World Humanitarian Summit

Protect the dignity of every human and improve humanitarian access

The dignity of every human being is at the centre of the principle of humanity. Respecting human dignity means that we must be ready, and we must be allowed, to pro- vide protection and support when people are in need. We do this on the basis of needs, without any other discrimination, with the aim that, as urged by Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, no one is left behind.

A. Maintaining a principled approach to realize access and proximity

Access and proximity to people in need are essential to effective humanitarian action. A true understanding of how best to meet people’s diverse needs comes from being close to the reality of people’s lives. Proximity can also contribute to greater accountability to people in need.

For the Movement, the shared humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence have been crucial to achieving such access and proximity. They have proven to be the best way to maintain trust with relevant authorities and local communities, demonstrating that our action is guided exclusively by an objective assessment of humanitarian needs. In addition, the Movement has embraced three additional principles specific to its own model – voluntary service, unity, and universality. Taken together, these seven principles form the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, whose 50th anniversary was celebrated last year.

On the occasion of that anniversary, the Movement undertook a series of dialogues on the experience of applying the Fundamental Principles. These conversations revealed that the Principles require a constant and continuous effort and can sometimes be very challenging to consistently follow. For instance, in some circumstances, actions that would seem required by one principle (such as the restraint required by the principle of neutrality) may appear to be in contradiction to what would seem required by another (such as the urge to action spurred by the principle of humanity). It is important therefore to always carefully balance these principles, to use them as an ethical compass and an operational framework guiding our action in a way that is tailored to the specific contexts we operate in. Nevertheless, their ongoing relevance to our work was unequivocally affirmed.

It is important to recognize that not all actors driven by solidarity and a humane spirit to help people in need necessarily align their efforts under humanitarian principles. Family members, neighbours, local authorities, civil society groups, faith-based groups, diaspora members, corporations and many other spontaneous and formal responders have always mobilized to respond to human suffering. Many actors operate in support of varied objectives, be they political, social or economic. Within this welcome diversity, it remains critical to recognize the particular place of neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian organizations – actors that abstain from activities that might be seen as political or antagonistic by part of the population.

In this context, the World Humanitarian Summit offers a further opportunity to reaffirm the particular place of humanitarian principles and the respect for all those who help people in need.

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to continue, and further institutionalize, the active dialogue and sharing of experience within the Movement about our application of the Fundamental Principles and challenges experienced in putting them into practice.
  • We pledge to continue the active dialogue with external humanitarian partners and States on the value and importance of shared humanitarian principles.

What we call for

  • We call on humanitarian actors committed to apply humanitarian principles to similarly equip their staff with the necessary policy guidance and training to enable them to apply the principles consistently and in a context-sensitive manner.
  • We call on donors to ensure that any funding conditions they impose do not negatively affect the ability of humanitarian actors to assess needs and develop programmes independently.
  • We call on States to demonstrate respect for the humanitarian principles by creating the necessary enabling environment – including allowing engagement with all parties to armed conflicts – to ensure an impartial response.

B. Upholding the norms that protect people in war

The current state of human suffering, and of humanitarian needs caused by armed conflict around the world, would be far lower if international humanitarian law (IHL) and other humanitarian norms were properly implemented before the outbreak of these situations, and once they occur. The main problem, however, is the widespread flouting of these rules. Establishing the means to ensure greater respect for IHL in armed conflict is one of the most pressing humanitarian challenges.

This is further illustrated by developments and trends in the context of contemporary armed conflict, including the geographic expanse of conflicts; the multiplication of parties to them; outright rejec- tion of IHL by a number of actors; warfare in densely populated urban areas with weapon systems that were originally designed for use in open battlefields; or political and military agendas surrounding humanitarian access and assistance.

The strong calls, echoed in a number of places, for a recommitment by States to respecting the rules of IHL that they have already agreed upon is as welcome as it is necessary. A political recommitment to respect these rules is of essential importance in order to reaffirm the basic humanitarian consensus inherent in the universally ratified 1949 Geneva Conventions. It is also essential to remind all States, even if they are not party to an armed conflict, of their obligation to ensure respect for IHL, notably to bring their influence to bear upon parties to conflicts to prevent and address IHL violations.

