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Emergency Capacity Building Project. Emergencies and the Humanitarian System. The Red Cross Code of Conduct and Humanitarian Principles. A short history lesson!.

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Emergency capacity building project

Emergency Capacity Building Project

Emergencies and the Humanitarian System

A short history lesson
A short history lesson!

  • Before considering our humanitarian principles we want to look at the history of humanitarianism – to see what if any legal basis we have for the work we do!

Legal basis for humanitarianism
Legal Basis for Humanitarianism

International Human Rights Law

International Humanitarian Law

  • What is the difference?

  • One is considered the law of peace and one the law of war…….

International human rights law
International Human Rights Law

  • Followed the creation of the United Nations

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights – 1948

  • International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (1966) and International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights (1966) - the end result of discussions on the United Nations Bill of Rights.

Other key text as part of hr law
Other Key text as part of HR law

  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1966)

  • Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women(1979)

  • Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)

  • UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989)

International humanitarian law
International Humanitarian Law

  • Question – does Human Rights (HRL) law apply during conflict?

    There is much debate concerning whether or not HRL is actually still “live” or whether or not in some way it is suspended and other rules come into play during armed conflict……

Ihl the rules of war
IHL – The Rules of War

  • Where did they come from and what do they say?

  • Under the Charter of the United Nations War is forbidden…..

  • “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state…..”

Emergency capacity building project

  • The Charter allows States to retain the right to self defence, themselves individually or collectively…

  • The Charter does not include ‘internal conflicts’ (civil wars)

  • The Charter allows member states to use force collectively to ‘maintain’ or ‘restore’ international peace and security

To enable this to happen
To enable this to happen...

  • Certain rules were put in place:

    • 4 Geneva Conventions – plus additional protocols and a number of other treaties and conventions.

    • These govern: types of weapons and tactics that can be used, and most importantly the protection of civilians and other non-combatants during war

Humanitarian limits on warfare
Humanitarian Limits on Warfare

  • Civilians: Persons who are not, or are no longer, taking part in hostilities shall be respected, protected and treated humanely. They shall be given appropriate care, without discrimination

  • Captured Combatants and other persons whose freedom has been restricted shall be treated humanely. They shall be protected against all acts of violence, in particular against torture. If put on trial they shall enjoy the fundamental guarantees of a regular judicial procedure

Ihl cont
IHL – (cont)

  • The rights of parties to an armed conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited. No superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering shall be inflicted.

  • In order to spare the civilian population, armed forces shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and civilian objects on the one hand and military objectives on the other. Neither the civilian population as such nor individual civilian or civilian objects shall be the target of military attacks

First treaties
First treaties

  • 1864 – Henri Dunant. Solferino Focused on treatment of military personnel

  • 1899 – added wounded, sick and shipwrecked at sea and in 1929 – added POW’s

  • Led to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. A legacy of the Second World War. Almost Universal Law.

Geneva conventions
Geneva Conventions

  • 1st – the care of the wounded and sick members of the armed forces in the field

  • 2nd - the care of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of the armed forces as sea

  • 3rd – the treatment of prisoners of war

  • 4th – protection of civilian persons in time of war

Emergency capacity building project

In all of the Geneva Conventions – those protected are “persons that have ceased to fight or have fallen into the power of the adversary”

The role of icrc
The Role of ICRC

  • ICRC has a specific mandate to uphold Geneva Law.

  • Written into the Geneva Conventions is a recognition that ICRC (not the Federation of the Red Cross or any of the National Societies) is the only truly independent, impartial organisation and that the ICRC is the “custodian” of the Geneva Conventions.

  • They therefore are accorded a special role:

    • Prison visiting

    • Monitoring of prisoner handovers

    • Access to political detainees

    • Etc…..

The changing nature of humanitarianism
The changing nature of Humanitarianism

  • We as Save the Children have been undertaking humanitarian work since 1919….

  • What has changed that meant that we and other organisations felt that we needed to develop a set of humanitarian principles?

The world in which we work
The world in which we work

  • The development of technology has meant that our work is under much greater scrutiny – live reporting from feeding centres, etc

  • Proliferation of NGO’s including local NGO’s many with political mandates

  • An “invasion of our humanitarian space – most recently by business and the military at unprecedented levels

  • A need to “explain” who we are and what we do as a way of maintaining our safety and security in increasingly insecure environments

  • “Humanitarian Intervention” …….??


  • Rwanda - 1994 – and a very critical evaluation of the humanitarian response

  • A recognition - as with SPHERE, that all aid is not necessarily ‘good’ aid.

  • The “Do No Harm” debate and the recognition of the need for greater accountability to beneficiaries as well as our donors

  • Calls for regulation of NGOs by external actors – and a recognition that if we don’t self regulate it it will be done for us – probably by donors who will use finance as the “stick and the carrot”

The code of conduct
The Code of Conduct

  • “seeks to guard our standards of behaviour. It is not about operational details……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

  • agencies sign up to it

  • there is no formal monitoring system

  • currently 365 signatories

  • used by Governments and beneficiaries to hold agencies to account

Red cross code of conduct
Red Cross Code of Conduct

  • The humanitarian imperative comes first

  • 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

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

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

  • We shall respect culture and custom

Red cross code cont
Red Cross Code (cont)

  • We shall attempt to build disaster response on local capacities

  • Ways will be found to involve programme beneficiaries in the management of relief aid

  • Relief aid must strive to reduce further vulnerabilities to disaster as well as meeting basic needs

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

  • In our information, publicity and advertising activities, we shall recognise disaster victims as dignified humans, not hopeless objects