06 February 2015 -Christian Aid has joined forces with over 30 European relief agencies to call on governments to “reaffirm and protect” people's fundamental right to humanitarian aid.
Alongside agencies such as Islamic Relief Worldwide, International Rescue Committee and ACT Alliance, Christian Aid wants states in conflict-affected and disaster-prone countries to “allow and support full unimpeded access to all people in need of assistance, and promote the safety, protection and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel”.
The agencies – who are all responding to current crises worldwide – have signed a joint statement voicing concern about the ‘threat’ posed to the global humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
Volatile and insecure environments, political interference in aid activities and the rise in counter-terrorism laws are some of the threats that are hampering the delivery of humanitarian operations, endangering at-risk populations and increasing the risk to relief workers, the agencies warn.
The statement represents the NGOs’ joint contribution to Europe-wide consultations that took place in Hungary this week. These consultations will feed into the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit hosted by the United Nations – the first-ever global humanitarian meeting of its scale.
Christian Aid’s Head of Humanitarian Nick Guttmann said: “At a time when humanitarian crises worldwide have reached unprecedented levels, it is more vital than ever that countries cooperate with relief agencies and take the necessary steps to create an environment in which aid reaches the people who need it the most, in a timely and effective manner.
“Christian Aid believes it is fundamentally important that those delivering aid follow core humanitarian standards. What’s more, humanitarian actors need to be accountable to affected populations – the millions of citizens caught up in conflict and disasters across the world. We need to shift control of aid architecture towards the global south and ensure humanitarian funding mechanisms are more accessible to local populations."
He continued: “At the same time, states, military personnel and humanitarian actors must abide by and promote the humanitarian principles, because failure to do so can obstruct the rapid delivery of aid and exacerbate humanitarian crises.
"Next year’s World Humanitarian Summit presents a critical opportunity to reinforce the importance of these principles, so that we can create a more effective humanitarian system in which states and humanitarian actors alike respect the right to aid and essential services.”
In the joint statement, the 32 agencies say: “Today, the humanitarian sector faces an unprecedented number of protracted and acute humanitarian crises, such as the crisis in Syria, in Central African Republic, in South Sudan and the regional Ebola crisis, compelling humanitarian actors to stretch existing structures and practices to breaking point.”
“… NGOs are operating in exceptionally volatile and insecure environments where political agendas are interfering with the delivery of humanitarian aid, causing increased threats to the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers and assets, and in some situations hamper impartial access of affected population to relief operations.”
In light of these threats, the agencies “strongly call upon humanitarian actors, donors, states and all parties involved in conflicts, to re-affirm their commitment to respect and to promote the humanitarian principles”.
They want conflict-affected countries to recognise their “fundamental duty” to facilitate the work of humanitarian personnel and organisations, while not construing relief operations as a challenge to state sovereignty.
Governments, donors and relevant international institutions are also being asked to review and design all their humanitarian policies in compliance with the humanitarian principles, which have emerged from International Humanitarian Law.
The agencies want these recommendations to be integrated fully into the outcomes of the World Humanitarian Summit, due to be held in Istanbul next year. The summit aims to find new ways to tackle humanitarian needs while reducing people’s vulnerability to conflict and humanitarian disasters.
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Notes to editors:
The joint statement on humanitarian principles
1. Today, the humanitarian sector faces an unprecedented number of protracted and acute humanitarian crises, such as the crisis in Syria, in Central African Republic, in South Sudan or the regional Ebola crisis, compelling humanitarian actors to stretch existing structures and practices to breaking point. Considering the role the World Humanitarian Summit may play in the future of humanitarian action, it is of utmost importance that the international community uses this opportunity to reaffirm the shared value of humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
2. The humanitarian principles emerged from International Humanitarian Law and are based on a common understanding that humanitarian action is driven by a sense of humanity, a willingness to relieve human suffering, regardless of culture, origins or religion. They are encompassed within the core of key humanitarian references, such as the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief or the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid.
3. NGOs are operating in exceptionally volatile and insecure environments where political agendas are interfering with the delivery of humanitarian aid, causing increased threats to the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers and assets, and in some situations hamper impartial access of affected population to relief operations. For example, the growing numbers of counter-terrorism laws and measures adopted by States and inter-governmental organizations are restricting humanitarian actor’s ability to develop partnerships, run projects in complex environments, and are delaying programs implementation. The involvement of some donor states in stabilization operations in many contexts where humanitarian aid is needed, are increasingly blurring lines between political, military and humanitarian objectives, thus reducing humanitarian NGOS abilities to deliver aid. Therefore, due respect of the principles implies that governmental and institutional funding must remain detached from political or other agendas.
4. While affected states keep the primary responsibility to organize and deliver humanitarian support, they also have the fundamental duty to facilitate the work of other actors in situations when international solidarity is requested to answer the needs. Relief operations should not be considered as a challenge to State sovereignty nor the humanitarian imperative be undermined by making national sovereignty an excuse.
5. We concur that re-shaping aid is urgent with new actors and new donors playing bigger roles. Humanitarian aid must remain based on the needs as assessed by humanitarian actors and donors should abstain from using aid as a crisis management tool.
6. Consequently humanitarian NGOs, concerned about the threats posed on these principles, take the opportunity of the World Humanitarian Summit to strongly reassert their commitment to the humanitarian principles, as being critical in guaranteeing people in need will have safe access to humanitarian aid. The humanitarian principles must be fully supported and adequately implemented by states and all organizations, and systematically feed all policies and practices on humanitarian aid. As humanitarian NGOs involved in crises around the world today, we strongly call upon Humanitarian actors, Donors, States and all parties involved in conflicts, to:
• Re-affirm their commitment to respect and to promote the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, towards any stakeholders involved in humanitarian crises, and re-affirm the value of the humanitarian imperative;
• Review and design all humanitarian policies in compliance with the humanitarian principles and enhance existing commitments for good donor practices such as the GHD principles;
• Reaffirm and protect the fundamental right for affected populations to access humanitarian aid;
• Allow and support full unimpeded access to all people in need of assistance and promote the safety, protection and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel.
We request that these recommendations be fully part of the outcomes of the World Humanitarian Summit.
ACF International; ACT Alliance; ACTED; CARE International; Caritas Internationalis Luxemburg; CBM International; ChildFund International; Christian Aid; Concern Worldwide US; DanChurchAid; Danish Refugee Council; Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe; Finnish Church Aid; Habitat for Humanity International; Handicap International; HelpAge International; International Rescue Committee; International Medical Corps; Islamic Relief Worldwide; Johanniter International Assistance; Life for Relief and Development; MEDAIR; Médecins du Monde; Mercy Corps; Norwegian Refugee Council; Première Urgence - Aide Médicale Internationale; Relief International; Secours Islamique France; Solidarités International; Terre des homes; The Lutheran World Federation; Welthungerhilfe.
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