Ensuring greater respect for IHL requires decisive actions on a number of themes, many of which were addressed by various International Conferences of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. These include: strengthening compliance with IHL; strengthening IHL provisions protecting persons deprived of their liberty; ensuring that populations in need receive timely and unimpeded humanitarian assistance; ensuring great- er protection for the delivery of health care; preventing and addressing the high human cost related to the use and proliferation of certain types of weapons; and enhancing the specific protection afforded to certain categories of persons, including women and children.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has a long tradition of working with States and others on matters related to respect for IHL. Practically, on the ground, the ICRC negotiates agreements based on IHL on a daily basis. These could range from getting an agreement from parties to armed conflicts on the delivery of humanitarian assistance, to having these parties let the ICRC run programmes that ensure impartial medical care to all wounded people, including people associated with the other party to a conflict, or by convincing weapon bearers to let ambulances through checkpoints or spare hospitals from attack. All such instances show that it is possible to influence parties to armed conflicts to take concrete measures to spare victims of armed conflict, in line with IHL.

The ICRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are also engaged extensively in dissemination and training on IHL. They also promote adherence by States to IHL treaties; work on national legislation and cooperate with governments to ensure respect for IHL; convene events with relevant actors on the implementation of IHL; and undertake training sessions and seminars.

As a Movement, our starting point is that IHL continues to be important and relevant for regulating the conduct of parties to armed conflicts, both international and non-international, and providing protection and assistance for the victims of armed conflicts.

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to spare no efforts in the implementation of IHL-related resolutions adopted by the International Conference, in particular the 32nd International Conference in 2015 and the Council of Delegates. This includes, inter alia:–  the willingness by the ICRC, together with the Government of Switzerland, to co-facilitate the continuation of an inclusive, State-driven intergovernmental process to find agreement on features and functions of a potential forum of States on IHL, in accordance with Resolution 2 of the 32nd International Conference.
    –  the willingness by the ICRC to facilitate further in-depth work of States to strengthen IHL protecting persons deprived of their liberty in relation to armed conflict, in particular in relation to non- international armed conflict, in accordance with Resolution 1 of that Conference.– the intensification of efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence in armed conflicts, in accordance with Resolution 3 of that Conference.
  • We pledge to continue to support parties to armed conflicts to put IHL into practice, as an integral part of our humanitarian responses, in accordance with our respective mandates deriving from the Geneva Conventions and the Movement’s Statutes.

What we call for

  • We call on all stakeholders to remind States and all parties to armed conflicts of their obligations under IHL. A political recommitment to respect these rules is of essential importance in order to reaffirm the basic humanitarian consensus inherent in the universally ratified 1949 Geneva Conventions.
  • In this context, we remind States of the resolutions of the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to which they have consented, and we strongly encourage them to spare no efforts to implement them.
  • We call on all stakeholders to share positive experiences, for example by humanitarian organizations, civil society and the media, to demonstrate instances where IHL is respected to show that, despite recurrent violations, this body of law does make a difference.

C. Protecting and assisting all vulnerable migrants and internally displaced persons

Migration is set to be one of the defining features of the 21st century. People migrate for many reasons, often in combination, ranging from armed conflicts, persecution and poverty to the hope for a better future or to be reunited with their family. Many people who are forced to flee their homes face significant danger and hardship and this is also sometimes the case for those who choose to leave. This is especially true for people with particular vulnerabilities, such as children, women, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

We are increasingly alarmed by the inadequacy of existing measures to address these humanitarian concerns, and practices that prevent people from

travelling and reaching their destination. In many countries, heightened border control restrictions and poor reception conditions are gravely and unnecessarily affecting the security, well-being and dignity of migrants. Safe and effective legal avenues to access international protection are increasingly restricted, while the principle of non-refoulement is increasingly flouted. Open stigmatization and xenophobia are feeding community violence against migrants in many countries.

