9th Forum on Global Issues Compact at the Federal Foreign Office, 1 March 2012: The humanitarian dilemma – the neutrality of humanitarian assistance in conflicts

International humanitarian law enshrines the principles of compassion, impartiality, neutrality and independence as the foundation of humanitarian assistance. These pillars first became a formal part of the European Union’s legal system with the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid (2007) and the Treaty of Lisbon (2009), which introduced a clear normative framework for state and non-state entities alike. However, the complex conflict situations with which humanitarian actors are increasingly confronted nowadays mean that these principles are frequently challenged in practice.

Upholding the humanitarian principles is not a theoretical issue, nor is it something that can be subject to opportunism. The essential thing is to ensure that humanitarian missions enjoy credibility and acceptance, and thus access and safety, among the parties to a conflict and the people affected by it. However, in practice, especially in complex situations, there are often limitations and contradictions in the way. The space for humanitarian action is shrinking, for example, as aid organizations are attacked or have restrictions placed on them, and new ideas in security policy have governments attaching humanitarian aid to political or military interests. Aid organizations themselves are also contributing to this trend, by calling for political or military protection or tying their humanitarian mandates to promotion of their own political convictions.

In conjunction with Caritas Germany’s International Department, the German Red Cross and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, the Federal Foreign Office is hosting a discussion on how and to what extent the neutrality, impartiality and independence of humanitarian aid can and ought to be upheld.

If you have any questions, please contact
Division VN03
Danielle Ludwig
Tel.: 030 – 1817 1923

Organizing partners:

Caritas Germany – International Department

German Red Cross

Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe

Last updated 09.03.2012

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