Principles of Humanitarian Aid

A child with food, supplies, and water from Concern Worldwide and other humanitarian organizations in Tomping, a UN base.

There are several principles for humanitarian aid, originally set out by the United Nations General Assembly.

1. Humanity

The principle of humanity means that we must seek to address human suffering wherever it is found, paying particular attention to those who are most vulnerable.

For Concern, this also means that, in every country we operate, our local offices must be prepared to respond to emergencies in a timely and effective manner. We all have a right to a life with dignity.

2. Impartiality

Our responses must be provided solely on the basis of identified need, without discrimination between or within affected populations. This is the basis of all “needs-based” programming. It requires us to assess the impact of disasters and to design programs to support those left most in need in their wake.

3. Neutrality

We must ensure that our responses don’t favor any side in a conflict, or engage at any time in any political, racial, religious, or ideological controversies. This is perhaps the most challenging of these four principles.

4. Independence

The sole purpose of humanitarian activities and assistance is the relief and prevention of suffering caused by crisis. This means we must respond in a manner that is not influenced by political, economic, or military objectives. Humanitarian organizations create and implement policies independent of government policies or actions (hence the term NGO, or “non-governmental organization”).