The Movement works along migratory routes around the world to support migrants in need. National Societies’ work to build resilience in vulnerable communities can help reduce pressures that may lead to forced migration. All along the routes, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the ICRC, and National Societies seek to provide essential services, information and protection. When migrants reach their destinations, they provide them with news of their loved ones, help with integration, and support through messages to combat xenophobia.

To provide this support, it is essential that we have access to migrants during all stages of their journey.

A commitment to guarantee and facilitate such access was affirmed by States at the 30th and 31st International Conferences of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

The Movement is committed to addressing the protection, safety and dignity of all migrants in need, irrespective of their legal status. At the same time, the various legal frameworks applicable to migrants (including refugees and asylum seekers) must remain an important consideration. Such frameworks play a crucial role in ensuring that migrants receive the protection they are entitled to under applicable international law and, accordingly, we promote their full implementation. In this respect, however, we recognize the uneven bur- den among States in supporting and hosting refugees and asylum seekers and support the call of Mr. Ban Ki-moon for States to develop a more comprehensive and equitable system for sharing this responsibility.

We also support Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s goal to substantially reduce the ballooning numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs). However, care must be taken to avoid responses to internal displacement that impede the ability of persons to seek asylum abroad. Solutions primarily motivated by the goal of reducing migratory flows may lead to perverse consequences for the well-being of the persons involved. In addition, the nexus between internal displacement and migration is not automatic. The specific predicament of IDPs should be recognized and addressed in its own right.

This goal must be met both through resolving the situation of people who are already displaced – which means providing them effective access to durable so- lutions – as well as through preventing new displacement. While long-term solutions in disaster settings often call for development-oriented approaches, humanitarians can make a difference for people already displaced through a greater investment in shelter and settlement solutions. Since 2007, the Movement has assisted more than 22 million affected persons with shelter, settlement and shelter-related non-food items. We have also advanced enabling approaches such as participatory awareness of safe shelter and settlement, the provision of cash for shelter complemented by local technical assistance, and promoting recognition of diverse forms of tenure.

With regard to prevention – a central aspect in the Movement’s approach to internal displacement – efforts to reduce or eliminate the causes of displacement should be part of any effective strategic

response. Promoting greater respect for IHL by all States and parties to armed conflict, as well as other important legal frameworks, is a key step to avoiding conflict-induced displacement. Assisting communities at risk by restoring essential services disrupted by the conflict and building their resilience can also help people to avoid displacement. In the context of disasters, prevention requires much more effective legal and institutional measures to implement realistic urban planning and building codes, as recommended by the Checklist on Law and Disaster Risk Reduction adopted at the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to continue our efforts to provide assistance and protection to all vulnerable people who migrate, without discrimination.
  • We pledge to continue to work to reduce community-level violence, stigmatization, and xenophobia against people who migrate.

What we call for

  • We call on States to reaffirm their commitment to international refugee law, international human rights law IHL and other applicable legal frameworks as key to ensure safety and dignity for migrants and displaced people.
    We call on States, consistent with their obligations, to grant migrants appropriate international protection as well as necessary assistance and services (such as family reunification), including by allowing access to humanitarian organizations.
  • We call on States to implement resettlement as a means for responsibility-sharing and as an expression of solidarity with countries that are hosting large numbers of refugees.
  • We call on States to fulfil their primary responsibility to prevent displacement, provide protection and assistance to IDPs within their jurisdiction, and find durable solutions for them in their countries.
  • We call on States and parties to armed conflict to respect and ensure respect for IHL, including the rules aimed at sparing civilians from the effects of hostilities and the express prohibition of forced displacement in armed conflict.

D. Accountability to those we serve

We recognize that we cannot be effective without the participation of those we serve and without being accountable to them. Sharing information, listening carefully to affected communities and involving them in decision-making improves the quality and effectiveness of services delivered and ultimately contributes towards fostering more resilient communities. Providing people the opportunity to voice their opinions enhances their sense of well-being, helps them adapt to the challenges they face, and better enables them to take an active role in their own recovery.

