-term consequences of United Nations-approved economic sanctions on the most vulnerable, and monitoring these consequences where sanctions have been applied,

(c) providing, including when subject to economic sanctions , and to the extent of their available resources, relief for the most vulnerable groups and the victims of humanitarian emergencies in their territories

2.  calls upon States to permit relief operations of a strictly humanitarian character for the benefit of the most vulnerable groups within the civilian population, when required by international humanitarian law

3.  calls upon the ICRC, the International Federation and National Societies to contribute to the reduction of the undesirable side-effects of sanctions on the humanitarian situation of civilian populations, through assessing the impact thereof and providing relief to the most vulnerable persons, in accordance with their respective mandates;


 G. With regard to the need for independence of humanitarian action in times of crisis:  

1.  takes note of the Movement's commitment to carrying out its humanitarian work in accordance with its Fundamental Principles, recognizing that humanitarian assistance and protection are primarily directed at the effects of humanitarian crises, not the causes;

2.  calls upon States:

(a) to recognize the need for the Movement to maintain a clear separation between its humanitarian action, on the one hand, and actions of a political, military or economic nature carried out by governments, intergovernmental bodies and other agencies during humanitarian crises, on the other hand, bearing in mind the need for the Movement to maintain, in its humanitarian work, its independence, impartiality and neutrality,

(b) to redouble their efforts in the resolution and prevention of conflicts, peacekeeping, disaster preparedness and disaster mitigation, to which the humanitarian work of the Movement acts as a necessary complement,

(c) to take note that the security of the operations and personnel of the ICRC, the National Societies and the International Federation is based on their adherence to the Fundamental Principles and that they do not use armed protection unless confronted with exceptional circumstances and not without the approval of the authority in control of the territory concerned,

(d) to fully respect humanitarian operations and the personnel engaged therein, in all circumstances, and to take due precautions   to refrain from acts that would endanger such operations and personnel.

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


 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 in crease 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 technological 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 Federations 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 h as 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 can 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 v ictims of technological disasters. Any of these conditions may lead to an increasing vulnerability of the population to technological disasters.

Based on the Fundamental Principles, 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 Federations 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. Oft en, 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, railw ays or rivers and relief workers can be affected.

Contrary to mechanical and chemical injuries, acute life threatening situations will occur very rarely 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 cause 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 knowledge 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 Federations 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 cooperation 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.

Annex IV: The Principles and Rules for Red Cross and Red Crescent Disaster Relief

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 national 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 of 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 technically 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 information 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 every 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 names 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 Bank 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 Operating 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 first 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.

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


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 each 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 working 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 de pendent 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 internal 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 certain 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.



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)