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Humanitarian principles and current practice

Humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence are considered essential by many leading humanitarian organisations. Learn more from this video.

When responding to a disaster it’s important to keep in mind that you’re dealing with people’s lives. This is why you need to understand appropriate codes of conduct.

Humanitarian assistance is not an esoteric practice, it is a close-up engagement dealing with people who have been seriously affected by conflict, disaster, or both. Codes of conduct provide clear parameters for humanitarian responders to work within. They act as guidelines for decisions and actions.

Keeping up-to-date with these codes is important. Many of the principles informing these codes have their origins in Western, European world-views. That said, while there may be reasons to question some of these codes, having them is absolutely necessary from a range of social, cultural and ethical perspectives.

How do codes of conduct help?

When you’re working closely with affected populations, codes of conduct allow you to look at things in a systematic way. For example, these codes help you to address the following questions:

  • How do we work with people affected by a disaster?
  • What factors are most important when working with these people?
  • How can you make sure that they have a say in what you’re doing?
  • How can they be engaged either as equals or as leaders in the process?

Without codes of conduct, responding to humanitarian disasters would be even more confusing and complex than it already is.

Your task

While you are watching Phil’s three minute video consider the question: ‘Should an agency compromise on other principles in order to meet the humanitarian imperative?’ Share your thoughts in the comments.

This article is from the free online

Introduction to Humanitarian Aid

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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