Humanitarian organizations have, in recent years, stepped up efforts to engage with communities that are affected by crisis. There are many examples of good practice to build on. But research shows that, as a sector, we consistently fall short of our aspirations. In fact, evaluations of major responses to date routinely identify lack of communication with affected communities as a key weakness.

The Movement is committed to improving its effectiveness and building greater accountability in pro- gramme delivery through a more systematic and coordinated approach towards engaging with communities, and sustaining two-way communication and dialogue for the development of community-driven solutions. We recognize that building safe and resilient communities requires better active listening skills and providing different groups of people within communities, particularly the most vulnerable, with information to access services and resources, enabling them to participate in and ultimately lead their own recovery.

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to work in a more coordinated approach to establish and sustain two-way communication with people and communities, including setting up feedback loop mechanisms with a strong data and information analysis system.
  • We pledge to develop local capacity to process community feedback in ‘realtime’ and at scale, and feed the information back to interventions that are tailored to specific needs.

What we call for

  • We call on humanitarian actors to continue to share best practice in the participation of, and accountability to, affected communities in situations of humanitarian crisis.

E. Including everyone in humanitarian response

Wars and disasters do not affect women, men, boys, girls, people of different ages, people with disabilities and those with other diversity characteristics in the same way. For example, in conflicts, men are often those most frequently wounded, arrested or missing. These men’s families may be left without a breadwinner. During crises, women may be forced to take on new roles within their households; they may have to start working outside of the home and take responsibility for their household and its security. In families where the main breadwinner has been lost, children may be forced to work from a very young age. During the acute phase of a crisis, when people may be forced to flee, children, the elderly and people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to being left behind.

The recognition that individuals are affected differently by crises according to their gender, age, disability and other diversity characteristics means that, in order to reach all vulnerable people effectively and in a fair, non-discriminatory and equitable manner, a humanitarian response must be sensitive to these characteristics. In order to respond to needs effectively, it is necessary to understand not who is most vulnerable, but who is vulnerable to which particular risks at which particular time. We also recognize that individuals are agents of their own protection and livelihood, and not only beneficiaries or victims. By considering the specific vulnerabilities of a person as well as his or her own capacity to cope with the effects of a conflict or disaster, we can ensure that our response achieves the greatest impact.

The Movement ensures the integration of gender, age, disability and diversity into its humanitarian response through a framework of four areas of focus: dignity, access, participation, and do no harm. In 2015, the Movement adopted a new Strategic Framework on Disability Inclusion, through which we seek to: implement a disability inclusive approach; challenge the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from accessing our services and programmes; and endeavour to change mindsets and behaviours to those of acceptance and respect. Further to our own Strategic Frame- work, we have engaged proactively in the drafting of the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action and welcome the launch of this initiative at the World Humanitarian Summit.

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to mainstream gender, age, disability and diversity throughout our operational response, including by fully implementing our Minimum Standard Commitments on Gender and Diversity in Emergency Programming, and will sign the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.
  • We pledge to reinforce National Societies’ capacities on gender, age, disability and diversity issues.
  • We pledge to undertake research on how disaster risk management law and policy addresses gender.
  • We pledge to work towards having all components of the Movement adopt a disability-inclusive approach.

What we call for

  • We call on humanitarian actors to continue to share best practice in the participation of, and accountability to, affected communities in situations of humanitarian crisis.

F. Preventing and reducing the risk of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and addressing the needs of victims/survivors.

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is universally present during crises as well as during peace-time. However, during armed conflicts, disasters and other emergencies, the incidence of SGBV increases significantly. During armed conflict, rape and other forms of sexual violence have been used systematically, with extreme brutality. In addition, during armed conflict, disasters and other emergencies, factors such as the weakening of community and institutional protection mechanisms, disruption of services and community life, destruction of infra- structure, separation of families or displacement, among others, as well as structural gender inequalities, contribute to an increased risk and impact of SGBV. While women and girls are disproportionately affected, anyone – including men and boys – can be a victim/survivor of SGBV, and factors such as age, disability, deprivation of liberty, displacement, religion, ethnicity, race or nationality, among others, may in- crease the risk.

