Principles in Practice

Principles in Practice: Safeguarding Humanitarian Action (December 2012)

"Because delivering humanitarian assistance in adherence to humanitarian principles is the most effective way to deliver aid"

Lise Grande, conference chair

Overview of the Event and Background

Political constraints and security risks are hampering the humanitarian effort to reach millions of people in need. Lack of access has prevented the delivery of assistance to thousands of people in need of aid in Syria. In Congo the needs of vulnerable people are increasing, but so is donor fatigue. – The world must do more to reach people in need of relief. Humanitarian aid should be given when and where it is needed, and not be tied to geopolitical objectives, says Secretary General of NRC, Elisabeth Rasmusson, at the opening of milestone conference in Brussels 4th December.

NRC invited donors, state representatives and humanitarian agencies to a high-level conference in Brussels to discuss the threats to humanitarian principles and consider the way forward. Official funding for humanitarian relief reached 11 billion dollars in 2011, yet distortions in the way it is allocated mean that distribution is neither efficient nor equitable, according to the report Tools for the Job: Supporting Principled Humanitarian Action, which lays a foundation for the conference. The report finds that a crisis in a geopolitically strategic area normally receives more funding for humanitarian work than a protracted crisis like the conflict in Eastern DRC.

“The international community has failed people in Eastern Congo, one of the world’s most dire and long-lasting crises. In Congo more than 2,4 million people are displaced and the needs are increasing. Despite this, the funding has decreased. Currently, only 57 per cent of the estimated need for funding has been met, resulting in no or insufficient assistance for thousands of Congolese”, says Rasmusson.
Efforts to ensure that assistance reaches people in conflict areas are further constrained by the lack of safe access for humanitarian personnel. According to the Aid Worker Security database, the number of major attacks against aid workers rose again in 2011, jeopardising the delivery of humanitarian aid to millions of people in need of relief.

In Syria, where the UN estimates that 4 million people will be in need of humanitarian assistance, only a handful of organizations have been allowed to operate, and lack access to parts of the country.“All parties in Syria should ensure that humanitarian organisations who operate according to the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence are given access to help the Syrian population”, says Rasmusson.

Tuesday she opens the high-level conference Principles in Practice: Safeguarding Humanitarian Action in Brussels. Among the participants are European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Kristalina Georgieva, Norway´s Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer and Atta Almanan Bakhit from the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation.

Tiril Skarstein (04.12.2012)

Key Speakers

Elisabeth Rasmusson, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, set the stage with a welcoming address exploring some of the challenges that operational organisations face when implementing principles in the complex environments in which they operate.

Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator and Development Programme Resident Representative in India, chaired a distinguished high-level panel of leading humanitarian policy makers for a candid and forward-looking assessment of the challenges and opportunities for re-affirming and revitalizing a principled approach to humanitarian action.

The opening plenary included remarks from:
Espen Barth Eide, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway
Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection
Peter Maurer, President, International Committee of the Red Cross
Atta Al Manaan Bakhit, Assistant Secretary General for International Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Organisation for Islamic Cooperation

Following break-out sessions explored some of the specific areas where humanitarian practitioners and policy makers are working to ensure the co-existence of principled humanitarian action alongside other operations and objectives, the conference Chair led a wrap-up session to draw conclusions and recommendations.

Finally, a productive and interesting day was brought to a close with thoughtful remarks on the role of the EU -- its member state governments and the institutions -- from two of its senior policy makers:
Keith McBean, Ambassador of Ireland to the Political and Security Committee of the European Council
Claus Sørensen, Director General, DG Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

Photo from the Event

(from left to right)
Elisabeth Rasmusson,Previous Secretary General NRC
Atta Al Manaan Bakhit, Assistant Secretary General for International Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, OIC
Epsen Barth Eide, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway
Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator and Development Programme Resident Representative in India
Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection
Peter Maurer, President, ICRC