As recognized in a dedicated resolution of the 32nd International Conference, in order to adequately address this humanitarian concern, approaches are required that effectively work to prevent and reduce the risk of SGBV and that respond to the needs of victims/survivors in a comprehensive and multidisciplinary manner. In accordance with its mandate, the ICRC addresses a specific aspect of these issues by focusing on sexual violence in situations of armed conflict. The IFRC, and individual National Societies, take a broader approach to gender-based violence, and also engage in violence prevention in the context of natural disasters.

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to scale up our efforts to contribute to the prevention of SGBV including by promoting international humanitarian law and other relevant legal frameworks.
  • We pledge to support exposed communities to strengthen their resilience by reducing their risk of exposure to threats and to harmful coping strategies.
  • We pledge to respond to the needs of victims/survivors of SGBV in a comprehensive and multidisciplinary way.
  • We pledge to continue conducting research on SGBV in disasters.

What we call for

  • We call on States in accordance with Resolution 3 of the 32nd International Conference, and humanitarian actors to continue their efforts to prevent and respond to SGBV, to ensure that all victims/survivors have safe access to services, and that any activities related to SGBV are conducted in line with the principle of ‘do no harm’.

G. Supporting volunteers and ensuring their safety

Volunteers are the backbone of the Movement. Often themselves directly affected by the crises to which they are called upon to respond and facing danger and hardship, they embody the principle of humanity. They deliver diverse services, help strengthen community resilience, promote social cohesion, engage in civic processes and advocate fiercely on behalf of vulnerable people. They ensure that we remain rooted in the communities we serve, that we are informed, guided and governed by them. Voluntary service is one of our seven Fundamental Principles.

We are committed to supporting our volunteers and giving them the tools and resources they need to meet the high demands and expectations that we – and our supporters – place on them. This requires both appropriate volunteer management systems and a protective and enabling environment for volunteering to function and grow. Volunteers are, however, too often under-valued and receive inadequate support and protection during and after their time volunteering.

Recognizing some of these gaps, we are seeking to strengthen our ability to work in sensitive and insecure contexts and to increase the scale and scope of volunteer service delivery, both in today’s world and with a view towards the future. We are working with Governments and other partners to improve the safety and security of humanitarian volunteers, as set out by a Resolution of the 32nd International Conference, and to ensure that National Societies include adequate provisions defining the status, as well as  the rights and duties, of volunteers in their policies. We are also working with Governments, private sector, academia and other humanitarian organizations to better research, share knowledge, good practices, training opportunities and approaches to collectively increase investment and support to volunteers.

We attach particular importance to promoting volunteering by youth and ensuring that the voice of youth is represented in all levels of decision-making. Young people are a unique group with specific needs. They are often at the forefront of our service delivery and they often interact directly with the most vulnerable people. They are the experts on what happens on the ground and humanitarian actors should make use of such knowledge more often. For this reason, we welcome the Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action and look forward to working with our partners to ensure youth are meaningfully engaged in humanitarian action.

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to work with States and partners to support the development of social policies, laws and practices that provide an enabling environment for volunteering.
  • We pledge to provide our volunteers with the best safety-related information, guidance, training, protective equipment, psychosocial support and insurance within our means.
  • We pledge to promote public understanding and acceptance of the role of humanitarian volunteers and work with Governments to implement measures to protect volunteer safety and security.
  • We pledge to ensure that the voice of youth is represented in all levels of decision-making, including by working with partners to implement the Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action.

What we call for

  • We call on States to review relevant national laws and policies to ensure that they are supportive of volunteering and adequate to promote the safety and protection of volunteers;
  • We call on all organizations deploying volunteers to take all necessary steps to promote their safety.
  • We call on States to promote volunteering by adopting measures to encourage citizens’ engagement and integrating volunteer capacity into domestic emergency response plans at all levels.